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Leslie Campbell

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  1. Holes in the new local elections financing act give an advantage to incumbents. That’s not necessarily in the public interest. Soon after the BC NDP formed the government in 2017, they delivered on some promises around election financing for both provincial and municipal elections. On the announcement regarding local elections, everyone seemed happy. News reports from that fall quote multiple politicians and organizations like the Union of BC Municipalities, not to mention Minister of Municipal Affairs Selina Robinson, saying it’s about time to get money out of politics, to end the Wild West reputation we’d earned, and level the playing field. Chief among the new rules were, first, a ban on donations from corporations and unions, donations that in the past often fuelled many campaigns; and, second, a cap of $1,200 per year for individual donations. I assumed such regulations would rein in the campaigns of higher-spending candidates and level out the playing field somewhat. I was wrong. And it appears the government knows that more needs to be done. Even before last October’s civic elections, when it became clear there were some big holes that money could still flow through, Minister Robinson was already promising to review the rules. All candidates had to submit their disclosure reports on their campaign donations and expenditures by January 18. They were posted at Elections BC soon thereafter. Somewhat surprisingly, there has been no analysis in local media, at least that I could find. I suppose the new regulations have helped, but seasoned political operatives have, by the looks of it, found ways to play by the new rules while still drumming up lots of money to promote their candidates. Let’s look at Mayor Helps’ disclosure statement as an example of what can be done within the rules. The new formula upon which campaign expense limits are based resulted in Helps being limited to $54,121.50. (The formula is $1 for each resident in the municipality up to 15,000 and then $.55 for each additional person.) Helps spent $52,611 during the campaign period, so was within the limit. Lisa Helps (right) outspent Stephen Hammond (left) 4 to 1 in winning the Victoria mayoralty contest in October 2018 However, the “campaign period” only covers the month before voting day. During the “election period,” which runs from January 1 to “the 29th day prior to voting day” (nine months), she spent an additional $51,359. Or $103,970 in total—quite a bit more than the $88,564 she spent in the 2014 election. There is no limit on how much a candidate can spend during the “election period.” Elections BC Communications Coordinator Melanie Hull told Focus, “The expense limits apply to campaign period expenses only.” Candidates had to record their donations starting January 1 of the election year, but spending limits didn’t take effect until the official campaign period began on September 22. This timing loophole favours incumbents who know they will run in the next election. Hypothetically, the new rules would allow unlimited lobbying for donations during the period an incumbent was still in office and making decisions. That incumbency could attract potential donors. Money raised early on could be spent, for example, on staff dedicated to fundraising and/or on a long-term social media campaign. Based on the description of Helps’ heavy spending during the “election period” in her disclosure form, she could have had a fundraiser and robust social media campaign well ahead of the campaign period. These days, that’s a big advantage. As it turned out, Helps’ spent a surprising amount of money for each vote she received. Her nearest competitor, for instance, was Stephen Hammond. He got 8,717 votes, compared to Helps’ 12,642 votes. So Helps spent $8.22 per vote, while Hammond spent $2.20 (he spent a total of $19,143, including $3,716 for his own campaign and $15,427 from newcouncil.ca, an electoral organization). On a per-vote basis, Helps spent about four times what Hammond did. Other mayoral candidates in Victoria also spent far less than Helps. In a weird sort of way, it’s reassuring that even with all the funds at her disposal, all her experience and name recognition, she still earned only 44 percent of the votes for mayor. While the money strengthens a campaign, and definitely makes for an uneven playing field, spending a lot more money may have diminishing returns. It’s also interesting to look at other municipalities of roughly the same size to see what their per-mayoralty-vote expenditures are. Maple Ridge, whose politics I know nothing about, has a population close to that of the City of Victoria. As a result, the campaign period spending limit for mayoralty candidates was similar: $54,992. The successful candidate, also an incumbent, spent a total of $43,604, far less than Helps. Michael Mordon received 11,287 votes, which works out to $3.86 per vote. Again, much lower than Helps. Closer to home, Fred Haynes in Saanich spent $70,436 and harvested 15,312 votes, at a cost of $4.60 per vote. In Kelowna, incumbent Colin Basran won the mayoral race at a cost of $4.22 per vote. Even in the City of Vancouver, where campaigns had been raising and spending millions in previous elections, the new Mayor Kennedy Stewart spent only $6.23 per vote for the 50,000 votes he received. (His total expenses were $310,337 over the two periods.) It’s actually pretty hard to find any mayoral candidate in BC who spent more per vote than Mayor Helps. But persistence with the two relevant websites pays off: a close race in North Van saw Linda Buchanan win with 3,800 votes, at $17.47 per vote due to her $66,408 expenditure. And in neighbouring Oak Bay, incumbent Nils Jensen spent $9.95 per vote, only to lose to Kevin Murdoch, who handily won while spending only $3.76 per vote received. Jensen’s costly votes seem more a reflection of his dramatic trouncing than of relative campaign expenses. (Murdoch got 5,042 votes to Jensen’s 2,138.) Incumbents may be favoured, there are no guarantees. ANOTHER LOOPHOLE THAT I HOPE Minister Robinson looks at is around corporate and union donations. While corporations cannot donate, their owners, employees, and associates certainly can. And unions have other ways of helping candidates they prefer. An astute reader emailed me right after the posting of the disclosure statements to show me how nine people who worked in some capacity with Abstract Developments had given donations totalling $23,400 to various Oak Bay, Saanich, and Victoria candidates. All perfectly legal. Helps’ campaign got a total of seven $1,200 donations from Abstract employees and associates, so $8,400. She also received donations, usually of $1,200, from others in the real estate and development field, including Jon Stovell (Reliance), Fraser McColl (Mosaic Properties), Leonard Cole (Urban Core Ventures), Steven Cox (Rize Alliance Properties), Ken Mariash (Bayview), and Mohan Jawl (Atrium, etc). A conservative estimate—without googling every single name on Helps’ lengthy donors list—of donations from developers and their teams amounted to $23,000, thereby fuelling over 22 percent of her campaign’s total expenses (i.e. from January through October 20). In some ways, the ban on corporate donations just hides them. Sarah Henderson gave $1,200 to each of five candidates’ campaigns; in all, $6,000. She is Abstract’s sales manager. As an individual donor, her civic generosity is totally legit. But I bet the candidates she donated to in Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay know she works for Abstract. I am not sure how the Minister could address this particular issue. Maybe some readers have suggestions? AND THEN THERE'S “third party advertising.” In Victoria, so-called third parties could spend $2,706 on advertising directly endorsing candidates for mayor and council during the campaign period (such bodies can also spend up to $150,000 advertising about issues in the campaign period). There is no cap on contributions to these groups. There is also a transparency issue as they don’t need to identify themselves or where the money comes from in advance of the campaign period. A good example of how this can play out in unintended ways is probably the businessman in Vancouver who ponied up $85,000 to plaster billboards with ads for a mayoral candidate prior to the official one-month-long campaign period. Another area the Minister will likely review relates to “elector organizations,” for which there are no expense limits other than the $1,200 per individual donor per year. So we see situations like the Burnaby Citizens Association spending over $500,000 on its slate of nine candidates, seven of whom got elected. In Victoria, the relatively new group Together Victoria, which endorsed three new candidates, all of whom got elected, shows how effective such organizations can be. It raised over $45,000, though it spent only about $25,000 divided amongst the three candidates, all of whom also raised additional small amounts on their own. On the other hand, newcouncil.ca raised a total of $62,000, most of which it split between five candidates, none of whom got elected. These groups are in their infancy in Victoria, but over time could become like political parties in our civic arena. If money is allowed to sway the citizenry through high-priced promotional campaigns, many of us grow more cynical and less trusting of our government and its processes. We need people to feel the system is fair, and that if they decide to run for council, money will not be the deciding factor. The new limits get us only partway there. Leslie Campbell’s eyes took a beating exploring many candidate disclosure statements and voting results; perhaps the Minister can figure out a streamlined way to report the numbers. P.S. Many readers will miss Briony Penn in this edition; she will be back in Focus come May.
  2. Victoria’s diminishing urban forest “Trees,” wrote Emily Carr, “are so much more sensible than people.” In her brief foray as a cartoonist, the young Carr created a piece of visual satire (right) that has a bite in our own time. Titled “The Inartistic Alderman and the Realistic Nightmare,” the cartoon she created for a Victoria newspaper depicts a terrified old man lying abed as several trees stand around menacing him. Why are the trees haunting the old man? Because he, a public official, had them chopped down. It includes these words: Ye ghosts of all the dear old trees, The oak, the elm, the ash, Nightly those gentlemen go tease, Who hew you down like trash. Two pieces of recent news about the fate of trees in Victoria brought this cartoon to mind. Image B-08163 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives I had just finished reading and pondering Leslie Campbell’s “Victoria’s Diminishing Forest,” which underscores the deficit between trees removed in this town (too often for luxury developments which are oddly dissonant with City Hall’s professed credo), and trees replaced, when I was made aware that the former Innovation Tree, a lovely birch of some 40 years located on Humboldt Street at the Inner Harbour, was to be chopped down to make way for some campaign promises City Hall did decide to keep. This tree was feted as recently as 2016 as the Innovation Tree, selected to bear on its branches a series of lights that reacted to sound. There was even a launch party at which Mayor Lisa Helps displayed some dance moves. The tree was much loved—some called it the heart of the city—and it had become a friendly natural figure in the increased concrete density of Victoria. Yet despite a petition drive that gained 1,200 signatures and raised a public outcry that must have been audible even at 1 Centennial Square, Helps and council remained unmoved. The Innovation Tree was deemed an obstruction to progress, uprooted and sawed into pieces early on the morning of January 28. Trees and gardens and respect for nature are part of our city’s heritage—or they should be. But where heritage of any kind is concerned, with this City Hall I suggest we have far too many inartistic aldermen, whose decisions have become our realistic nightmare. And as such what they offer is a failure in creative leadership. Mayor and council lurch from scene to scene in what can only be described as a melodrama of maladministration, lecturing and hectoring us all from the footlights about what is for our own good. Artistic aldermen would have listened to the public—their employers, after all—worked all this out a long time ago, and ultimately shown such positive, productive leadership as Emily Carr’s cartoon suggests is possible. For if her cartoon sends up the dilemma of a politician trembling before the victims of his ill-considered decisions, it also demonstrates what it might look like for a tree-chopping inartistic alderman who maybe, just maybe, has grown him or herself a conscience. And maybe a way to save a tree and put in a bike lane. Now wouldn’t that be sensible? Grant Hayter-Menzies I read with interest your Editor’s Letter about the urban forest which mentioned the property at 1201 Fort Street, which was originally the site of “Pentrelew,” the family home of Sarah Lindley and Henry Pering Pellew Crease (who was Victoria’s first barrister, then Attorney-General for the Colony of British Columbia, and by 1870 a Justice of the Supreme Court). Their home was a centre of hospitality and a unique heritage building. Unfortunately, the Truth Centre acquired the property and got permission to tear down the old home so that they could erect a new church building. At the time of the request, I remember speaking to City council about the importance of preserving the building, but permission was granted to demolish it, though my understanding was that they would preserve the garden and trees. So it is with sadness that I see the last of a once notable historic site disappear. Christina Johnson-Dean I thought Leslie Campbell’s article on the urban forest was excellent, but took an unfair swipe at Abstract’s development at 1201 Fort. The majority of interested Rockland residents who attended the public hearings supported the development. All of us were made more than aware of the impact on the trees. In fact Abstract went to great lengths to protect the main grove of Garry oaks on the eastern corner, beside which will be a dedicated path as a piece of the Pemberton Trail. I’m not aware of any other local owner allowing public access through their private property; and through what will be a park-like setting connecting Fort with the Art Gallery. It’s a gift. They could have built ugly four-storey buildings along Fort with above-ground parking in the rear, wiping out all of the trees. On another note, I doubt we would allow the planting of any non-native species in a Garry oak meadow. One look at the magnificent sequoias that are to be removed, and you may realize their dominance in this fragile ecosystem. The Garry oaks at 1201 Fort have had to compete for light, for water, for nutrients, etc. It’s an unfair fight. Ken Milbrath Urban forest logged for cycling Two hundred trees in Langford are slated to be removed to create a one-kilometre stretch of bike infrastructure known as the E&N Humpback Connector. This route runs between Atkins Avenue and Savory School. Many who live in the area have been speaking out against the mass destruction of mature Garry oak, big leaf maple and Douglas fir in an ecologically sensitive corridor near Millstream Creek. In August of 2018 when the CRD trotted this project out into the light, there was nothing to indicate how many trees were going to be sacrificed on the altar of high-tech bike lanes. In the pretense of consultation, the people in CRD Parks and Planning did some minor re-tweaking. I visited the site on Saturday, February 2 and met the wonderful Leslie King, professor and director of the Canadian Centre for Environmental Education, School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University. This woman is the true embodiment of her job title. She has worked tirelessly to save these trees. All of her valiant efforts have fallen on deaf ears. Some who live in the area have resigned themselves to the destruction of this corridor of beauty right in their backyard—all in the guise of “green infrastructure.” The full 17-kilometre E&N Rail Trail is slated to cost $36,000,000—if you can believe the figures put out by the CRD. I suspect the cost overruns will drive that cost considerably higher. I predict mudslides as they construct not one, but two culverts under the rail bed. That, plus the removal of so many mature trees will destabilize the embankments on either side of the rail bed even more. I just cannot fathom how anybody who is an engineer (or environmentalist) could ever have signed off on this project. I am not a qualified engineer, but I can see trouble ahead. Millstream Creek is going to be vulnerable to huge amounts of sediment, as trees are ripped out and heavy machinery begins its work. And this creek has just undergone a salmon enhancement project. I have to ask myself what/who is driving this expensive project? Trees do not have an agenda. However, someone has an agenda here, and it has very little to do with getting people out of their cars. This one-kilometre stretch is not a commuter route. It is a recreational route. This bike infrastructure is going to have minimal impact on the number of cars driving around Langford. More kids might get to school via this bike route, but the loss of so many iconic trees is tragic. This area is key bird habitat. Ravens greeted me on both my visits. I saw northern flickers, juncos, hummingbirds and turkey vultures (these birds live here year round). In order to mitigate the impact of this project, the trees are being removed before the migratory birds return to nest. The CRD recently declared a climate emergency. A climate emergency would require radical and effective action, not the destruction of so many trees in the guise of getting people out of their cars. And where is the media coverage of what is going on? They show up to do a two-minute sound bite and that’s that, story covered. There is no in-depth reporting, no digging deep to find out what the hell is really going on. What will make a difference? Maybe speaking truth to power will shake things up a little. It likely won’t change anything. Perhaps it’s time to take a stand for trees by standing up for them in a literal sense. And I don’t expect everyone to have the courage to do that. That’s OK. I’m a crazy moth-to-the-flame kind of girl. However, even I have to be mindful of my mental wellbeing in light of all that is happening in our world on so many levels. So, maybe instead of getting myself arrested, I’ll just retreat to my garden where I know I can do something good. Or focus on my art, and my job working with the toddlers at UVic Childcare. I don’t hold out much hope for our future as a species on this planet. A First Nations man named Thomas who I ran into among the trees on Dallas Road was so calm about the coming destruction. I felt a deep sense of peace in his presence. A friend of mine keeps telling me “be a proton.” It is getting harder and harder to keep my positive charge. My 93-year-old mother told me that I might be here to bear witness. I somehow have to find the courage to keep doing that. Verna Stone Up to 300 trees in one sensitive ecosystem are due to be removed in the municipality of Langford—before birds have a chance to nest. Volunteers started working to salvage native plants in late January, before the destruction begins. Many tree advocates are also cyclists and pedestrians, who say they welcome bike lanes. But they want local governments to find ways to build them without killing an increasing number of mature trees. In nearby Saanich, six mature Garry oak trees on Finnerty Road just came down. An “all ages, all abilities” bike path is planned for the street. Local tree advocates and neighbourhood groups worked to convince Saanich council to reconsider, to no avail. Garry oak trees can live up to 500 years, and are considered a “protected” native species. Finnerty Road is just the beginning of bike path construction in Saanich. A Times-Colonist article mentioned the planned Shelbourne Valley Project will remove another 70 trees along Shelbourne Street over the next few years. And in Victoria, tree advocates have been requesting more information about how many mature trees will be cut down to run a planned new bike lane along Vancouver Street and Dallas Road. Several trees have already been cut down to create the bike path on Pandora Street. The recent removal of a Downtown tree sparked outrage, despite 1,200 signatures gathered on its behalf in less than four days. Many of us want to see bike lanes, but feel municipalities should explore ways to build them without losing more mature trees. If bike lanes will reduce cars on the road, for instance, why not make some of the roads one-way, or install bike lanes in place of a parking lane? Mature trees are priceless and provide benefits—such as storing carbon and producing oxygen, among others—at an exponentially higher rate than saplings can. They can take a human lifetime or longer to replace. While planners may find tree removal the cheapest and most expedient way to make room for bike lanes, some of us feel it is really much too expensive. Grace Wyatt Location of Victoria’s #1 Firehall I always enjoy what Ross Crockford has to say about various projects around the City of Victoria, and especially those he writes about in Focus’ March/April issue. Regarding a new Crystal Pool I think a new location on the SE corner of Topaz Park would be a good location. This facility would tie in nicely with all the other sports fields and a multi-level parking garage could be incorporated. The idea of a new #1 Fire Hall at the corner of Yates and Cook Street is puzzling. One of the primary reasons for a new hall is for better seismic survival in the case of a strong earthquake. Upon checking some seismic maps of the area, I find a high level of amplification in a zone centred a block away at the corner of View and Vancouver Streets. The new design suggests that there are plans to build 10 storeys or more on top of the fire hall. How crazy is that if the building collapses in an earthquake or enough debris falls blocking the emergency equipment from leaving the building? I think there is a better location for a new hall on land that is similar in area, with a few minor changes. Build a replacement hall in the present location on Yates and expand the land available by closing a section of Camosun Street between Yates and Johnson. A couple of levels of underground parking below the hall would open up more land for the new facility. The new hall could be built in stages while keeping part of the present building open. Staff parking could be made available by making the street parking on Yates across from the hall for emergency personnel only. Perhaps some of the emergency equipment could be spread out among the other Victoria fire halls during construction. Moving to a new location to the west would also increase travel time to other emergencies to the east. I agree with the neighbours of the new firehall. As stated in the Focus story: “Ninety-three residents turned up, and they were peeved—not with the developer, but with the City for letting the project get this far before consulting the public.” Dennis Robinson Editor’s Note: Victoria City council has voted to proceed to a public hearing for the new development housing the firehall, though the date hasn’t been announced as of press-time. Bridge journalism I just want to commend you on the terrific series of articles Focus has published over the years related to the Johnson Street Bridge project. I was employed with Walsh Construction as a manager and participated in the pursuit of the Johnson Street Bridge project. As the pursuit and design progressed, it became glaringly apparent this was a terrible project and we would be better off if we were not selected. After stumbling across one of your earliest articles on the subject, I have religiously followed your series to this day. Your dogged journalistic efforts have not only confirmed my early apprehensions and fears, but also provided me a healthy dose of schadenfreude. I have shared many of your articles with my colleagues from the pursuit. Your efforts exemplify true journalism and provide an incalculable value to our community. Thank you for all of your effort! Reed Ehinger Wither Victoria’s public realm? Gene Miller deftly and eloquently describes a fear many of us share about the rapidly changing face of Downtown Victoria (“Downtown has it all-ish,” March/April); namely, that it is becoming “hard, unsmiling.” Those two words are code for a larger and more urgent topic: the path Victoria is travelling through time and the fate of the City’s public realm. The words “public realm” are not highbrow rhetoric or public policy babble; rather, they speak to something very tangible: the external places that are accessible to all; the places that we move through and linger within; the places where we live, work and play. Done well, the public realm evokes a powerful emotional experience of place that we all know and value when we experience it. Sadly, as Downtown is transformed, the public realm is actually being diminished, not enlarged—and certainly not enhanced. Other than the obligatory public art that attends new construction, and some institutional landscaping, what has been created that truly makes the public realm better for everyone? Beyond the platitudes of the City’s “strategic plan,” there is no coherent vision, much less an analytical framework that would put the various development projects completed or underway into context. In the absence of such a vision, we suffer a form of civic vivisection in which a building is cut away in one place and replaced with something new. Increasingly, these new buildings are hard-edged, steel and concrete blocks—not unlike the “Lego-land” of steel and glass structures that now dominate the skyline of Vancouver, blocking the view that is the single greatest attribute of that city, and ours too. I fear it won’t be long before the very essence of Downtown is changed irrevocably, and not in a good way. We are a coastal city, a port city; imagine what it will feel like when you can’t see or connect to the water while walking around Downtown? Or worse, when you can’t distinguish our Downtown from another urban centre. Michael Von Hausen, one of the leading urban designers and planners in Canada, notes that the free expression and exploration in Western modernist architecture, the “design hearth” that informs much of the construction taking place here, could be at the cost of the public interest and the higher orders that have historically been seen as sacred in architecture. So, how to move forward in a way that not only respects Victoria’s public realm, but actually does something to enrich it? This, ultimately, is the question raised by Miller—and the expectation that all citizens should have of their mayor and council. Herewith, a modest proposal consisting of five simple, yet powerful principles: (1) We will re-imagine and re-use/re-purpose existing infrastructure on all new development as a minimum design requirement; (2) We will provide a rich diversity and choice of residential options in Downtown; (3) We will provide vibrant indoor and outdoor public gathering places for use through all four seasons; (4) We will provide work hives and lifelong learning centres in Downtown to continually refresh and renew the cultural, creative and intellectual capital of Downtown residents; (5) We will connect everyone living and working Downtown to multi-modal transit within a five-minute walk of every door. The money to pay for my proposal will come from a development cost charge, to be implemented immediately, that is dedicated to one purpose: making Victoria’s public realm the envy of every small city in the world. Another way of looking at the issue Miller raises is to confront a rather stark choice. On the one hand, continued investment in the status quo will result in private luxury or wealth enjoyed by a few (who, after all, is buying those fancy new condominiums?), with an ever-diminishing public realm for the rest of us. In contrast, there is a future, made possible if we committed to the proposal I’ve outlined above, that results in a future in which private wealth is sufficient, and is complemented by a flourishing public realm that ultimately makes Downtown something of which we can all be proud. Rob Abbott Gonzales Hill: have the CRD & City given up? The issue regarding 1980 Fairfield Place continues. The undeveloped property is a beautiful, calming, treed, mossy, and rocky lot adjacent to Gonzales Hill Regional Park. Most people recognize that the lot is private and therefore the owners have a right to build on it. But regrettably the owners wanted to build beyond what the zoning permits. Consequently, they have sought changes from the Victoria Board of Variance (BOV) four times, twice asking for the same change and being turned down. A setback variance of 23 feet to site the house on the top of the rocky hill was first denied by the BOV, but then approved 4 months later, ostensibly to avoid cutting trees where a driveway was proposed. The community feels strongly that the development is inappropriate and excessive for this greenfield site. The owners want to increase the size of the house by 769 square feet. After the BOV denied their request for a second time on October 11, 2019, they submitted plans to Victoria city planners for a 600-square-foot garden suite. Unfortunately, this structure as planned would sit two feet from the property lines shared both with the park and the adjacent neighbours. Furthermore, it would tower over the neighbours’ home, shading it and overlooking their living areas and a bedroom. At one hearing, a member of the BOV effectively told the owners that they had the wrong lot for their plans. The CRD and the City have both spoken with the owners more than once about purchasing the lot and adding it to the park. Unfortunately these conversations went nowhere. Having the CRD buy the lot with the City’s support would be a strong move in proving the validity of the CRD’s professed environmental concerns. Saving this lot from overdevelopment would set an example for other municipalities to follow in preserving trees and green spaces within their urban areas. And yes, the construction process factors significantly in contributing to climate change, notably for this project with extensive blasting and resulting damage to tree roots and other growth. Keeping this property intact would save many of the precious and endangered Garry oaks, preserve a refuge for wildlife, and maintain the beautiful and peaceful ambience of the park for the many park users as a walking, cycling, and driving destination. At the time of writing, the surveyors have worked on the property and preliminary site preparation has begun. The matter is now urgent! We exhort the CRD and the City to do everything possible to ensure that this property becomes part of the wonderful CRD parks system. Scott Chapman, Mary Doody-Jones, Catherine Doré, Philippe Doré, Virginia Errick, Janya Freer, Anita Myers, Danny Myers, Arlene Lonergan, Steve Lonergan, Sheila Protti, Cheryl Shoji What to do with toxic sewage sludge? Greater Victoria is getting one big honking secondary sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point at the entrance to our beautiful harbour, but with no backup system in case something like an earthquake damages it. Why build such a treatment plant right on the shore? To make it easier to pump the dirty secondary treatment effluent right back into the ocean. This is not good news for the salmon and, in turn, the orcas that eat the salmon. However the dirty effluent from secondary sewage treatment is only one problem. Another more serious problem is that the treatment generates sewage sludge—otherwise called “biosolids”—and the CRD, which is building the treatment plant, has a disposal plan for only half of the toxic sewage sludge produced. I am calling it “toxic sludge” because it contains all the industrial and domestic waste that goes into our sewers—which includes approximately 85,000 chemicals in circulation today, plus superbugs (multi-drug-resistant bacteria that multiply in all sewage treatment plants) and their drug-resistance genes, microplastics, microfibres, and scores of other pathogenic organisms. The CRD is going to pump this toxic soup 18 kilometres uphill to Hartland where it will be treated in anaerobic digesters at the cost, roughly, of $200 million; methane will be generated from only one half of the sludge. The other half, that one that contains all the chemicals, microplastics, microfibres and pathogenic organisms, including the superbugs, will remain after the anaerobic digestion. And the CRD does not know what to do with it and how to safely dispose of it. Most Canadian and US municipalities choose the cheapest (and most environmentally damaging) way to get rid of this toxic soup (unwisely allowed by both the federal and provincial governments)—spreading it on the land under the guise of “beneficial reuse” where it is most often misleadingly called “fertilizer” or “compost.” Once applied to the land, it is there forever except for the part that gets washed away by rains into streams, rivers and the ocean where it pollutes every body of water that it comes into contact with. Sadly it also pollutes the air during drier seasons when winds pick it up and spread it around. Once the land is polluted with these sewage residuals or “biosolids,” crops grown on it take up varying amounts of the tens of thousands of chemicals, and we end up eating them and polluting our bodies with these toxins. There are much safer and environmentally friendlier ways of getting rid of this toxic sludge. A gasifier or pyrolysis unit could generate syngas that can in turn be converted into electricity. Municipal solid waste including all plastics, scrap wood and even kitchen scraps could be used along with the sludge to generate electricity. Why all three levels of government are ignoring this sustainable and truly green option escapes me. For a much more comprehensive and up-to-date review see “Polluting for Profit—the ‘biosolids’ business model” at http://biosolidsbattleblog.blogspot.com. Thomas Maler, PhD Sewage cost overruns It appears that our waste treatment plant is on the verge of slipping into cost overruns. If I recall correctly, when Mayor Helps was asked at the beginning of her first term about the huge cost overruns of the Johnson Street Bridge replacement, she answered essentially by saying it was before she became mayor and the best we could “take away” from that debacle is to ensure that similar “mistakes” were not made on other projects. Well, we now have a project that is many hundreds of millions more than the bridge. I wonder how Mayor Helps will defend the (alleged) cost overruns on the waste treatment plant, a project that is definitely being constructed during her tenure? Richard Weatherill Here’s the real energy scandal The provincial government has reported that BC Hydro is paying a premium of approximately $800 million per year to Independent Power Producers (IPP) for sustainable electricity. It’s a large number which is hard to put into perspective. To help us do this, consider: the International Monetary Fund’s latest report “How Large Are Global Energy Subsidies?” It values Canada’s carbon-based fuel subsidies at $46.4 billion per year. Fossil fuels are jeopardizing human society. Clean power is not. BC’s fossil fuel subsidy, as defined by the IMF, is five times the annual cost of the IPP premium. IPP contracts were let competitively in the 1990s when Hydro’s electricity demand projections were very high. The load did not materialize. Renewables were significantly more expensive at that time, so innovative low-carbon power needed support. I do not agree that billions were “wasted.” Gordon Campbell took principled and risky action to address climate change. Subsequently, Christie Clark’s Liberals reversed course. The current NDP government approved Site C. Will inexpensive renewables paint it as a boondoggle in 20 years? NDP support for LNG is incomprehensible to those alarmed by global warming, and we’ll soon see if they “use every tool in the toolbox” to oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Rather than waste time on second-guessing the past, I hope that policy-makers keep an eye on the future. BC’s CleanBC climate plan needs buildings to convert from natural gas to electricity. It’s not clear how the plan will overcome the fact that gas is much cheaper. It will take risks similar to the IPP experiment to make greenhouse gas reductions real in BC. Bob Landell Everything we do counts You really do wonderful work for us in Victoria. Thank you. I was prompted to write after reading “Everything We Do Counts” by Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic in the November/ December edition. That’s an appealing sentiment, but I was really captured by the original style of her writing. Salut! Over the year, thank you especially for tracking The Bridge and The Sewer Plant (David Broadland). And I always look for the views and provocative thinking of Gene Miller. To all those at Focus who think and write, who are the heart and soul of Focus, on the great issues of our time, this reader is very grateful. Dave Rodenhuis Logging hurts fish & tourism Our local rivers flood regularly during winter and then dry up in the summer, which has resulted in the destruction of healthy spawning habitat for salmon. The reason? I asked an oldtimer who had worked for Comox Logging & Railway Co. Back in the early years of the last century, the company was dropping huge first-growth trees right into the Tsolum River and then booming them up. There was plenty of water. He told me that back then the valley was entirely untouched Douglas fir forest and the humic layer was very deep and intact. These soils acted like a huge sponge that soaked up winter rainfall and then gradually released it throughout the year. Today? “There’s little water in all our rivers during the summertime…and they can flood like the bejeez’us during the winter, now that all the old timber is gone,” he told me. This colossal disaster is all thanks to the former Liberal government’s rewriting of the Private Managed Forest Land Act, which threw the door open to rampant, out-of- control timber harvesting by Island Timberlands and TimberWest thanks to the Liberal’s model of “Professional Reliance.” The fox was left in charge of the chicken house and there’s been absolutely no government oversight of private forest lands since the early 1990s. Rick James, Royston, BC
  3. A new exhibit of works by Pat Martin Bates is just one of the events planned. Art-lovers can join in the festivities as the Victoria Arts Council puts on a year-long celebration of its 50 years advocating for the arts and local artists. There are a number of important events planned for just the next few months—including the annual LOOK show in April and an evening of celebration and performance art in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8. Pat Martin Bates in 1996 Kegan McFadden, who took the reins as executive director of the non-profit organization in November, is perhaps most excited to be presenting an exhibit of works by one of Canada’s grande dames of the arts, Pat Martin Bates. Entitled “Inscape Golden Timeless Threads—Points of Starlight Silence,” it will give Victorians a chance to see artworks spanning the last 50 years, including her innovative lightbox art, prints, copperplate etchings and plexiglass work. The Bates’ exhibit provides a great opportunity to recognize such a revered artist and community contributor, says McFadden. Bates—or PMB as she tends to be known—has won many international and national honours, including the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and Global Graphics Award, along with fellowships in the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. She is regarded as an innovator both in terms of techniques and content. PMB, writes her biographer Senator Patricia Bovey, combined “details of reality with abstraction in her art, concentrating simultaneously on detail and wholeness. The carefully executed symbols and objects are perfectly balanced by the precision of her technique. Her compositions are filled with flowing, rhythmic piercings, delicate applications of thin gold and silver threads and meticulous draftmanship and calligraphy.” But it’s not just her artistic accomplishments that made PMB a natural choice to honour during VAC’s 50th year: “A charter member of [VAC], she worked tirelessly from its inception in 1968 to support emerging and established artists working in all media and engaging audiences of all backgrounds,” writes Bovey. Paul Scrivener, who served as executive director in the 2000s, calls her a “cross-pollinator,” always connecting people. He noted, “Her positive impact has been felt in the careers of hundreds of people here. Guiding the Art Council’s program development, her greatest contribution has been as an active arts advocate.” It wasn’t just VAC she did community work with. As Bovey writes: “PMB felt it was her responsibility to serve community organizations and artists of all generations when asked. She lived up to those self-expectations and never said no.” She served on boards of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Zonta International (to promote women), CARFAC, Maltwood Gallery, the Bastion Theatre and other groups. Running throughout March in VAC’s Store Street gallery, the exhibit is co-curated by McFadden and art intern Monica Liu who is doing her work study for her art history degree at UVic. Liu’s curatorial experience for a show about such a revered Canadian artist is surely an art intern’s dream come true. Special events in the Store Street gallery during the exhibit include UVic art historian Carolyn Butler-Palmer speaking about her history project on the lives of women artists of the region (March 16, 2pm); and on March 30, 2pm, a talk by Pat Bovey, PMB’s biographer, once head of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and now Senator. I VISIT PAT MARTIN BATES at her home in Oak Bay, a sprawling, century-old home full of art—literally floor to ceiling—along with piles of books and other intriguing things on every surface. I am keen to hear about the Victoria “scene” in the 1960s—when she first came to Victoria, and when the Arts Council was formed. As anyone who knows PMB will attest, even at 92, she has a magnificent memory and is a practiced raconteur of stories from her fascinating past. Her life has been a great adventure, full of travels, her art, community work, world-wide friendships and a loving family. Despite her super busy life, she enjoyed a healthy 67-year marriage and raised two loving children. Her daughter Jocelyn has moved into the house since husband Al died a few years ago; son Philip is often by her side these days on excursions for openings at the Belfry Theatre and other art events. Inspired by everything from alchemy, architecture, Persian art and poetry (particularly that of Rumi), Greek myths and world religions, especially Sufism, to Rembrandt and geometry, PMB has sought out and befriended many philosophers, poets and other artists to explore such subjects more deeply. People like Nobel-winning writer Doris Lessing have become friends and visited her here. Born a fifth generation Maritimer in New Brunswick, PMB married the young man she first set eyes on at age 13 and predicted she would marry. Clyde “Al” Bates was an army man and their early years together were somewhat at the mercy of his postings, though it’s clear PMB did not let that—or two children—stop her from pursuing her artistic visions. Posted to Antwerp in Belgium in the 1950s, PMB earned two fine arts degrees there while her two young children attended school. She did her thesis on Goya. By 1957, the family moved to Ottawa, where PMB held three jobs, yet still found time to immerse herself in that city’s cultural scene and develop her art, eventually having a solo exhibit at the prestigious Robertson Galleries. She loved Ottawa, but Al’s career soon forced a move to the backwaters of Wainwright, Alberta where the family lived on an army base. Despite the isolation and sparse vistas, PMB thrived in Alberta, making and teaching art and joining an artists’ cooperative in Edmonton. It was there she started using her iconic piercing technique, as well as illustrating sounds and silence, and using a lot of white in her work. She told her biographer Bovey, “I soared like a red-tailed hawk, alive to looking.” Still, at the end of 1963, she was happy to move to seaside Victoria where Al had landed a job as comptroller of the Naden base (now part of CFB Esquimalt). “This idea of Victoria being ‘little olde England’ never entered my mind,” she tells me. Instead, the artist, then in her mid-thirties, who had met the likes of Chagall and Magritte and many Canadian icons, found Victoria exciting. She was enamored with both the local Chinese community and the First Nations people, and generally found it full of all sorts of talented, interesting people. She already knew some important folks here like Colin Graham at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and soon connected with others like PK Page, First Nations carver Tony Hunt, and all the internationally-renowned artists who would form the Limners. A self-described bookaholic, PMB also mentions Alice Munro who had just opened Munro’s Books with her husband. She tells me, “Alice had the most wonderful hair then—it seemed electrified like she had all these ideas going on—which she obviously did!” A trip to New York City on a scholarship working at the Pratt Institute of Fine Arts in 1966 inspired her to help local artists literally have room to grow. “It was the time of Warhol; a very open time of protests and experimentation,” says PMB. New York artists were taking over lofts in warehouses and forming collective studios. She wanted that for Victoria artists, so, with help from Al (who suggested she rent a building recently vacated on the base) and PK Page and others, artist studios and gallery space at Signal Hill became a reality. (That enterprise still continues today at Xchanges on Bay Street.) The exhibit space was important as in those days there was only one commercial gallery. The Sixties was a time, of course, when many women were making their voices heard. PMB rather gleefully recalls attending meetings where “women were saying the most outrageous things!” She tells me she participated in many peace marches and protests during those years. In 1964 she was hired as a part-time instructor for University of Victoria’s new Fine Arts program. She taught printmaking, lithography, screen-printing, and drawing, using her own press at first. “The Angel of the Blue Sky is Crying Parallax Tears” by Pat Martin Bates (1998). Lightbox with BFK Rives paper, silver threads, oil pastel, printed estampile areas, chine collé, threads, needle perforations, 48 x 32 x 4 inches. It was a time, however, when women academics were few and often treated in dismissive or belittling ways. She mentions a couple of women (who went on to very big things) who the university actively tried to get rid of. “The tallest poppies get lopped off first,” she says, explaining her relative security by her low status and near invisibility. “They didn’t know what I was up to—I was working in the basement of the MacLaurin Building.” She often held sessions in her home as well. She still feels dismay over the male dominance of those years, including in her classes. “What about all the other women whose talent was stopped up because they hadn’t had the opportunity” due to unsupportive families, demanding children, or lack of finances, she wonders with sadness. It wasn’t until virtually the whole fine arts faculty quit over some internal political skirmishes that she got a full-time appointment. By then it was 1971 and she was far away on a Canada Council-sponsored multi-month trip “following in the steps of Alexander the Great”—with her husband and daughter via Volkswagen van through Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. She and Jocelyn wore chadors when necessary. Being the days before cell phones and internet, she learned of her new job when friend and fellow artist Nita Forrest telegraphed her, saying “Congratulations on your new appointment!” The family hadn’t intended to return to Victoria; she and Al had quit everything and put all their belongings in storage. She was looking at job offers from Sir George Williams in Montreal and York in Toronto. Thankfully for Victoria, PMB was lured back here, where she continued to produce her revered art, mentor other artists, and help encourage a vital cultural scene. When she started back at UVic, she says, “The first thing I wanted to do was get another woman in.” Soon thereafter, sculptor Ruth S. Beer was hired. THE VICTORIA ARTS COUNCIL was born in 1968 (as the Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria). PMB recalls early meetings held in Dunlop House on Camosun’s campus. She mentions Pam Ellis, former Mayor Peter Pollen with his wife Marianne, former Premier Dave Barrett, Shushan and Joseph Egoyan, and Bill West among the supporters. “The ’60s were a very rich time in Victoria for the arts,” says PMB. The illustrious Limner Group of artists was beginning to form, with renowned artists like Myfanwy Pavelic, Herbert Siebner, and Robin Skelton. “There was an artist-underground-thing going on—just there waiting to happen. So many things are off-shoots of the people here then who were all for the arts; the arts were the important thing,” she tells me. While it has understandably had many changes over its 50 years, VAC has stayed true to its roots. As is stated in VAC’s recent strategic plan, through education, civic advocacy, and programs, “We strive to elevate the profile of local artists and performers, while igniting a passion for arts and culture throughout Greater Victoria.” PMB’s continuing involvement over the years no doubt has helped carry out that mission. “I was often on the board [of VAC],” says PMB; “I don’t know how many times. I would be asked to step in when people had to leave.” With Scrivener, she was instrumental in creating VAC’s annual LOOK show. The idea was to give all member artists a chance to exhibit that cost very little. “Everybody can exhibit one piece; everyone has a chance, no one is excluded,” says PMB. April’s LOOK show is in the enormous old Staples building at 747 Fort Street. It was also during those years under Scrivener’s leadership that the Council started having satellite exhibit space in the Downtown library, the Victoria Airport and other places, which continues in an expanded fashion today—always featuring works by local artists. McFadden says, “I am not familiar with any other city that hosts such [satellite] galleries in libraries; it’s a nice way to support working artists.” McFadden, who has an impressive background in the Winnipeg and national arts scenes, feels that so much is already happening here arts-wise that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Rather the hope is to “find community partners and support what they are doing.” An upcoming example takes the form of helping Theatre SKAM fund its bursary program for high school students. VAC is also working with the Victoria Film Festival and the Victoria Festival of Authors. And then there’s Artishow Artist-in-Residence Program in which artists are paired with high traffic hotels over the summer where they demonstrate their craft, talk to visitors, and sell their work. The Arts Council receives funding for particular programs from BC Arts Council, the CRD, Victoria Foundation and also from BC gaming grants. But it relies on fundraising too. Four hundred members indicate its health, but McFadden is “absolutely” keen on getting more. (Memberships are $40/year). As for PMB? She says she wants to tell younger artists to believe in themselves. In her biography she makes a statement that is encouraging as well: “Art and the doing of it are their own rewards. Art for me is a bridge to another level—a silent communication—a nutrient—and if only one person and one person alone finds some one thing in what I do, don’t you think that is important?” Visit the Gallery at 1800 Store Street, Tuesday through Saturday, noon-5pm. The Pat Martin Bates exhibit is on all of March, with talks on March 16, 2pm (Carolyn Butler-Palmer) and March 30, 2pm (Senator Patricia Bovey, PMB’s biographer). Leslie Campbell thanks all the artists who enrich and enliven this magazine and community.
  4. until
    shape/colour/form Winchester Galleries: January 16 - February 2, 2019 Opening reception: Saturday, January 19, 2:00 - 4:00 pm. Brent Jarvis, piano; Ross Macdonald, bass the new year commences not with a whimper but with a clear, strong call to art please join us in january as we present the best of shape/colour/form in all its glory shape emanates from the elegant lines of a Picasso etching colour is created by the deliberate layering of opaque and transparent pigment on a McEwen canvas form is a focussed aerial view of irrigation tracks molded from steel by Robert Murray and there will be so many more revelations throughout to lead us gladly/hopefully/excitedly into a bold new year at Winchester Galleries Winchester Galleries Ltd.2260 Oak Bay AvenueVictoria, British ColumbiaV8R 1G7250-595-2777Tuesday - Friday: 10 am - 4 pmSaturday: 11 am - 5 pm www.winchestergalleriesltd.com
  5. Residents are mobilizing to protect one of the city’s greatest natural charms, increasingly threatened by development. I RECALL DURING MY FIRST YEAR HERE IN VICTORIA, as a transplant from Winnipeg, sitting in a small James Bay park noticing its many different species of very large trees. I was in heaven! It seemed so exciting, so exotic and luxuriant. I may have become more blasé about it 34 years later, but I still know what a blessing—and a defining characteristic of this city—all those big trees are. And I am obviously not alone. Witness the growing crescendo of concern over the city’s loss of mature trees. Pressures from development, summer droughts, wind storms, sewage pipelines, and simple aging are among the reasons residents are noticing the demise of more and more trees. Citizens, regional councils, and municipal parks employees all seem to recognize the central role the urban forest plays in making Victoria what it is—a beautiful, healthy, prosperous place. Many of us now understand how trees, especially mature ones, provide ecosystem services like water filtration, cooling shade, and carbon sequestration. How they contribute to our health by absorbing both air and water pollutants; they even filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark, thereby reducing asthma attacks. Did you know that trees increase the value of our homes from 3-15 percent? Or that shading from trees prolongs the life of asphalt by 10-25 years? Trees also act as useful wind buffers. By sheltering many other species, they increase biodiversity. Look out your window and imagine the city without trees: it would be a very different, bleaker place entirely. No birds would be singing. Ironically, those very trees and their many charms have helped attract development, which has boosted land prices so much that trees are being sacrificed to make room for more and larger homes. The real estate boom and its impact on our urban forest seems to have caught us off guard, without adequate safeguards in place. As a result, every year thousands of mature trees—along with the many services they provide—are being lost throughout the Capital Region. In this article, I will focus on the City of Victoria, where a weak bylaw means, for example, that removal of non-native trees with a diameter at chest height of less than 80 centimetres—or 31.5 inches—does not require a permit. (More on this later.) At a City of Victoria council meeting on November 22, a half dozen speakers from the recently formed Community Trees Matter Network showed up to give presentations to the new council. Their website (housed under the Creatively United for the Planet website) contains numerous articles about the many benefits of and threats to the urban forest. Verna Stone (l), Nancy Lane MacGregor and Frances Litman Nancy Lane MacGregor, in her presentation, took Victoria council on a tour of a block in her Rockland neighbourhood: “On Moss Street, a Garry oak blew over in a storm…At Moss and Rockland, a 350-year-old Garry oak was cut down, its roots too close to homes on either side. At Langham Court, a healthy 162-year-old giant sequoia was taken down because its roots were entwined with a sewer pipe. Around the corner on Linden, apartment balconies face a wasteland through standing dead trees, the first phase of a development. At 1201 Fort Street, a luxury condo and townhouse development…will destroy 29 mature trees including a remnant Garry oak meadow, giant sequoias and other protected trees. Up the street, at Central Middle School, a large Garry oak fell in a windstorm…” Frances Litman, founder of Creatively United for the Planet, reminded council of the many services trees provide a city: “Trees clean and cool the air, create oxygen, decrease carbon dioxide, provide essential habitat for birds and animals, and save this city a lot of money [$2 million in 2013] by processing and filtering hundreds of thousands of gallons of water that would overtax our storm sewers.” She charged today’s developers with “scraping the land bare of every earthworm and living thing, despite the footprint of the building and without regard to how this impacts the natural ecosystem and surrounding neighbourhood.” Litman urged council to implement the recommendations of the City’s own 2013 Urban Forest Management Plan, and “budget for a qualified coordinator to oversee, educate and implement it department-wide.” A week after that council meeting, I met with Litman and MacGregor at Verna Stone’s art-filled apartment at Fort and Moss Streets. A coffee table was set with a smorgasbord of sweets and Philosopher’s Brew tea was steeping. Stone was wearing her tree dress, a lovely tunic featuring an appliquéd Douglas fir. She too is a member of the Community Trees Matter Network. The story of how they came together—along with a number of others—to form the Network includes the outrage they experienced as they each noticed too many trees falling victim to disease and development. Serendipity and basic networking also brought them together. When Litman was put in touch with so many other tree-lovers, she thought, “Oh my god, I’ve found my tribe.” She manages the Network’s website and email and said she can barely keep on top of the interest: “It’s exploding!” Indeed, soon after I talked with them, Litman was interviewed on CHEK TV about the planned removal of at least 29 mature Garry oaks—and endangerment of 20 more—on Grange Road in Saanich due to the CRD’s sewage pipeline. The neighbourhood was in an uproar over this loss. Fortunately, the ensuing publicity nudged the CRD to figure out how they could shift the pipeline a bit and preserve the trees. Network members have investigated what the City of Victoria has been doing and think it’s just not enough. “A barely advertised ‘Tree Appreciation Day’ draws only a handful of citizens to witness the mayor planting four trees, then pack up for another year,” said MacGregor, adding, “Trees are not considered in the push for densification.” Though an upbeat group, cynicism about governments near and far was apparent. In discussing how Transport Canada recently removed all the trees along the south side of the Inner Harbour at Laurel Point Park to clean up contaminated soil from a paint plant once located there, Stone suggested the federal body is just attempting to look good on the cleanup front so it can allow more oil tankers to ply coastal waters. The women were looking forward to hosting expert speakers, art events, speaking at other council meetings, and fanning out to various neighbourhood associations to connect with tree defenders in different areas. They want to “harness the power of an integrated network of people,” said Litman. Stone, an artist, never expected to be an activist, but, quoting a friend, said, “Activism is the price you pay for living on this planet.” THE CITY OF VICTORIA ESTIMATES there are about 150,000 trees within its borders, with 33,000 of them on City boulevards or in parks. There’s an inventory of these on the Open Data Portal of the City’s website (I found it, but only with considerable help). In the City’s 2013 Urban Forest Management Plan, it’s noted that the City’s “tree canopy cover ranges from a low of 3.4 percent in the Downtown area to a high of almost 34 percent in Rockland.” Overall, Victoria’s canopy was, in 2008, estimated to be 17.6 percent. Navdeep Sidhu, assistant director of Parks and Recreation, told me the City is currently in the process of planning the next canopy coverage study. The Urban Forest Management Plan is, at 98 pages, a wealth of information and supports the activists’ arguments for more care being taken with Victoria’s urban forest. For instance, it notes that “The Garry oak and associated ecosystems that shape Victoria’s landscape are home to more plant species than any other land-based ecosystem in coastal British Columbia. Many of these species occur nowhere else in Canada. At this time [2013], because so much habitat has been lost or degraded, approximately 100 species of plants, mammals, reptiles, birds, butterflies, and other insects are listed as ‘at risk’ in these ecosystems. Many of these species at risk are found in Victoria—from tiny poverty clover in Barnard Park to the iconic great blue herons that nest in Beacon Hill Park.” The authors also note, “Garry oak ecosystems have been dramatically affected by land development. It is estimated that in 1800, Garry oak ecosystems flourished on 1,460 hectares of the City. By 1997 that had dwindled to 21 hectares of fragmented and degraded habitat.” And certainly less now, nearly 20 years and two real estate booms later. Management of the urban forest in the City of Victoria falls under the Parks and Recreation Department, in particular the 20 employees of the Arboriculture and Natural Areas section. They have their hands full with the maintenance of those 33,000 trees in parks and on streets and boulevards. They prune 600 of them a year, plant 900 native plants, and give five years of extra care to young saplings they’ve planted. They maintain the tree inventory, remove invasive species, respond to over 1200 calls for service of public trees each year, and review “development-related and other various permit applications for impacts to the Urban Forest.” I had hoped to speak to an employee in the City’s arboriculture section, but was instead urged to send a questionnaire to Parks and Communications managers. The full Q&A is on Focus’ website. Parsing some of the answers provided as to why trees are “removed,” the spokespeople cited increased stress, including from drought, that increases “impacts of disease and insect pests.” Trees’ defense mechanisms fail and pests are attracted to weakened trees. They also noted that, “A large number of street trees planted in the 1950s and 1960s are now nearing the end of their lifecycle. They are decreasing in vigour and not as adaptable to changes in the environment around them. The last several years of summer drought conditions have put additional stress on many trees.” Additional stress on these trees comes from damage by humans: “wounds to trees from mowers and weed eaters are detrimental to tree health and can be infection points for fungal wood decay pathogens. Nailing, screwing, bolting or attaching things to trees can cause damage to the tissues within the tree and the bark.” Soil compaction is also an issue for trees lining streets where people park or store materials in the root zone of a tree. The Parks people assured me that “we always look for ways to retain the tree as long as possible…Generally, when dieback of the crown is above 40 to 50 percent, removal is recommended.” In the first 9 months of 2018, the City had removed 327 trees and planted 265 trees on City property. Since then, they have removed at least a further 29 trees in Stadacona Park, adjacent to the 1400 block of Pandora Avenue, and 12 more in Fernwood. Increased numbers of tree removals in the last year or two are likely due to the City’s strategy to manage high-risk trees. As the Parks people explained: “The City of Victoria completed an inventory of trees on City property in early 2014 and recorded information including species, size, condition, geographic location and maintenance needs. Trees that were identified through this process to have significant safety hazards or that were at risk of imminent failure were removed immediately. The inventory identified trees that require further assessment to determine risks, which may result in pruning, removal or other hazard mitigation techniques. Staff further assess these high-risk trees to determine if they can be retained, or if they must be removed. In 2019, 392 trees will require assessment.” Judging from recent years, these assessments will lead to a good number of trees being removed. Pressures on the urban forest on private property (which comprises about 75 percent of Victoria’s urban forest) are more difficult to assess. I was told Parks had an average of 111 requests annually for removal of “protected” trees over the last couple of years. About half of the requests are denied—so about 55 protected trees were removed each year by private property owners. That doesn’t sound like much, and seems at odds with the perceptions of many tree watchers. But one just needs to read the City of Victoria’s Tree Preservation Bylaw to understand what’s not being counted. This is a bylaw that most agree needs revision. It currently puts restrictions on the type and size of trees that can be cut down on private property. Certain species—Garry oak, arbutus, Pacific dogwood, Pacific yew—if over 50 centimetres in height, are “protected.” Western red cedar, big-leaf maple, and Douglas fir must be over 60 centimetres in diameter at chest height to be protected. Any tree on private property with a trunk over 80 centimetres in diameter is also protected under the bylaw and cannot be removed or altered without a permit. A lot of big trees slip through these size requirements and can often be removed without any permission, fees or civic involvement. Contrast this to Vancouver, where trees over 20 centimetres in diameter are protected. A permit involves getting one of the City’s arborists to assess the situation. If they agree there is a problem warranting removal (e.g. it is severely diseased or poses a danger), you’ll pay $30 for a removal permit for each tree up to three trees, then only $5 per tree after that. If you do not obtain a permit and remove a protected tree, penalties for first-time offenders are $250-$1500. Updating this bylaw is an objective of the City’s new Strategic Draft Plan. In my mind the biggest gap in the tree bylaw is that in practice it fails to protect any tree when their removal is deemed “necessary for the purpose of constructing a building, an addition to a building, or construction of an accessory building” or a driveway, off-street parking, utilities service connections, or “the installation, repair, or maintenance of public works.” A permit may be needed, but man-made things seem to have priority over saving trees. Brooke Stark, manager of Parks Operations told me that in 2018, “there were approximately 126 trees lost to development and capital projects.” The department will track these categories separately in 2019, but could not get more specific for 2018 data. Not included in that tally are the 29 trees approved for removal at the somewhat ironically named Bellewood Park, a 2-acre, 83-unit development at 1201 Fort Street. These include some big Garry oaks and two giant sequoias (still standing as Focus went to press). Last April, MacGregor wrote to council about these magnificent sequoias, which can live for over 2,000 years: “[They] have historic importance, planted from seed in the 1860s by the Attorney General of the Colony of BC, E.G. Alston.” In that letter, MacGregor noted some of the 22 trees being retained by the developer might not survive blasting and construction. She quoted the arborist’s report on the excavation for underground parking: “If it is found that large structural roots must be pruned…it may be necessary to remove additional trees to eliminate any risk associated with them.” The developer has agreed to plant 83 new trees, but most of those will be varieties of small trees. The ironically-named Bellewood Park development will see the removal of 29 trees, including Garry oaks and the two giant sequoias in the background ANOTHER FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY TREES MATTER NETWORK, Grace Golightly, has been writing thoughtful and detailed letters to City Hall about trees, often copying them to Focus, for a couple of years. She has taken particular issue with the tree bylaw’s modest requirements of planting two replacement trees and paying a token $30 fee when removal of a protected tree occurs. Among other reasons, she has pointed out that mature trees provide far more carbon sequestration than younger trees. The research backs her up. A 2014 study reported in Nature looked at 403 tree species and showed that “for most species mass growth rate increases continuously with tree size. Thus, large, old trees do not act simply as senescent carbon reservoirs but actively fix large amounts of carbon compared to smaller trees; at the extreme, a single big tree can add the same amount of carbon to the forest within a year as is contained in an entire mid-sized tree.” Golightly herself has cited Ohio State University research suggesting it would take a total of 269 two-inch-diameter trees to replace the carbon sequestration provided by a single 36-inch-diameter deciduous tree. Forests in general are one of the world’s largest banks for all of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere. As much as 45 percent of the carbon stored on land is tied up in forests according to NASA scientists. With the City of Victoria’s professed concern about climate change, maintaining a robust and growing urban forest, in large measure made up of mature trees, should be a priority. A first step would be analyzing how much total carbon sequestration is being provided by our forest. Oak Bay, for instance, has calculated that its trees sequester 3,270 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually and store 97,490 tonnes of carbon. On public lands, the Victoria’s Parks department told me they plan to plant only 250 to 300 new trees per year. This does not even replace on a one-to-one basis recent removals of mature trees from City-owned land. And on private land, only certain tree removals need to be accompanied with replanting of, at most, two saplings. At such unambitious replanting rates it’s clear that Victoria’s leafy canopy and the important services it provides, will fade away. Golightly’s and others’ advocacy for a much more vigorous replanting schedule seems warranted. She wrote, “When I mentioned the need to plant a lot more trees to one of the Parks administrators, he said there was nowhere to plant them. However, we must plant them, and a little thought can generate lots of ideas.” She mentions offering trees at a discount to residents (as Nanaimo, Saanich and Vancouver do). She points out that most schoolyards and many other institutions could also accommodate more trees. She suggests planting more trees along the Galloping Goose—and in many parks, particularly if volunteers cleared out invasive species. The other day I noticed barren parcels of land around the Johnson Street Bridge begging for trees to at least replace the dozen or so removed years ago for the new bridge. Golightly goes further: “I think it’s essential that the City purchase well-treed properties that come up for sale. They can either be covenanted and re-sold, or made into mini-parks where more trees could be planted to increase the carbon storage and benefits to the neighbourhood.” On that score, the South Jubilee Neighborhood Association has urged the City to consider purchasing a large corner lot at Leigh and Bank Streets which has never been developed and boasts 26 mature Garry oaks. “We are also keenly interested in planting more trees on the property to turn it into a true urban forest or ‘clean air’ garden,” writes board member Matt Dell. The City is being urged to purchase this private land at Leigh and Bank to preserve the Garry oaks Along such lines, the City’s own Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) suggests the City establish a capital fund for the acquisition and restoration of lands for new urban forest. Of course, it is not as simple as just plunking more trees in the ground. The Parks department told me: “All restrictions of the site, physical space, soil volumes, overhead or underground services, soil quality, site exposure, expected available water, levels of wind and sun, pest resistance and aesthetics play a part in tree selection. Selecting a tree variety which is going to be successful long term is critical.” Increasing densification and more extreme, climate-change-induced weather patterns will just make maintaining a healthy urban forest more challenging—and more important. The City’s six-year-old UFMP predicted all this: “Finding space for significant amounts of urban forest within these high-density [neighbourhoods] is a challenge. Other types of ‘greening’ such as green roofs and green walls, as well as smaller trees and shrubs in planters will make important contributions. However, this will not achieve the same level of benefits that large, mature trees provide. Urban planners, developers and the design community should be encouraged to find ways to incorporate large-canopy trees into these settings, such as has been done in Portland.” (In 2014, Portland had a 29.9 percent canopy cover and was aiming at 33 percent.) The UFMP, written before the recent real estate boom, continues: “The single greatest impact to the urban forest comes from the incremental loss of greenspace associated with development and densification. In addition to removal of large mature trees, there is a loss of soils and space that could be used for future generations of trees. It takes a significant amount of space to grow a large tree. As land uses change and neighbourhoods are redeveloped, it is critical to ensure that adequate greenspace is being reallocated on-site or elsewhere to sustain the future urban forest. Failure to do so will result in a forest that is diminished in size, more fragmented, less productive and more vulnerable to change—the antithesis of sustainability.” [italics added] An earlier densifying boom in the 1970s gave rise to numerous three- and four-storey apartment buildings that had big setbacks allowing for wide lawns, bushes and large trees. The more recent boom, in an effort to maximize return on high-priced land, has created buildings right up against sidewalks. The Parks people put it this way: “Most original homes in Victoria were not built to the zoning setbacks or built to maximize allowable Floor Space Ratio. New construction tends to maximize both.” If the powers-that-be had been thinking faster, or just more holistically, they’d have figured out a way, during the recent boom, to plan developments in tandem with urban forest expansion. This is not as unlikely as it might sound. Other cities have done it or have at least planned how to accomplish it. Duncan is aiming at a 40 percent canopy and knows that means planting 3,729 trees by 2020; Seattle is aiming at 30 percent coverage within a 30-year period; Vancouver’s 2020 plan sets a target of 40 percent canopy and calls for 150,000 new trees by 2020. Victoria’s, recall, was 17.6 percent in 2008. Other cities are establishing volunteer programs to assist in maintaining urban forest health. Melbourne has a very successful program involving over 400 volunteers doing meaningful work for the urban forest—mapping, creating inventories of landscape features, and eco-assessments. Closer to home, Saanich’s “Pulling Together” program involves volunteers in ecological restoration in 40 of its parks. Community members can participate in invasive removal and replanting activities on a casual drop-in basis or as “lead stewards” and “restoration assistants.” There is no similar program in the City of Victoria. IN THE RAPIDLY GROWING FIELD OF URBAN FORESTRY, trees are viewed as essential “green infrastructure” that deliver environmental, health and economic services. These include those mentioned in relation to carbon storage, pollution reduction, stormwater management, the provision of wind-buffering and shading, and public health. The director of UBC’s Bachelor of Urban Forestry program, Professor Cecil Konijnendijk, recently told CBC that too many cities are letting development drive city-wide growth. “Stronger planning frameworks that actually guide developments [are necessary]; cities should be stronger in really making sure development is done in the right way…” Konijnendijk has agreed to speak in Victoria in the new year—watch the Community Trees Matter website. Urban foresters advocate for good strong policy and enforcement, more funding to support city arborists, and education so citizens understand the wide array of services provided by a healthy urban forest. They know that a mobilized citizenry is essential to encourage the political will to get the right policies in place. Fortunately, Victoria has both a mobilized citizenry and that 6-year-old Urban Forest Master Plan in place. Most of its 26 recommendations have not been implemented, the very first of which advocates creating “a position for an Urban Forest Planner/Coordinator, who is empowered to work with other departments to achieve the City’s urban forest goals and to report annually to council.” That seems a good place to start—along with direction from council to make an increased tree canopy a reality. Leslie Campbell loves walking the well-treed streets of Rockland—just by viewing trees our stress levels drop. Note City Hall’s January sessions for citizen input on the draft budget and strategic plan at Victoria City Hall.
  6. Future proofing Victoria Ross Crockford’s eloquent post-mortem on Victoria’s civic election (“Great politics vs. good governance,” November/December 2018) notes that the new council will need to move quickly to address “a mess of detailed, practical issues.” Heading the list is affordable housing, the Crystal Pool, and fendering on the Johnson Street Bridge. If these issues are successfully “juggled,” as he puts it, and City Hall is seen to be well run and financially stable, our mayor and council “will bring Victorians together.” I wonder if this is true—and I wonder because none of these issues genuinely matter to the future of our city. We are living at the edge of an inflection point in human history, a time of significant change, a turning point. The smoke from forest fires that enveloped our city—and so many others—this summer was a visceral reminder that climate change is real, it is happening now, and we are not immune to its effects. Similarly, radically advanced robotics and artificial intelligence are re-shaping the employment landscape worldwide, but they are doing more than that; they are changing the ways in which humans interact with each other and the world around us. As a bona fide technology hub (albeit not so much in robotics or AI), this could be an opportunity for Victoria to showcase how it is using (or will use) AI to facilitate smart urban development, for example, but neither our mayor nor any member of the new council campaigned on a future-focused strategy of how this might be done. The issues that command our immediate attention, such as affordable housing, or the fate of the Crystal Pool, are real enough and yet they also seem parochial; too small to define the conversation about the path Victoria is travelling through time. Each of them is most properly cast as an objective that, if approached intelligently, would support the realization of something greater: a city that is resilient in the face of change; a city that excels at pattern recognition and the seizing of opportunity; a city that future proofs itself and its citizens. What exactly does future proofing mean? It is the conscious, intentional decision to do certain things—and crucially, not to do others—that insulates the city against economic, environmental and social change that might otherwise be de-stabilizing. This is especially important for island communities. We are vulnerable to many of the global forces that are playing out in distant places—though in our complacency we delude ourselves into thinking that we are sustainable. Our energy and our food, for example, come to us from the Mainland, and are susceptible to supply chain shocks. Imagine the chaos if either our energy or our food supply were interrupted for even a few days? Beyond these obvious supply chains, there is another, less well-known attitudinal chain, that is equally important. What is the collective attitude about Victoria today? What do we think about when we think of the future? Do we even know what the future means to us anymore, or have we forgotten? Without memory we have nothing. The decisions local governments make about infrastructure—be it buildings, bridges, roads, or sewer and water mains—leave an indelible physical imprint on the city that endures for a century or more. Equally, those decisions shape the emotional experience of this place, the feeling sense that each of us has as we walk around Downtown. There is a good deal of development taking place here, but what is the narrative or story that it tells? What does it say about the atmosphere of Victoria at this moment in its history? What does it say about what makes Victoria special? Victoria needs to incubate a conversation about the future, about what this city could mean to us (and others) a generation from now. What are the forces laying in the shadows that we need to confront? What is our vision, distinct from any other city, that conveys a sense of uniqueness and palpable civic pride? Better still, how might Victoria recover the sense of community that is ultimately the most potent competitive advantage any city can have and use it to inspire each of us to reach for the stars rather than muddle through. Now if we could make progress on that kind of agenda, then I think we’d truly bring Victorians together. Rob Abbott Orcapocalypse I remember looking forward to Stephen Hume’s conscious and eloquent Vancouver Sun articles. What an honour to have his gift at Focus. “Orcapocalypse” stirringly articulates the planet’s dire condition. Four films together present a simple vision and strategy to end the eco-catastrophic era. Watch Living Downstream, What the Health, Cowspiracy, and Stink (the latter three on Netflix). About that nagging climate change dilemma: UK’s Paisley University Social Sciences Emeritus Professor John Foster insists that neoliberal policies, including those enshrined in European Union treaties and directives, preclude the action necessary to combat climate change effectively. “Such an urgent, radical transformation is not possible without large-scale public ownership, investment and planning, which means a revolutionary advance to socialism,” Mr Foster argued. Doesn’t Mr Foster know socialism “always fails”? Larry Wartels As Stephen Hume (November/December 2018) alluded to, and David Broadland (November/December 2017) noted, “Rivers running into Puget Sound have perennially low returns of Chinook salmon—currently estimated at just 10 percent of their historic levels—even though many of them are enhanced with hatcheries. Last year, scientific research connected this decline to secondary sewage treatment plants discharging partially-treated effluent into Puget Sound.” Jay Inslee, Washington State’s governor, wants $1.1 billion to pay for a state effort to help recover the critically endangered Southern Resident population of killer whales. With 100+ secondary sewage treatment plants on Puget Sound in critical need of upgrading, will any of that $1.1 billion be used in this regard? Or is even the mention of the pollution in Puget Sound somehow to be avoided, not only by Washington State, but by our government in Victoria? I expect such a task would gobble up that billion dollars and then some—which means that any effort envisioned by the governor is at best tinkering around the edges. Richard Weatherill Landslide Lisa’s record The structure of the “City Family” and the conduct of its business should come as a surprise to no one (Focus, November/December 2018), and probably doesn’t. A bit more surprising, though, is the suggestion of one correspondent that “Reconciliation is of supreme importance to all of us.” Arguably what should be of far more importance to all of us is the issue at hand that can’t be even mentioned in public: race politics. A long and ugly practice, with harrowing results, particularly when politicians get aboard, as we now see in Victoria. Brian Nimeroski Everything we do counts As ever more dire climate disruption is reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it was encouraging to read Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic’s last two “finding balance” articles about that very subject and what we as individuals can and must do. Her list includes a multitude of individual actions that can add up to a fair-sized difference, with little sacrifice and a growing sense of what really matters. I thank her for contributing to the crucial conversations we all need to have amongst ourselves and our political representatives. My experience over the last 35 years has taught me that there are far more gains than losses in choosing greener options, especially with those hot-point issues that seem so daunting, like “giving up my car” or “paying more at the gas pump.” Here’s how a few little mishaps inadvertently led me to ride my bike to work and live happily ever after. In the 1980s, as a busy single parent living in Lethbridge, Alberta, I drove the 1.75 kms to work every day without thinking. Everyone did. Then one winter morning my car wouldn’t start, so I had to catch the bus two blocks away. It was surprisingly pleasant not having to warm up my vehicle, or worry about icy intersections, and I had a blissful few minutes to sit and relax. So I rode the bus after that, saving money on gas, and enjoying my brisk walk to the bus and back. Then one day I missed the bus. After a quick calculation of time and possible shortcuts, I decided I would get to work sooner by walking than by waiting for the next bus. So off I trotted, arriving surprisingly refreshed and only a few minutes late. Why not walk home too? That became my new routine every day after that, saving more money, sleeping better, feeling more vibrant and alert, and enjoying the sights, sounds, smells and greetings of my community. Even in the wind and rain. Even in snowy and minus-30-degree weather. When I got to work, co-workers would say incredulously, “You walked to work this morning?” and I would reply, equally amazed, “You drove?” An added bonus occurred one morning in 2002, when my path crossed that of a fine man walking to his workplace. We continued to walk together until he retired and my office moved too far for me to reasonably walk. So that is when and how I came to ride my bike to work, and for errands, and for the sheer joy of it. To this day, Sidewalk Man and I routinely walk or ride our bikes instead of driving. If we can’t walk or ride, we take the bus (where texting is both safe and legal, by the way). Only when no other options work do we get in the car and drive. Now our home is Victoria where there is so much to see and do, but even our “adventures” are mostly within a 30-kilometre range. We do not feel deprived. We are both well over 65, never were and still aren’t what you would call athletic, but our main form of day-to-day transportation is active and much preferred to the hassle of driving and parking. Plus, a wide choice of tasty calories provides our fossil-fuel-free fuel. I was lucky to be led by chance to a finer way of living. The climate imperative before us all requires bold and urgent action to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Failure to do so is not a viable option. Neither is continuing to delay. For inspiration, hope, and bright possibility, I encourage you to check out online Canada Post’s proposal “Delivering Community Power,” just one of many leaps in thinking waiting for the political green light to move us forward into a sustainable economy and a better future. Discover for yourself that saving life on this planet holds many gifts, and is not to be feared. Let’s do it together. There’s no time to lose. Gail Meston Transportation in Victoria’s urban core It should be obvious to residents of Victoria that there are too many cars on the busy streets Downtown. Rush hour now can be any time between 7 am and 6 pm depending on the day. This situation will only worsen as densification of this area continues. Thousands of living units will have been added in the period from 2014 to 2024. Not all of the residents of these rental units and condominiums will have cars, but most of them will. Add to these the increasing population of the Greater Victoria area, as well as off-island visitors, and you have a big traffic problem. The problem will exist whether we have bike lanes or not. Therefore we have to look to the future when deciding on the best way to move people within the urban core (Inner Harbour to Quadra, Belleville to Chatham). Using cars for this purpose is not efficient or appropriate; they are a convenient means of transportation but they have a high social cost. For example, they occupy much more space than a pedestrian or cyclist and, except for electric vehicles, they pollute. This is most obvious on the busiest streets at the busiest times of the day. As well, the more cars there are on the streets, the longer it takes to get anywhere, the more exhaust fumes spew into the air. Where to park and how much valuable core land should be devoted to parking cars are other important issues. Public transportation vehicles such as buses are less convenient than cars but have a lower social cost. Large buses are particularly appropriate for destinations such as the University of Victoria, the Western Communities, and the Peninsula. The Douglas corridor is making it easier for these buses to move people into and out of the core. However they are large, noisy and spew exhaust (until they become battery operated). They are not appropriate for providing convenient transportation within the urban core. The core could more appropriately be served by smaller public transit vehicles, “people movers” (PMs). The PMs that I envision are rubber-tired, electric mini-buses that have a maximum capacity of 20 or 30 passengers. They would run frequently, depending on the anticipated load, at different times of the day. They would have more loading zones than are available now for buses. They would be accessible by the elderly and disabled. The fare for these vehicles would be low, perhaps a dollar for a day pass that would be good for these vehicles only. A monthly pass would also be available at a slightly lower daily price. Anybody with a pass for the large buses would not need a special one for the PMs. This system would encourage people to be a bus user all over the city, transferring to a PM when in the core area. These passes would be marketed to tourists as well. With one of these passes the vehicle would essentially be a “hop on, hop off.” It would be easy to get quickly to all parts of the core. They would be convenient for shoppers, tourists, business people, employees of Downtown businesses, and government employees. A district that would particularly benefit from these PMs, rather than big buses or cars, is James Bay. It is possible to walk to the core from James Bay, but it is not always convenient. One route that would be important would originate from Ogden Point. This would be popular with cruise ship passengers, multifamily residences, and future development at Ogden Point. In large cities such as Montreal and Toronto, this kind of service is accomplished to a large extent by underground trains. In Edmonton, LRT trains run underground in the core, above ground outside of it; in Calgary they run above ground. We used to have electric streetcars (trams) running on surface rails in our core, and to outlying residential areas. These were efficient people movers at the time, but they were replaced by large gas buses. Residents of Greater Victoria have to realize that there is no future for the car as the primary means of transportation within our core. We have to accept this as a fact for our city and pressure the civic, provincial and federal governments to support initiatives to replace cars with efficient, convenient, non-polluting alternatives such as the People Movers that I have suggested. It isn’t the only alternative but I think it is a good one. Errol Miller
  7. Leslie Campbell


    BRAINSTORM Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Explore and interact with exhibition facilitators who present opportunities for inquiry. You’re invited to have a conversation over tea, then interact with hands-on activities, take in the changing pieces of artwork from the collection and community, experience a historical timeline of changes from the Gallery’s past and help imagine the kinds of initiatives and programs that can take shape in our new building. Opportunities take place on Jan.5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information visit aggv.ca
  8. Leslie Campbell


    January 29 - February 24 Bears, by Matthew MacKenzie Belfry Theatre A multi-disciplinary journey through our wondrous and contested environment. Pursued by the RCMP, Floyd has to get out of town fast. Heading through the Rockies for the Pacific, through the forests and along the rivers, he experiences changes – inside and out. Floyd’s journey is assisted by the wildlife he encounters – especially the bears. Bears won two Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards in Edmonton for Outstanding Musical Score and Outstanding Choreography. Bears won the 2018 Dora Awards (Toronto) for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Production. “I’d never seen a piece that speaks to issues facing Canada’s Indigenous peoples as effectively and beautifully as Bears does.” —JERRY SADDLEBACK, CREE ELDER AND DEAN OF CULTURAL STUDIES AT MASKWACÎS COLLEGE WHY I CHOSE THIS PLAY I want to showcase the work of one of our country’s outstanding Indigenous theatre companies. This story is so theatrically bold with its chorus of female dancers. —Michael Shamata AN ALBERTA ABORIGINAL PERFORMING ARTS AND PUNCTUATE! THEATRE (EDMONTON) PRODUCTION Bears is generously supported by
  9. horizontal lines A workshop of a brand new piece created and performed by Carolyn Moon, horizontal lines is a story about siblings, relationships that are formative but uncelebrated. Based on Moon’s relationship with her older brother, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, and the nature of forgiveness. Audience advisories: drug addiction, eating disorders, prison Dramaturgical support from Kathleen Greenfield. horizontal lines is part of Intrepid Theatre’s YOU Show. Intrepid Theatre Club, 2-1609 Blanshard Ave, https://intrepidtheatre.com
  10. Leslie Campbell


    OUTstages, a decidedly queer theatre festival, returns for the 5th year with brand new dates, February 1 – 9. This week-long festival is packed with theatre, music, drag, burlesque, storytelling, some returning festival favourites and a European smash-hit! Tickets and passes can be purchased online, or in-person at Ticket Rocket, 1050 Meares Street (Monday to Friday, 10am – 5pm). See https://intrepidtheatre.com for details.
  11. QALEIDOSCOPE: Queer Film On Tour by Queer City Cinemas Brought to us by Saskatchewan's Queer City Cinema tour, this two-night event will feature films from Canadian QTBIPOC* that explore, question, and play with identity to propose and investigate diverse ways of looking at sexuality, gender, and race. Both evenings of screenings will present well-textured assemblage of images, characters, ideas, and realities that collide in fantastical, personal, and playful ways to produce an ever-changing, multi-faceted queer media art viewing experience. Admission will be by donation, sliding scale. Screenings start at 8pm, Friday, January 18 and Saturday, January 19. At Open Space, 510 Fort St.Featuring films by:Kristin Li, Vivek Shraya, Jess MacCormack, Milena Salazar & Joella Cabalu, Mée Rose & Wy Joung Kou, Blair Fukumura, Kent Monkman, Clark Nikolai, Wrik Mead, Shelley Niro, David Geiss. *Queer and trans Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour www.openspace.ca
  12. Quasar quatuor: Territoires sonores February 8 at 7:30pm, Quasar quatuor will present Territoires sonores at Open Space. Since the group's founding in 1994, the Quasar saxophone quartet (Marie-Chantal Leclair, Mathieu Leclair, André Leroux, Jean-Marc Bouchard) has been dedicated to the creation and promotion of contemporary music. A sonic portrait of Canadian new music,Territoires sonores is made up of 8 works commissioned for 8 Canadian composers on the occasion of Canada's 150th anniversary. Admission will be free / by donation. Open Space is at 510 Fort Street, Victoria www.openspace.ca
  13. until
    January 13 - February 26 Chantal Gibson: How She Read Open Space presents Chantal Gibson's visual and text art exhibition, How She Read: Confronting the Romance of Empire.Gibson is a Vancouver-based artist and educator whose work plunges into the fraught territory of school texts and history books with a sewing needle and re-works historical Canadian texts with black thread in order to revise our ideas of history, nationhood, and how we read. Through altered book sculptures that ensnare the texts with braids and thread, redacted texts, and reprints of old children’s readers, Gibson’s work asks us to consider the voices, stories, and bodies that have been erased or excluded from historical narratives and proposes material ways in which we can resist those historical erasures. Chantal Gibson teaches writing and visual communication in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University. As a visual artist with interests in race, gender, and history, her altered texts and installations challenge the cultural production and consumption of knowledge. At their core, her works explore power, exploiting colonial mechanisms of oppression—myths, tropes, types, and metaphors—persistent across readings, writings, and representations of Blackness and Otherness in the Canadian cultural imagination. Most recently, Gibson’s multimedia installation Souvenir was featured in Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art at the ROM in Toronto and MBAM in Montreal. Her debut book of poetry, How She Read, will be published by Caitlin Press in January 2019. Alongside the Open Space exhibition, Chantal's work TOME will be on display in the University of Victoria's Mearns Centre for Learning - McPherson Library from Jan 13 - Feb 26.How She Read will feature a week-long artist residency from February 14-21, during which Chantal will participate in numerous events in the gallery and off-site, as well as hold open gallery hours for the public to engage with her directly.Join us for the opening reception Sunday, January 13 from 3-5pm. Open Space is at 510 Fort Street, Victoria www.openspace.ca
  14. Leslie Campbell

    Local Poets

    AN EVENING WITH LOCAL POETS We have a rare opportunity for you to join four local poets, including Victoria's Poet Laureate, Yvonne Blomer, for a night of Ekphrastic Poetry reading. Yvonne, along with poets John Barton, Eve Joseph and Arleen Pare, will respond to various visual works of art from paintings to sculptures, including artists Emily Carr and Robert Bateman. This is the perfect cultural and creative outing for a January evening! Date: January 17th, 6-8 p.m. at The Robert Bateman Centre Members $5 and non-members $10. Register online atbatemancentre.org/events
  15. Leslie Campbell

    Dance Days

    Dance Victoria’s Dance Days Now in its 10th year, Dance Days is a unique, “experiential” event. Over ten days each January, the public is invited to participate in free classes at studios all over the city; watch demonstrations of dance, such as flamenco, belly dance or ballet; see new professional work in development by Victoria and Vancouver artists; participate in discussions and roundtables; and meet and mingle with artists and dance presenters. Rough Cuts January 25 + 26, 2019. Informal showings performed under work lights and without costume or makeup. Join a group of visiting dance presenters from across the country and participate in a meaningful discussion with the artists. Sølvi Edvardsen’s MAN • McPherson Playhouse January 25, 2019. *One performance only* In MAN, Adhana uses only a small sitting stool as his partner to embody the struggles of a bicultural identity, while considering who is he? Where does he come from? At the heart of the work is Edvardsen’s exploration of how we put limits on ourselves based on our life experiences. MAN is at the crossroads of two cultures. It acts a dialogue between Norwegian choreographer Sølvi Edvardsen and South Asian dancer Sudesh Adhana, and questions identity and what it means to be human. At the heart of the work is her exploration of how we put limits on ourselves - draw lines and boundaries - based on our experiences, especially if you have a bi-cultural identity. See www.dancevictoria.com for further events of Dance Days -- including a “choreography walk”; a roundtable discussion about the state of contemporary dance in the Nordic countries and India; and more.
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