Jump to content

Leslie Campbell

Administrators
  • Content Count

    423
  • Joined

  • Last visited

About Leslie Campbell

  • Rank
    Advanced Member

Recent Profile Visitors

The recent visitors block is disabled and is not being shown to other users.

  1. July 3, 2020 THE FOREST AROUND OUR QUADRA ISLAND HAVEN is aglow right now with droopy white plumes of ocean spray (Holodiscus discolor), ruby-jewelled salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) and huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium). I feel so lucky to have been here through the full pandemic-infused spring as I have been able to watch and photograph each stage of these plants’ evolution from bare branches through the unfurling of their leaves, blossoming of their flowers and swelling of their berries. The salmonberries and huckleberries are plump and juicy, thanks to copious rain over the past few weeks. I have been picking them regularly to use on my oatmeal in the morning, but now that the huckleberries are ripe, I am thinking more ambitiously about pies and preserves. Mostly, I am enthusiastic about such kitchen production because it gives me an excuse to hang out in the forest. I find berry picking among the most calming, meditative-yet-productive things to do. Red Huckleberry Ocean Spray The three plants mentioned above are very common in Douglas fir forests. All were relied on by native people who lived here pre-colonization. The ocean spray has very hard wood, which, according to Pojar & MacKinnon’s Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, was used for spears and tools by First Nations. The seeds were eaten as well. The berries of huckleberry and salmonberry, of course, were eaten fresh as well as preserved, as were those of salal (Gaulthoria shallon). Many birds, squirrels and bears in Vancouver Island forests eat the berries as well. The red-berried huckleberry was one of the few plant species to survive on the slopes of Mount St Helens when the volcano erupted in 1980, according to Wikipedia. In local forests it loves to grow on rotting logs and old tree stumps. Salal berries will ripen later in summer. They produce an intensely flavourful purply-black jam I love. I hear they are also really good for making fruit leather, which I might attempt to make this year. It will give me another excuse to hang out quietly, with sticky fingers, in the forest. These plants all seem very hardy and abundant. But the forests they depend on are getting mowed down at an alarming rate. When I hike into the backwoods of Quadra Island, I see clearcut after clearcut. (Satellite images show the same patchwork look all over BC.) Up close, a new clearcut is a hell-scape, with wide roads blasted through rock, a desiccated, scraped terrain littered with “course woody debris” (former tree limbs), and stump after stump of “harvested fibre.” Speaking of harvested fibre—or “feedstock,” see Michelle Connolly’s excellent piece on this site, “Words Hide Truth,” about the Orwellian, euphemistic language employed by BC’s Ministry of Forests et al. The government’s deliberate rebranding of natural forests as commodities helps discourage our awareness and defence of forests as complex living systems. Unfortunately, not enough of us are able to get out and witness the contrast between a clearcut and an intact forest. On Quadra, there are many examples side-by-side, providing for a mind-bending contrast. I certainly cannot recognize a forest I’ve visited before, formerly graced with dense, towering trees, carpeted with moss and my favourite bushes, after it’s been mowed down by the industrial machinery now used. It’s a stark lesson in the rapacious, absurd behaviour of our species. For further elucidation on the BC government’s appalling stewardship of our once-magnificent forests, read David Broadland’s recent analysis (along with many readers’ comments) of the financial realities of the forest-industrial complex. It appears the BC taxpayer is getting shafted along with the forests we love. I think I need to get back to berry-picking… I welcome your response, either as a comment below or privately through the “Contact Us” button at the bottom of this page. If you are taking photos of native plants and animals, you might be interested in our Mapping Nature project, here.
  2. until
    Bastion Square Artisans Market Saturday & Sundays 11:00am - 4:30pm until September 27, 2020 We are located in Bastion Square every Saturday and Sunday, 11:00am-4:30pm. Shop locally-made from local artisans in downtown Victoria’s only outdoor artisans market! COMMUNITY EVENT · CRAFTS · SHOPPING & FASHION 56 Bastion Square Victoria, BC
  3. until
    “Molten”: Encaustic Group ShowFeaturing works by Alanna Sparanese, Brenda Walker, Lynn Harnish The Gallery At Matticks Farm Inc.109-5325 Cordova BayVictoria, BC V8Y 2L3Phone: (250) 658-8333 https://www.thegalleryatmatticksfarm.com
  4. until
    2020 VIRTUAL VICTORIA FLAMENCO FESTIVAL July 23 to 26, 2020 Please visit www.victoriaflamencofestival.com for information regarding virtual show times and links. Cost: Free, donations accepted at www.victoriaflamencofestival.com The Flamenco de la Isla Society has come to the difficult decision, given the current COVID-19 situation, to suspend all physical in-person events at the 2020 Victoria Flamenco Festival. We feel it is important to do our part to keep artists, audience, and our community safe. We are currently working to bring you virtual festival. Our commitment to Flamenco on Vancouver Island remains strong and we encourage you to reach out if you have any questions: info@victoriaflamencofestival.com Thank you for your ongoing support! 2020 VIRTUAL VICTORIA FLAMENCO FESTIVAL Experience southern Spain at the 8th Annual Victoria Flamenco Festival on July 23-26 where artists from across Canada, Spain, and Mexico perform bold and haunting rhythms through dance, song, guitar, and percussion. Enjoy FREE on-line shows. The Virtual Victoria Flamenco Festival is hosted by the Flamenco de la Isla Society.
  5. The Vancouver Writers Fest andToronto International Festival of Authors presentDavid Mitchell in Conversation withLisa Christiansen$45 includes access to exclusive online event, a copy ofUtopia Avenue and shipping. The first 300 people to order will also receive a signed bookplate.Sunday, July 26 at 4:00pm PDT / 7:00pm EDT TICKETS
  6. LAILA BIALI TRIO Live/Livestream Victoria Performance Date: Saturday, July 25, 2020 – 7:30pm (doors open 6:30pm) Venue: Victoria Event Centre 1415 Broad St Tickets: $30 advance only On sale Tuesday, July 14 at 10am Tickets purchased online at: www.victoriaeventcentre.ca CBC’s Saturday Night Jazz host Laila Biali returns to Victoria for a special evening concert, this time to showcase songs from her brand new 2020 album, Out of Dust. This Juno-award winning singer, pianist, and songwriter last played in Victoria with her trio at TD Victoria International JazzFest 2019. Her upcoming performance at Victoria Event Centre with Jodi Proznick bassand Ben Wittman drums promises a night of stunning live music that has been dearly missed for months. Opening the evening will be the duo of Wes Carroll guitar and Phil Albert bass. The performance will be also livestreamed via Twitch and Victoria Jazz Society’s Facebook page. Donations may be made to the Victoria Jazz Society to support the VJS’s Jazz Alive! Summer Pop-Ups in Victoria this summer, as well as future VJS presentations. To donate, please visit: https://jazzvictoria.ca/society/make-donation If you attend, bear in mind health and safety protocols of wearing a mask (at the request of the artist) and keeping six feet apart from those who aren’t in your household/immediate social circle. Due to COVID-19, there will be a limit of 50 tickets available for purchase. Tickets must be purchased in table packages of 4-6 in order to adhere to physical distance protocols. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Please visit https://www.victoriaeventcentre.ca/covid19/ to familiarize with current Victoria Event Centre COVID-19 practices. The livestream will be available at: https://www.twitch.tv/victoriaeventcentre CLICK HERE TO VISIT TICKET PAGE CLICK HERE FOR LIVESTREAM
  7. until
    The FREE-B Festival Strikes BackWith no potential for an event permit from the City of Victoria, the Free-B Film Festival has changed location, dates AND will now be opening up to only 50 people each night at The Fort Common. For the first time in 22 seasons, folks will have to register online! The event is still FREE but the VFF needs to know that you’re coming because… well… you know… there’s this virus that we are all social distancing from and we asked ourselves ‘Why line up if there’s no room?’. Registration opens for the first three films at 10 AM on August 3 and same time on August 10 for the final three films.The fabulous Free-B film line-up has gone back to its roots and we’ve hauled out some of the most fun B movies ever! Check it out at freebfilmfest.com. Roman Holiday – August 13Bored in her luxurious confinement, a princess (Audrey Hepburn) escapes from her guardians and falls in love with an American news reporter (Gregory Peck) in Rome. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die – August 14A cheez bomb from 1962, not to be missed! When his girlfriend, Jan Compton is decapitated in a car accident, Dr. Bill, experimenting with transplant techniques, keeps her alive while trying to find her a new body. George of the Jungle – August 15Slapstick and humour fills the big screen as George turns out to be dashing and handsome but also a total klutz. King Kong Escapes – August 20Are you up for the campiest KK? Dr. Who forces King Kong to replace MechaKong on his search for precious minerals but soon enough he’s escaped and headed for… you guessed it… Tokyo! Santa Claus Conquers the Martians – August 21Oh, it’s always about the presents! Martian children obsessed with Santa Claus send their parents on a mission to kidnap that Right Jolly Old Elf. Worst movie ever made? You be the judge! The Witches – August 22A young boy stumbles onto a witch convention and must stop them, even after he has been turned into a mouse. The Fort Common is located down the alleyway between Starbucks and Be Love @ 1019 BlanshardThe Free-B Film Festival is created by the Victoria Film Festival.
  8. until
    Summer Jazz Camp by U-JAM in Victoria Making Music - in Real Time & Un-Real Times · AUGUST 16 - AUGUST 21 9:00 am - 9:00 pm · https://www.u-jam.ca/summer-jazz-camp · Hermann's Jazz Club, Victoria The Third Annual Jazz Camp is designed for current reality: "Making Music - in Real Time and Un-Real Times." With the current restrictions on gatherings, this year's camp will be available both virtually and live, on campus. Campers will have the option of participating from anywhere on the planet, via the internet, to access our classes and perform and practice with our all-star faculty. Our program celebrates jazz and improvised music in its many forms. As always, Master Classes and specific topic classes feature an impressive list of special guests and educators. Our local all-star faculty will be augmented by new technology to facilitate making music during the pandemic. Campers of all levels will have a choice of classes in theory, harmony, songwriting, technology, improvising, and ear training. You will be able to perform with a combo, big band, or vocal jazz group. Private coaching is included for each student. Performances by faculty, students, and special guests will be live-streamed each day. Musicians of all ages will have a great learning and playing experience. Camp fees shown include virtual and real-time classes, jam sessions, masterclasses and more. Camp will be held at Hermann's Jazz Club in downtown Victoria, in the club's downstairs and upstairs areas. This will facilitate afternoon ensemble rehearsals, jam sessions, concerts, and masterclasses in a live format with a live feed for our virtual campers. Refund Policy: $100 non-refundable upon application; balance fully refundable up to July 31st Sibling/spouse discount: $75: the second camper must be from the same household and apply at the same time. Scholarships and bursaries are available for deserving students.
  9. Posted July 7, 2020 Image: Cruise ships have been visiting Victoria since the 1990s. The coronavirus crashed our growth-dependant economy just as the global community was figuring out how to shift to an economy that doesn't destabilize climate or threaten biodiversity. How will Victoria respond? Go to story
  10. July 7, 2020 Given travel’s role in the pandemic and its large carbon footprint, “staycations” look like the best path to recovery of human health and ecological stability. READING THROUGH THE CITY OF VICTORIA’S recent economic action plan, Victoria 3.0, one might easily get the impression that tourism is not important to the City’s economy. There is barely a mention of it. It crops up exactly twice. Once in a short highlight of the organization Destination Greater Victoria, and again in reference to the Victoria Conference Centre. In the Destination Greater Victoria section it’s noted that (normally) the visitor population “contributes $2.3 billion in economic activity to the regional economy, while stimulating more than 24,000 direct jobs and $400 million in local taxes.” The report observes, “In Greater Victoria, the overall visitor economy is comprised of more than four million overnight guests annually.” This year, however, mid-pandemic, it’s all different. Most of the usual six million tourists are absent. In mid-May, Victoria hotel occupancy was only at 15.5 percent. Revenues of many tourist-reliant businesses are being obliterated. Words like “devastating” and “ominous” are used to describe the impact. A local industry task force estimated in May that 90 percent of the full-time tourism workforce has been laid off and roughly 20,000 jobs lost. Victoria, especially its downtown area, could be transformed over the next year. It’s not just the obvious businesses like tour operators and souvenir shops, but all the retailers and restaurateurs that will be missing tourists this summer. As will the businesses they in turn supported. Many other businesses will miss the money spent locally by all the former tourism industry employees. It’s a bleak picture indeed, with no end in sight, and with the possibility for further disruptions due to a second wave of COVID-19 —or other crises. The abrupt plunge in the number of visitors to Victoria underlines the fact that components of tourism are a key factor in the global transmission of disease. It’s also implicated in the climate crisis. How does a community that has become so dependant on tourism adjust to these new realities? Air travel in January and February quickly spread the novel coronavirus around the globe. Below, airport workers in Korea attempt to disinfect part of an airport terminal. The high cost of flying ONE VERY BIG elephant in the room associated with international tourism, even the so-called sustainable version, is its immense carbon footprint, due in large measure to aviation emissions. According to the Victoria International Airport’s data, about 2 million international travellers arrived in Victoria by plane last year. (Another large group—about 700,000 in 2019—came by cruise ships; more on them later.) A Guardian analysis shows that individually, flying from Vancouver to Bangkok and back generates about 2,394 kilograms of CO2—more than the average person in 98 countries produces in a year. Even a return flight from Vancouver to New York produces 593 kilograms of CO2 per passenger—about what the average person in 44 countries generates in a full year. Contrails created by condensation of moisture from jet airplane exhaust. The gases released that contribute to the climate crisis are invisible to the human eye. Some in the travel industry are aware and concerned, but offer little in the way of real solutions. Destination Greater Victoria has hosted two “Impact: Sustainability Travel & Tourism” conferences in recent years (and is scheduled to hold another in January 2021) on the interplay between tourism and the environment, including climate change. At the 2018 Impact conference, a session on the future of low-emissions travel noted that the International Civil Aviation Organization is committed to carbon neutrality from 2020 onwards. That goal was set in 2010; meanwhile, air travel has increased exponentially. As the proceedings paper notes, “In 2016, 3.8 billion passengers took flight—an increase of 7 percent over the previous year.” By 2036, the numbers flying are expected to double. How is carbon neutrality to be achieved in light of such numbers? A record of the conference proceedings states: “Improvements to technology and shifting to alternative fuels, and finally through carbon offsets for any remaining emissions.” But with longer-haul air travel there really are no alternative fuels on the horizon. As for fuel efficiency technologies, the paper notes that in 2016 Canadian air carriers improved fuel efficiency by all of 3.2 percent. It concludes: “Requiring that airlines purchase carbon offsets may be one of the simplest and least risky ways to ensure that airlines factor in the cost of emissions when making capacity decisions.” Offsets, of course, do not reduce emissions or the climate emergencies heading our way. Tourism’s emissions are not just due to air travel. Research by a team of University of Sydney scientists calculated the direct emissions from air travel and indirect emissions—including from food production, hotel maintenance, and souvenirs—in 160 countries. The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that tourism now accounts for eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. One researcher involved with the study, Dr Arunima Malik, told the New Scientist, “Growth in tourism-related expenditure is a stronger accelerator of emissions than growth in manufacturing, construction or service provision.” If the (pre-COVID) business-as-usual scenario continued, the researchers projected the carbon footprint from tourism could increase to 6.5 gigatonnes by 2025. The report noted, “The rapid increase in tourism demand is effectively outstripping the decarbonization of tourism-related technology.” Such realities pose a problem for a city like Victoria, which is heavily reliant on tourism for jobs and bringing revenue into the community, yet committed (in theory, at least) to reducing its carbon footprint. The City of Victoria’s Climate Leadership Plan, however, makes virtually no reference to tourism and certainly none at all to those extra-heavy-footed vehicles—air planes and cruise ships—bringing millions of tourists and travellers to the city. The global tourism study found that the highest emissions were associated with the very type of “high-value” traveller Victoria (and Destination Greater Victoria) is most keen to attract—those from affluent countries. As Dr Malik told the BBC, “When richer people travel they tend to spend more on higher-carbon transportation, food and pursuits.” Besides the carbon footprint, there are now public health issues to consider. Global travel helped cause the world-wide spread of the coronavirus, resulting in over 550,000 deaths (as of July 7) and a serious, likely years-long recession. While all the big travel industry players are lobbying the federal and provincial governments to relax restrictions, infection disease experts are warning against it. “[Travel] is the one segment of the economy that probably has the greatest potential to derail our ability to stay out of lockdown,” Lauren Lapointe-Shaw, a general internist and clinical epidemiologist at Toronto’s University Health Network, told the Globe and Mail in late June, further noting travel’s “outsized effect on the ability of outbreaks to grow quickly.” It’s not just the risk of spreading a virus on a plane, another medical expert told the Globe, “but the risks that come with travel, such as venturing out and meeting new people.” While compassion and concrete measures to help tourist-dependent workers are called for, there are, thanks to the climate crisis and pandemic, ethical considerations around long-distance travel in particular. Coronavirus superspreaders no more: Idled British aircraft parked on runways The cruise industry: A blessing? Or a curse? OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS, some Victoria businesses have become increasingly reliant on tourists from cruise ships. It’s not clear how many businesses benefit, but the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA), which operates the cruise ship terminal, claims the cruise industry contributes more than $130 million annually to the regional economy and is responsible for 800 direct and indirect jobs in the area. Given that passengers do not stay in local hotels, and take most meals onboard their ships, it is Downtown retailers and the short-tour guides who will likely miss the cruise ships the most. Since 2010, cruise ship passengers have increased over 45 percent. This year was expected to bring the most ever: 300 ships with close to 800,000 passengers between April and October. But after alarming stories of virus-infected ships, chaotic management, detained passengers, and the ensuing worldwide grounding of the industry, will cruising will ever rebound? Should it? Certainly, the GVHA is counting on increasing cruise ship visits in the years ahead. In April, the organization completed a $6.8-million extension to the mooring dolphin at Pier B—one of the largest capital infrastructure investments in the organization’s history—to allow for newer, larger ships, “ensuring the Victoria Cruise Terminal will remain competitive in the decades to come.” Ogden Point often saw three cruise ships at a time before this year’s coronavirus pandemic struck With 70 percent of its approximately $15 million in revenues coming from cruise ships, the GVHA relies on them to fund its other operations—like Ogden Point Breakwater, the Inner Harbour's Lower Causeway, Ship Point, and Fisherman’s Wharf. Without any cruise revenues in 2020, GVHA has laid off 50 percent of its staff, is deferring major capital projects and even maintenance on the other properties it manages. The wisdom of the GVHA’s emphasis over the years on growing the cruise business is put into question considering the industry’s widely recognized contribution to the climate crisis. Large cruise ships are notoriously carbon-intensive and polluting (of air and water). Though emissions-per-passenger have come down, overall emissions from cruise ships at Ogden Point rose 19.1 percent between 2010 and 2018. Late last year, GVHA resisted City of Victoria council’s push to have cruise ships use less-polluting electrical shore power when in port. Councillor Jeremy Loveday likely had no idea how prophetic his statement to CBC was last December, when he said: “I think the tourism industry is heading toward a climate reckoning, and we’ll need to adapt very quickly.” Many ports around the world have required large ships to plug into shore power rather than continuing to run their engines when in port. Synergy Enterprises, a carbon accounting and energy audit firm hired by GVHA, reported in late 2019 that with shore power installed, the terminal would see greenhouse gas emission reductions of 51 percent and 47 percent for other polluting emissions. It noted that “emissions have been increasing since 2010, as the average vessel stays in port longer; total hotelling time almost doubled.” (Synergy measured ship emissions from 4.4 nautical miles outside the terminal.) To get a clearer idea of just how much one, let alone 300 cruise ships, can pollute when in port, a New York Times article from December 2019 noted: “When not using shore power, a single cruise ship docked for one day can emit as much diesel exhaust as 34,400 idling tractor-trailers, according to an independent analysis verified by the Environmental Protection Agency. When a ship is plugged in, the agency said, its exhaust is nearly eliminated.” In Seattle, where shore power has been available at some terminals for more than a decade, more conversions are planned. Its Port Authority has described the carbon reductions: “An average cruise ship plugging into shore power at Terminal 91 saves the greenhouse gas equivalent of a typical car driving 30 road trips from Seattle to New York.” Vancouver has shore power too—since 2009. Over the ensuing years it’s estimated to have reduced greenhouse gases by over 20,000 tonnes, along with removing 600 tonnes of air pollutants. Given the global move towards mandating that ships use shore power, it’s surprising Victoria, a city priding itself on being green, had not insisted on it sooner than last year. The GVHA had apparently not even thought of it before being called out. CEO Ian Robertson initially stated he wasn’t sure BC Hydro would even have enough capacity. BC Hydro immediately assured that they would have no problem meeting the load. In February 2020, City Council agreed to give GVHA another 5 years to come up with shore power. The GVHA estimates it will cost $20 million, and will be looking to government and the cruise industry itself to subsidize the improvements. Of course, with every organization feeling pinched after the pandemic, expect resistance to paying for such improvements, including retrofits needed for many ships. Yet, with a climate crisis unfolding on the heels of the pandemic, insisting that cruise ships use zero-emission shore power while in port seems the very least that needs to happen. Future directions: go local, go virtual, be smaller VARIOUS REPORTS AND FORECASTS by Canadian industry analysts provide headspinning statistics and dramatic graphs of the plunge in tourist activity in the early months of 2020. Even under best-case scenarios, the financial picture is dire. A recent Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) report states that “without further government investments, 61,000 tourism businesses (57 percent of total) are projected to fail, and 1.66 million tourism sector employees could be laid off (~83 percent of total).” Such reports also make it clear that we cannot rely on the tourism industry itself to make the profound transformations needed. TIAC wants to see Canada “re-emerge as a stronger, more cost-competitive global tourism competitor.” It makes a host of recommendations. Some, like the government funding of marketing campaigns to entice Canadians to explore Canada, might be compatible with a lower-carbon industry. Others like a postponement of the excise tax on jet fuel, are not. The federal government has already re-directed $30 million from international tourism marketing to promoting regional travel within Canada. The City and Province could also fund “tourist-in-your-own-town” campaigns, along with more art promotions. Simple things like the City of Victoria’s closure of Government Street to automobiles, and opening up more outdoor spaces to businesses and citizens, also help locals enjoy their city in a low-carbon way. More concrete long-term help could come in the form of government funding of projects like the redevelopment of the E&N line as an electrified train, ideally that extends further north to Campbell River or beyond. This could be hugely attractive to regional tourists—including from points south in the US, where there are electrified trains already. It could be marketed as an environmentally-friendly “trip of a lifetime,” allowing for a wide variety of side-trips developed by businesses along the route—adventure travel featuring kayaks, sailboats, hiking in Strathcona, forest conservation work, wildlife viewing, and the like; trips for foodies featuring farm stays and vineyards; guided tours for seniors of natural wonders and cultural attractions in electric vans that meet the train. This could keep the hotels and restaurants of the areas hopping as long as the train allowed for lots of layovers along its route. Maybe it’s feasible to have a bike path alongside as well, allowing some of us to do parts of the journey by train and others by bike. Another important role in lowering the emissions of the tourism industry will be played by a move to virtual activities. A good case in point is the Victoria Conference Centre. The City of Victoria’s action plan, Victoria 3.0, notes that VCC delegates are the highest-spending segment of out-of-town visitors—the very visitors research shows have the largest carbon footprints. Apparently still stuck in the old paradigm, the report states: “The VCC has the potential to be a greater economic generator through hosting larger conferences and attracting more international audiences. Our current facility only allows us to host one conference at a time. We want to be able to host two, mid-sized conferences concurrently or one large meeting. A significant renovation or rebuild is necessary.” When asked at an online panel discussion to explain how doubling the capacity of VCC would help put Victoria on a “path to low carbon prosperity”—as is a key goal of the action plan—Mayor Lisa Helps said some conferences could be virtual. Though not mentioned or implied in the report itself, it’s the direction needed. Besides saving on travel emissions, it would allow for a more modest, less carbon-intensive renovation. Businesses, too, can help lower emissions (and save money) by switching long-distant meetings to teleconferencing. Pre-COVID statistics show that business travellers account for 12 percent of airline passengers. Even with such virtual conversions, and projects like a new rail line, and re-targeting towards nearby clientele, tourist-dependent businesses will likely need to figure out how to operate in the black with lower revenues. Victoria’s whale-watching industry, for instance, will be especially hard-hit. A recent news story noted that only 10 percent of their clientele is BC-based. Whale-watching industry players have always prided themselves on their conservation efforts and their ability to inspire love of the animals they showcase. But unless travel is done by kayaks or sailboats (rare in this age of instant gratification), the carbon emissions associated with the industry are very high. While some of the companies boast new fuel efficiencies and carbon offsetting, these do not address the emissions associated with travel to the region. What might come out of the “creative destruction” of the whale-watching industry? Shifting to non-motorized boats with an even greater emphasis on education about their subjects would certainly help the whales. With their population reduced to only 73, the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) have been largely absent in the Salish Sea all spring, apparently residing in California waters. Their main food source, Chinook salmon, has been so diminished they have to forage longer, and fossil-fuel-powered whale-watching makes that process harder. A study commissioned by the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation Program found that SRKWs lose up to 5.5 hours foraging time each day due to noise and disturbance from whale-watching and commercial vessels, from May to September in the Salish Sea. Some tourist-focused businesses may need to convert themselves to something else entirely—those in the accommodation sector, for instance. Ingrid Jarrett, CEO and President of the British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) stated recently, “With over 400 hotels closed, and more than 62,000 employees laid off in the province, many businesses—some of which rely completely on the summer season—are on the brink of insolvency.” In Victoria, there is dire need of housing and some hotels and motels are already being transformed to fill this need. Maybe others can be converted into efficient green housing, creating jobs in the process. Finally, Victorians themselves can rethink their “right” to travel long distances, given the high environmental and public health costs—which are largely born by others. Is it such a sacrifice to embrace “staycations” in which we explore Vancouver Island’s wealth of appealing natural and cultural offerings? When we do travel afar, we must be prepared to pay higher prices and more taxes to offset our emissions. The “stay home” mantra may have long relevance beyond the pandemic. By foregoing international travel, we not only help out those struggling to stay afloat here, we help keep the world a safer place for everyone. It seems the kind thing to do. Leslie Campbell is the editor of Focus.
  11. July 7, 2020 The coronavirus crashed our growth-dependent economy just as the global community was figuring out how to shift to an economy that doesn't destabilize climate or threaten biodiversity. How will Victoria respond? THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC has dramatically reduced economic activity. Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux, for instance, estimates real GDP will fall by 12 percent this year, close to four times the steepest drop on record. Stats Canada reports that “from February to May, total employment has fallen by over 2.7 million, as the unemployment rate rose to a record high 13.7 percent.” Despite government injections of cash—causing ballooning, unprecedented deficits—people are losing their businesses, their jobs, potentially their homes. They may well have trouble paying their taxes, which means governments will be hard-pressed to deliver all the services (especially with those deficits) we’ve come to expect. Statistics Canada’s graphic depiction of what happened to economic activity in Canada in the first three months of 2020 Along with such pain associated with the economic fallout of COVID is a silver lining: climate-warming carbon emissions and other forms of nature-destruction have gone down in synch with our reduced economic activity. While many people and governments want to quickly get back to full-tilt economic growth, this is the ideal time to reimagine the economy. How could we rebuild it so that it doesn’t harm life-support systems we depend on? Can we get our economic or material desires in line with the Earth’s carrying capacity? Given the realization that another virus or the climate crisis could destabilize our lives in the future, how can we best reshape our economy so that it is more resilient? The solutions will likely involve a radical departure from the traditional economic growth model. The assumption of conventional economics—that we can just keep growing the economy—fails to reflect the reality that Earth’s resources are finite. Most of us acknowledge that climate change has already given rise to costly floods, forest fires, and fatal heat waves. But the encroachment of our continually growing demands on natural systems also threatens food security, water supply, and the physical integrity of coastal communities. Bold steps are needed and the pandemic has proven that they can happen in short order if we muster political will and social cohesiveness. The fact that Canada and BC’s economies are based primarily on natural resources, however, poses a significant challenge. Two reports with lofty, contradictory goals A PROVINCE OF BC TASK FORCE and the City of Victoria have both issued economic reports in recent months that appear, at least on the surface, to take seriously the need to transform the economy in a way that protects the natural world and addresses the climate crisis. The BC Emerging Economy Task Force’s final report, released in March 2020, states “We cannot stress enough the need to make the changes now in order to have a diversified and resilient future.” It calls into question our reliance on GDP as a measure of success: “Moving beyond GDP and including indicators like work and life balance, education and skills, income and wealth, jobs and earnings, environmental quality and housing, can give us a realistic window into the true state of our province.” The report continues, “These broader measures can be used as a blueprint for addressing challenges including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.” That report characterizes the emerging economy as: “Rapidly evolving: The economy of the future will experience regular disruption and uncertainty, creating a need for nimble, adaptive and flexible business practices and policy, as well as continuous learning in order to remain globally relevant and competitive.” The future economy will be “low-carbon, circular and sustainable…one where society exists within its ecological means, avoiding the excessive depletion of natural resources while extracting their maximum value and minimizing pollution and environmental degradation in all its forms.” The City of Victoria also has a new report addressing such issues. Victoria 3.0 – Recovery Reinvention Resilience – 2020-2041 lays out measures to “build an economy that enables everyone to flourish and that will set Victoria on a path to low-carbon prosperity.” Adopted by city council in May, its first of three main goals is helping small business, “the lifeblood of the community,” become more resilient in light of experiences and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. The assistance seems to come mostly in the form of “how to” guides, new committees, hiring a consultant to guide strategy development, and, as we’ve heard about, opening up patio space and the like for restaurants. Tech is the shiny new industry in town, creating $5 billion of economic impact annually (about double that of Victoria’s tourism sector). The new, desired economy is described in Victoria 3.0 as “an innovative economy that develops solutions to pressing global challenges, sells these solutions globally, and brings the money back to Victoria.” The second goal is “to create a city and an economy for everyone.” A strong and resilient economy has diversity. It provides living wages, childcare, affordable housing, and affordable transportation. The third goal, states Victoria 3.0, “is that while we build our economy over the next two decades, we do so within the boundaries of the Earth’s capacity to sustain us.” Given the other goals and the nature of cities, this will be the most difficult goal to realize. As the report itself notes, “Cities consume resources from global hinterlands at unsustainable rates [and] produce well over 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions…” Unfortunately, the report doesn’t outline a set of actions that will reduce that impact. In fact, there are recommended actions—like doubling the capacity of the Victoria Conference Centre—that appear to take us in the opposite direction, increasing our footprint. (More on this in an upcoming Focus’ article on the tourism sector.) The report mentions how an Arts and Innovation District, along with an Ocean Future Cluster will create low carbon prosperity, yet fails to illuminate us on how, except for a brief mention about creating a “Building Innovation Incubator to stimulate construction innovation for climate impact.” The central vision of Victoria 3.0 states: “As the Capital City, Victoria is a future-ready, globally-fluent influencer and innovator. Working within the bounds of the Earth’s capacity to sustain us, we will use our status as a small powerhouse and nurture our innovation ecosystem to create a strong and resilient economy that meets our needs now and anticipates the future.” The jargon-heavy text frequently references working or thinking “like an ecosystem”—but it’s an “innovation ecosystem” or “tech ecosystem,” not the real, endangered varieties. Both BC’s Emerging Economy report and Victoria 3.0 pay lip service to the goal of carrying out business without environmental degradation yet fail to appreciate how difficult that is. In the BC report, a Victoria-based tech company is highlighted that helps logging companies operate more efficiently through data-generated 3-D imaging to “harvest” timber. While it might reduce loggers’ consumption of fossil fuels, it is also helping them destroy the capacity of forests to store carbon. In the Victoria report, BC Investment Management Corporation (BCIMC) is highlighted—a corporation, based in Victoria, investing government employees’ pension funds in all the major international oil and gas firms, and more locally, Mosaic (the joint business management unit of Island Timberlands and TimberWest), which clearcuts forests on Vancouver Island, thereby once again preventing those forests from continuing to serve as the best carbon capture and storage facilities in existence. Economic growth and emissions: decoupling not happening AT A RECENT URBAN DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE WEBINAR on the Victoria 3.0 plan, Mayor Helps, Gordon Fyfe, CEO of BCIMC, and other panellists painted a picture of an exciting future Victoria that will house a growing population of innovators. The City of Victoria will need 6,000 more housing units, on top of the 6,000 recently built, the audience was told. Traditional neighbourhood restrictions on housing form may have to be removed, said Luke Mari of Aryze, a development firm. Fyfe implied that bringing workers and wealth to Victoria is the name of the game—by nurturing tech companies that sell internationally and bring the money back here; bringing in workers and their families, and supplying homes and more jobs for the spouses and kids. Is this growth inevitable given Victoria’s liveability? Certainly our political and industry leaders don’t question its desirability, even as they acknowledge the need for a low-carbon future and the need to work “within the bounds of the Earth’s capacity to sustain us.” Yet decoupling economic growth from the destabilization of climate and ecological systems is a form of magical thinking according to many experts. There might even be “overcoupling” happening, according to the International Resource Panel. The global economy now needs more materials per unit of GDP than it did at the turn of the century. The European Environmental Bureau states: “not only is there no empirical evidence supporting the existence of a decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures on anywhere near the scale needed to deal with environmental breakdown, but also, and perhaps more importantly, such decoupling appears unlikely to happen in the future.” While there have been dramatic increases in energy efficiency in recent decades, the International Energy Association (IEA), notes that “2018 marked the third consecutive year in which the improvement rate for energy efficiency slowed.” And such measures have been outweighed by the demands of even more dramatic, compounding economic growth, at least pre-pandemic. In European countries where a degree of decoupling seems to be occurring, one study shows it’s been accomplished by shifting energy intensive activities abroad. The only thing that seems to cause emissions to decline at any substantial rate is declining economic activity. As the IEA states about COVID-19’s impact: “Not only are annual emissions in 2020 set to decline at an unprecedented rate, the decline is set to be almost twice as large as all previous declines since the end of World War II combined.” [Italics added] Until the depth of the economic growth problem is understood, there’s no hope of solving it. And our leaders appear to have no clue. Expansion—of population, industry and prosperity—is the name of the game, with little analysis of the external costs. Yet COVID-19 has shown us that we can change our habits, our assumptions even, almost overnight when there’s a threat to our health. It has shown us that economics do not trump everything else with the public, the government or business. While the climate and biodiversity crises may not seem as urgent a threat as a pandemic—they are already impacting our well-being. COVID-19 itself was recently acknowledged by the leaders of WHO, the UN and the World Wildlife Fund to be directly related to humans’ over-exploitation of the Earth’s ecological systems. Citizens have key roles to play—in the industries and government policies they choose to support and in how they otherwise lead their personal, professional and political lives. The likelihood of both another pandemic and of climate catastrophe demand we rethink many of the things we’ve taken for granted, be willing to change our expectations, give up certain types of consumption, and pay more for others so that their external costs are mitigated. The first industry sector we’ll look at is one of Victoria’s and BC’s largest—tourism. Go to story... (The BC government is inviting citizens to submit their ideas on the BC Economic Recovery Plan. Visit www.gov.bc.ca/recoveryideas) Focus editor Leslie Campbell wrote about the need for a transformation to a degrowth economy pre-COVID as well, here.
  12. until
    AARON PRITCHETT EXCLUSIVE CONCERT SERIES 4 NIGHTS • 50 PEOPLE JULY 16-19 - 7:30 PM Aaron Pritchett retains his title as one of Canada’s most electrifying entertainers, with the release of his 8th studio album - “Out On The Town, Pritchett scored a #1 single at country radio with ‘Better When I Do”. With 14 career top ten singles, a gold selling smash hit, a recent string of top 10 songs, and a massive headlining national tour, Pritchett continues to pave his way to indelible legacy. Mary Winspear Centre 2243 Beacon Avenue, Sidney BC 250-656-0275 | marywinspear.ca July 16-19 • 7:30 pm Order Tickets Online
  13. May 2020 Women Talking (Vintage Canada, 2019) is a mesmerizing, fast-moving, powerful little book. Yet it’s almost entirely based on conversation—eight women talking—in a barn’s hayloft, over the course of two clandestine meetings. Like many women’s conversations, this one meanders, often going off on tangents, but it all helps them understand their dilemma and what to do about it. That dilemma is whether to stay in or leave the small, ultra-conservative Mennonite settlement in Bolivia that they’ve lived in all their lives. Will they acquiesce in their complete domination by men who have failed to protect them and who want them to forgive eight men who have been arrested for raping many women in the colony? This aspect of the story is based on real events that occurred in the remote “Manitoba/Molotschna” colony in Bolivia from 2005 to 2009: eight men were arrested after over 100 women and their daughters (ages ranged from 3 to 65) were raped in a drug-induced sleep. Though the drug wiped out most of their memories of the events, the women knew something had happened. Some thought it was demons. Some were too afraid or ashamed to talk about it; those who did were initially dismissed as imagining things. Women Talking is an act of wild female imagination—the very thing the real women who complained of the rapes were initially accused of. For the women to leave Molotschna would be a truly revolutionary and courageous act. They would have to do it almost immediately, while most of the colony’s men are in the city trying to arrange bail for the arrestees. They would have to take their children, animals, wagons (no cars or electricity in Molotschna) and supplies. They have no map and cannot read; they cannot speak Spanish (or English). Yet a decision must be made. They talk through the realities of their position, each woman contributing her insights, logic, anger, and love for each other and their children. At first, I wondered if I’d be able to keep the eight women straight. But soon each came to life as individuals. Ona, the free spirit carrying the child of her rapist; Agata, her mom, who suffers from edema and impatiently reigns in tangential discussions; righteous Salome who chafes at authority at the best of times and whose anger is “Vesuvius” because her three-year-old daughter has been raped; chain-smoking, clear-thinking Mejal; Mariche whose husband beats her yet is still very wary of leaving; her mom Greta who is determined to take her two beloved old mares Cheryl and Ruth on the journey; and two teenage girls, who are excited by the chance of an adventure, resourceful, risk-taking, and inspired, for the most part, by their older sisters (though they can’t help rolling their eyes—or giggling—at certain points in the meetings). The women’s conversation is narrated by school teacher August Epp, the one man they trust right now. Epp left the colony at age 12 (his parents were banned) and returned as an adult trying to make sense of himself. The women have asked him to record their conversation, but not to interfere or interrupt. He is mostly able to do so, though adds helpful observations and background in his “minutes”—and commits his own acts of revolution by assisting them in more concrete ways over the two days of decision-making (for instance, he steals the colony’s safe to help them finance their sojourn). Despite the violence and betrayal the women have experienced, and the rage, fear and grief they feel, the story bursts with tenderness and humour—indeed sometimes gales of laughter at absurdities in their lives. Canadian author Miriam Toews is a master story-teller. I’ve read most of her other books and look forward to more. She is particularly adept at capturing women’s complicated lives and their journeys to liberation. Women Talking was a Governor General Award finalist. Leslie Campbell is the editor of Focus.
  14. May 2020 Resistance Women (2019, William Morrow) by Jennifer Chiaverini is set in Germany between 1929 and 1946. The three main characters, all friends, are women who work in various ways to thwart the rise of Nazism and Hitler’s horrific policies. One (non-fictional) character, Mildred Harnack, is an American professor, married to a German who works in the government’s economic ministry; together they try to get information out through the American embassy, and later other means. A German woman, again non-fictional, Greta Kuckhoff, works for a time translating Mein Kampf into English, convinced the unabridged edition will open the eyes of the British and others. (The Nazis realize its publication would be explosive and round up all copies and notes, though one is smuggled out.) A third character, a young Jewish doctoral student goes from being a star student, through expulsion to ghettoization and narrow escape for the crime of being Jewish. I have learned a lot of history reading this book, and some of its warning bells ring loudly when I hear how certain leaders like Trump in the US and Duterte in the Philippines have become popular and are allowed, one step at a time, to pervert justice so thoroughly it seems breathtaking in retrospect. In the earlier 1930s, the resistance women kept thinking “it can’t get much worse”—but it always did, especially for the Jews. Eventually they realized that Hitler and his cronies will stop at nothing and can never be trusted or believed. The women took great risks to let the rest of the world (which for a long time seems to be idly standing by, ignoring reality) know what was going on and to help Jews escape the genocide. Along the way, we watch these brave women cope not just with fascism, but fall in love, attend university, dream of careers, have babies and work as teachers, writers, editors, and translators. All against an ominous backdrop and facing personal hardships and growing fears for themselves and their loved ones. The fact that the characters are based in reality makes it that much more fascinating. An afterword by Chiaverini fills us in on what happened to Kuckhoff who survived, along with some of the other less central characters. I love historical fiction and this one has introduced me to a writer who has no less than a dozen such books to her credit. I’d love to hear from others who’ve read this book and what they thought about it. Leslie Campbell is the editor of Focus.
  15. November 2019 Victoria’s affordable housing crisis puts the bullseye on public land in Fernwood. WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF MY HOME is one of my favourite city neighbourhoods: Fernwood. I love its diversity, its heritage homes, its artsy, alternative vibe and lack of pretentiousness. These days its experiencing a lot of community angst over a proposed housing development on lands owned mostly by School District 61 to the west of Vic High. Called the Caledonia, it will offer 154 units of desperately needed affordable non-market housing. The Fernwoodians I know say they have no issue with the “affordable” aspect. Instead they are concerned with its size, the impacts on the neighbourhood’s traffic, the precedent it will set for further development, and the loss of School District-owned land. The developer—in this case the CRD’s Capital Region Housing Corporation (CRHC)—has submitted its development application to City Hall, and is requesting rezoning and Official Community Plan (OCP) amendments, with the hope of a fall 2020 construction start. In total there are five separate buildings, including three-storey townhouse rows, and four- and five-storey apartment buildings, with 109 parking stalls underneath. Artist's rendering of one part of the Caledonia redevelopment proposal The first the community heard about the new Caledonia project was last November when an agreement was announced among the City, CRHC, BC Housing and School District 61 (SD61) to create the large housing complex. This “Letter of Intent” was both an agreement to work out a “land swap” among the players and a vision for the 154-unit housing complex. The land swap would “assemble” a 9,000 square-foot rectangular lot, owned by SD61, but leased for 60 years to CRHC which would build the housing. The City of Victoria would end up owning the Compost Education Centre, Spring Ridge Community Gardens and Haegert Park, all important community spaces currently owned by the School District. It was a big deal. Ownership before (left) and after the land swap. The project would go on the SD 61 land (blue swath, right). (Courtesy of Fernwood Village Vibe) After some feedback from the community, CRHC made changes to its plan, and last summer held an open house for the community. Christine Culham, a senior manager with CRHC, told me, “I do think we’ve been really thoughtful in the way we listened to the community around their concerns.” She mentioned that building heights have been reduced (though there’s still one at five storeys)—and topmost floors of the two higher ones “stepped back” to appear less massive. Neighbourhood traffic concerns led to changes in the configuration of entrances. A building of 1,500 square feet was added to provide community space. Long-time Fernwood resident and Fernwood Community Association board member Dorothy Field emailed me in August, saying, “the proponents, CRHC are treating it as a totally done deal. The Fernwood community is not very happy, so the designers have tweaked the plan a bit with ‘green’ addenda but nothing substantive has changed.” She noted that Fernwoodians are supportive of a new development which provides low-income housing, but “we are distressed at the size, density, and height of this proposal. When asked if the number of apartments could be reduced, CRHC said, ‘No, that’s the arithmetic.’” Culham explained to me that while they try hard to keep everyone happy, the number-one priority of the City of Victoria and the CRD is affordable housing, so that weighs heavily in the balancing of objectives. Building costs have increased 36 percent, she notes, “so it’s difficult to make a property affordable without any government grant or intervention. Right now both the provincial and federal governments are coming to the table with funding…that hasn’t happened in 20 years, so we’re looking to take advantage of those grants; you never know when they’re going to go away.” The Caledonia project has already been approved for provincial funding, partly because of its high number of units. Given the cost of land and construction, the only way to have affordability in the City of Victoria is to create density, Culham continued. “How do we get the best use out of land? Just like the fire hall, building up is the only way we’re going to be able to get that.” In the case of the Caledonia, she says, “I am mindful and I am empathetic to the challenge around change, but I do think that the benefits outweigh the change that is occurring.” Culham, who lived in Fernwood in the past and appreciates its special character, feels the Caledonia’s proximity to Cook Street and its amenities mean its “walkability score is off the charts.” A passionate advocate for affordable housing, she sees the provision of it in the City of Victoria as a matter of fairness and equity. With 61 percent of those living in the City of Victoria being renters—with a median household income of $44,600—the average rent they can afford is $1100 per month. But the average rent for listed vacancies in the City is now close to $1500 per month. So in her analysis, with Caledonia rents averaging $1000, she is building housing for the majority of the population. “Those are the people we don’t hear from, even though we have 1,500 waiting for homes on the BC Housing Registry,” she said. I MET WITH FERNWOOD RESIDENTS Dorothy Field and Trish Richards for a look at the site of the proposed housing on a sunny fall day. They first pointed out to me the CRHC housing already occupying some of the SD61 land. Built in 1992, there are 18 units for families in the attached townhouse structure (also called Caledonia). Only 27 years old, it will be torn down, not just to make room for the new development but, according to Culham, because “it’s a leaky condo.” In 2012, the CRHC was given a remediation estimate of $130,000 per unit. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines leaky condos as a “catastrophic failure” of building envelopes, which lets water into the building frame and leads to rot, rust, decay and mould. It has been attributed in part to a building boom in the 1980s and early ’90s, which led to a high demand for workers and materials, and in turn to lower-quality construction and materials. It’s not a stretch to think something like it could happen again, given the current construction boom. Culham told me residents of the old Caledonia will have first right of refusal once the new buildings are complete. Meanwhile, they have been offered alternative units in other CRHC buildings. One current resident, who came by to talk to us as we wandered around, said seven families had already moved out, which seemed premature given nothing had been approved—including the land swap and the rezoning from a combination of “Traditional Residential” and “Parks” to “Urban Residential.” The resident said that due to her special needs, she was having to look at housing out in the Royal Oak area. As we chatted in the sunshine, David Maxwell came by on his bike. He is the chair of Fernwood Community Association’s Land Use Committee. He noted that CRHC has known for years about the problems their tenants have been living with and dragged their feet on remediation of the 18 units. “Why should we have faith CRHC will be able to manage 154 units properly?” he asked. Maxwell and Richards agreed that the first order of business was to let the School Board know they should not be giving up any more school land. Besides the land under the existing Caledonia, much of the lot is “rubble fields” resulting from the demolition of the Fairey Tech school buildings in 2011 (the tech programs moved to a new facility). It was understood by the neighbourhood that this area would provide, once remediated, more green and activity space for the school and community. Eight years later that still hadn’t happened. PERHAPS I SHOULD REMIND READERS that Vic High’s renewal was the subject of a lengthy process of public consultation involving three options for upgrading and necessary seismic work. The community made it clear they preferred the Full Monty, involving seismic and other improvements, as well as creating room for 200 more students and a Neighbourhood Learning Centre. In June 2018, the School Board unanimously supported it. The price tag was $79.7 million. No one was warned, however, “If you choose this option, we’ll have to build housing on school lands.” Yet when the new Caledonia project was first announced last November, and through subsequent consultations, raising needed funds to fix Vic High was part of the rationale. At the end of June 2019, however, the Province came though with $77.1 million in funding for the high school upgrades—leaving SD61 with only $2.6 million to raise. People are now questioning whether the School Board should be entering into long-term leases on Vic High lands when such a small amount could likely be raised by any number of less-invasive means. Chief among those people are Fernwood residents Scott Fox and Corey Kowal. Throughout the fall they’ve been making the rounds of School Board and committee meetings with well-polished power point presentations. The father of two girls who currently attend George Jay Elementary and will likely attend Vic High, Fox’s background as a business analyst is apparent in his presentations. Kowal, like Fox, lives with her family near Vic High. She has a background in strategic planning and operations management with the BC government. Using aerial shots of different local high school grounds, Kowal argued at one SD61 committee meeting that Vic High, after the proposed removal of land for housing, would have less space per child than most other high schools in the district. School green space, research has shown, correlates with improved mental health, safety and school pride, she said, noting, “Once the land is gone, it’s gone.” With an inner-city school like Vic High, where many students don’t have their own back yards, it’s especially important to have green and activity space available. Ministry of Education regulations call for each school in the province to provide a minimum of five hectares of land per 1,000 students. Fox worked out the space left for educational purposes after the land swap to be 4.69 hectares per 1,000 students. Culham disputes those numbers; in CHRC’s analysis, there would still be 5.05 hectares per 1,000 students after the land swap. Either way, of course, it’s very close to the minimum requirement. At an October presentation to the School Board, Fox gave another power point, this one suggesting a lack of due diligence around the land swap. He said that there had been no land appraisals performed by qualified independent appraisers; that no cost benefit analysis had been performed regarding the land swap; and that there had been no internal controls to prevent bias and collusion, as is recommended by the BC Auditor for any real estate asset sale. Fox and Kowal, along with others, have formed the Vic High Neighbourhood Action Group, with a website (www.itsnotsurplus.com) and will host information sessions on November 5 & 6, both 7:30-9 pm at 1923 Fernwood Road. SD61 is holding an open house on the issue on November 12, 6-8 pm at Vic High’s Roper Gym. It is expected the board will vote on the land swap shortly thereafter. THERE ARE NO LESS THAN FOUR levels of government aligned behind the Caledonia project: SD61, CRHC of the CRD, BC Housing, and the City of Victoria. The development package submitted to the City by CRHC includes a 33-page book full of persuasive details about the need for affordable housing, the appropriateness of the site (a “walker’s paradise”), and the project’s many admirable features including energy efficiency, urban agriculture, rain gardens, tot play areas, and a new city “greenway.” In late October, David Maxwell, chair of FCA’s Land Use Committee, was alarmed to learn from a City of Victoria planner that, despite the School Board not having decided yet to go ahead with the land swap, the development application had already moved through all the necessary departments—regarding roads, utilities, sewer, etc—with recommended changes sent to the CRHC. Though the planner assured him “this is the way it’s done all the time,” in Maxwell’s mind, it seemed premature and wasteful. “This is public property, funded by the taxpayers, as are all the City and CRHC staff involved…[They] are wasting all that money before knowing whether it can go ahead.” Echoing others, he says, “It starts to look more and more like a done deal, like we’re all just going through the motions, just playing this huge game.” (It doesn’t help that Mayor Helps and School Board Chair Jordan Watters have made positive comments about the development.) The Fernwood Land Use Committee will soon give the City a formal response on the Caledonia application indicating its lack of support due to the needed OCP and zoning changes, said Maxwell; “We don’t have any five-storey buildings near there.” He believes if such height and density are allowed there, it will set a precedent for the whole area west of the site, over to Cook Street. Fernwood community members know that affordable housing is needed, but have noticed the City hasn’t done much to generate such housing in all the other developments council has approved. As Field pointed out to me, “We also have four large developments approved or almost approved that will add to pressure on existing public infrastructure: Wellburn’s, St Andrews, the former co-housing site [Fernwood Commons at Chambers and North Park], a large new tower at Chambers and Johnson…the City has not negotiated affordable suites in any of these new buildings.” (Going forward, the City’s new inclusionary zoning policy will require 20 percent of all units in larger developments to be affordable.) The task of adding affordable housing, especially in core neighbourhoods, gets more difficult by the minute. Victoria continues to attract those who have wealth—to retire here, to have second homes here, to invest here, causing land values to increase. As Culham pointed out, this makes it difficult to provide enough housing for citizens of modest means—those who work in our nursing homes, shops, offices and cafes. It’s little wonder that once-sancrosanct school lands, churches, and heritage buildings are now being eyed by developers, including those building affordable housing. Perhaps it’s time for neighbourhoods to be more proactive, implementing a bottom-up approach wherein they themselves come up with neighbourhood-supported ideas for increased affordable housing. Websites of all the organizations mentioned above offer more information. Access Caledonia’s development application here. Leslie Campbell is the founding editor of Focus.
×
×
  • Create New...