ARCHIVE – January 2018
Wednesday, January 31 ~ WEST SHORE. UPDATE on DECISION-MAKING about REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION ~ by West Shore Voice News
It’s painfully obvious that the Greater Victoria area has transportation congestion issues – particularly for weekday vehicle commuters travelling between the west shore and core areas for employment and post-secondary. This problem has intensified in the last few years as more people flock to live in the west shore areas of Langford, Colwood and Sooke where housing is considered more affordable.
Langford Mayor Stew Young has for years articulated the regional commuter transportation dynamic. Last year he welcomed more BC Transit bus service into Langford and put out there the idea of bus lanes on Highway 1 as a way to speed along transit users. He has continually proposed that the long-neglected E&N rail corridor be activated for additional bus service to and from downtown Victoria and points in between; the province should do that, not a non-profit organization, Mayor Young has continually suggested.
On January 19, Premier John Horgan (MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca) while announcing Highway 14 improvements in Sooke reiterated his long-time support for doing something productive with the dormant E&N. “I’m going to work with what we have in front of us,” Horgan said. “I think we can come up with a structure that works for everybody. We need to have a common purpose for the region.” The Premier said: “I don’t think we need a new bureaucracy. How do we break down the barriers between municipalities?”
Horgan said Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA Mitzi Dean is now helping coordinate a consultation to get input from key stakeholders, so that BC Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) Minister Claire Trevena will have more to work with.
This follows the vanguard City of Langford council which, on January 8, passed a motion to support a “no-cost advisory committee made of local government representatives to provide recommendations and priorities to BC Transit and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure”. That would be instead of the CRD’s Bylaw 4093 to create a Regional Transportation Service that would come along with a $2.5 million price tag, ultimately passed along to taxpayers.
As well, on January 8, Langford Council in its unanimously-approved motion said that any Regional Transportation Service at the CRD level should be provided only with the consent of every municipal council (and not using a mechanism called the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) which requires 10% of an electorate to speak against something, otherwise it goes through). Langford’s motion further said that any municipality should be able to opt out of a CRD Regional Transportation Service.
On January 10, the CRD board passed 3rd reading of Bylaw 4093, bringing the region that much closer to having a regional transportation governance instrument. Larger core municipalities like Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay have more votes at the board table, making it often impossible for west shore municipalities to sway any vote at the table. If the next stage in the approval process is the AAP, then effectively the Bylaw is a done deal (it’s usually quite a task to get out 10% of a voting population to be actively against something).
Well, that stirred up a ruckus, with Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton at her January 22 Council meeting reading out the January 8 Langford resolution to her council and those in the room. The next day she sent out a letter to CRD Chair Steve Price (Mayor of Sidney), with a c.c. to Premier Horgan, BC municipalities and housing minister Selina Robinson, MOTI minister Trevena, MLA Dean, all municipal mayors and councils, and Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director. In that 3-page missive, Hamilton emphatically disagreed that CRD’s proposed new service is the solution to regional transportation congestion problems.
“The CRD’s eagerness to create a vague ill-defined service for the purpose of political gain is very short-sighted,” Mayor Hamilton wrote. She said that meaningful discussion about solutions rather than creating another service with further taxing authority (as in Bylaw 4093) is the way to go.
That the original Regional Transportation Service idea was going to carry a $10 million price tag (now down to $2.5 million) indicates a massive gap between what goes on at a desktop analytical level compared to what is needed, seen and experienced on the ground. No hope of amalgamation in the region with this sort of disconnect emerging!
Chair Price in a letter January 12 to all municipalities said a CRD transportation service would not replace other strategies but would “complement other initiatives and enhance the profile of the region’s needs” including those of municipalities.
Notably, Hamilton says that “Colwood disagrees that the region has no voice without the establishment of a CRD service”. She itemized the Victoria Regional Transit Commission and the BC Transit Commission, as well as meetings with mayors with the Minister of Transportation, having generated appropriate and effective movement forward. She hit hard against the idea of using the Alternative Approval Process, which essentially requires a counter-petition to overrule an approved motion, that being “the ultimate disrespect of democratically, locally elected Councils tasked with governing their communities”
Without belaboring all this, here’s the main point. Municipalities in affected areas of the wider region need to have their own say and see effective solutions for their affected areas. That means the west shore municipalities not being subject to override by municipalities with more weighted votes at the CRD board table, when the final cross to bear will be the western communities themselves.
Political mumbo jumbo! What does this matter to the average reader? West shore mayors are trying to find cost-effective solutions through dialogue and leveraging resources that are already out there, including dialogue with the provincial government. Relatively straightforward things like bus lanes on major routes and opening up transit use on the E&N rail corridor could be activated plans sooner than later. Achieved through dialogue and use of existing systems and resources. Another level of regional study, when – as the Premier said on January 19, MOTI already “has a room full of studies on the E&N corridor” — would delay some sensible solutions that could relieve traffic congestion sooner than later. “We want to make progress, we want to make something done there,” Horgan said.
CRD says there would be no additional costs on establishment of the service, but identifies a maximum requisition of $2.5 million for the service.
Bylaw 4093 itemizes an exhaustive list of services that could easily take years to wade through before producing recommendations, including: transportation policy, plans, surveys and studies; data collection, monitoring, analysis and reporting; transportation modelling; web-based and multi-media platforms; programming, planning and promotion; partnerships for data, analysis, planning, programming and policy; and transportation grant submissions. It is doubtful the residents and commuters of the west shore want to wait for all that.
The next CRD board meeting after the February 23 deadline for municipal response is on March 14.
The next municipal election is October 20. Whichever mayors are elected also arrive at the CRD board table as directors there. The electorate does not get to vote separately for representation at the CRD regional level.
~ Editor, West Shore Voice News
Tuesday, January 30 ~ LANGFORD. Jacklin Road detour during Belmont Market construction, starts February 13.
For those who commute regularly through Langford, from Sooke Road over to the Langford core, this one is for you!
A new municipal road called Division Avenue will soon be open for use through what is now the construction site for the new Belmont Market (on the old Belmont school site). The City of Langford will issue a Traffic Advisory with the exact date, but as a commuter, you’ll know!
Closing off a section of Jacklin Road between Terlane and Jenkins (the section you’d take from Sooke Road to reach Westshore Town Centre), is still on track for Tuesday February 13.
The closure will be in both directions, for about four months (or maybe to July 13 as posted on marquee signs this week). After that, some improvements will be done on Jenkins Avenue, but that work can be completed with single-lane alternating traffic.
The City and the contractor are on track to contact residents who are directly affected. That would also include the Sooke School District 62 administration office, just a stone’s throw beyond the section of Jacklin that will be closed.
“Residents living in the closure area will be given full continued access however the general public will not be allowed into the construction zone. Businesses will also be notified in the general region of the construction works (e.g. North of Jenkins Avenue and south of Division Avenue),” says Michelle Mahovlich, Director of Engineering, City of Langford.
Division Avenue will be opened to the public before Jacklin Road is closed so that traffic can use this as a detour.
The road closure is to best enable efficient and safe completion of a large amount of construction works slated for this section of road including: • Watermain replacement by CRD Water • Installation of a new sewer main • Completion of sidewalks on the east side of Jacklin Rd (the west side of Jacklin Rd sidewalks would be installed as development proceeds on that side of the road) • Bikelane completion on both sides of Jacklin Rd • A new signal light at Terlane Ave leading to a controlled entry point to the Belmont Market property • Landscaping • Transit stops .
The road improvements were a requirement of rezoning for the Belmont Market site and are being paid for by the Developer.
“If the road were not closed for this work it would likely take twice as long or more to complete the work and would prove very challenging,” says Mahovlich.
The closure does not go south as far as the Galloping Goose. It stops short (just north of) the SD62 school board office. There is a project map on the www.langford.ca website.
“I believe we will be impacted when Jacklin is worked on,” says SD62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge. People will need to take the detour. “Langford is leading that awareness piece as they are responsible for managing traffic flow.”
Other ways to get into or through Langford during the Jacklin Road interruption are of course the new West Shore Parkway and Veterans Memorial Parkway.
The City has been doing pothole repairs on Jacklin and Jenkins. With cold weather and snow the potholes were opening back up and proving to be an ongoing maintenance challenge.
Saturday, January 27 ~ BC. BC Premier John Horgan says what’s impacted him most so far on his 10-day economic development trip to three countries in Asia is “the staggering magnitude and scale of China… to see it first hand – the traffic, people, air quality.”
With enthusiasm, addressing media by phone on Friday January 26: “These are real opportunities for the clean tech sector. (Canada is) a small player on the international stage compared to China.”
Horgan’s trip that includes urban stops in Beijing, China, in Seoul, South Korea (where he toured a new tech hub that popped up over the last 10 years), and Tokyo, Japan is about “job creation and investment for BC”.
He added: “This trip has shaped my perspective of the enormous potential for BC to diversity our trade.”
“Trade between BC and South Korea is important to our province’s economy, and ultimately job creation in BC,” said Premier Horgan in a news release today January 27. “We’re meeting face-to-face with our partners in South Korea to encourage further business relationships, and to strengthen the economic and cultural ties we already share.”
Premier Horgan and Ralston also visited Netmarble, Korea’s largest social-gaming company. Netmarble confirmed that its Vancouver subsidiary, Kabam, will expand studio space to create new jobs in the growing BC tech sector.
One of the virtual partnerships of note was the launch of a BC agrifoods marketing prtomotion on the Korea-based Coupang e-commerce website. Coupang has the largest customer base in the South Korean e-commerce market, with more than 28 million users.
During the BC Partnerships luncheon, Premier Horgan helped launch the Coupang marketing promotion, where 23 BC agrifoods companies will list more than 100 products. The e-commerce market in South Korea was worth $41 billion in 2015, representing nearly 11% of total retail market share.
Another highlight of the trip to South Korea was the recognition of the 10th anniversary of the BC-Gyeonggi sister-province relationship. Gyeonggi is Korea’s leading technology province, and shares many mutual bilateral objectives with British Columbia. To support this relationship, Premier Horgan and Gyeonggi Governor Nam Kyung-pil have signed a renewed three-year economic action plan, enhancing co-operation in the areas of digital media, information and communications technology/wireless technology, agrifoods, wood products and low-carbon construction, and tourism.
Following the signing of the three-year action plan, a collaboration agreement was signed between DigiBC and the head of the Gyeonggi Content Agency, which will support the growth of the digital media sector in BC and Gyeonggi.
The events in South Korea follow activities that have taken place over the past few days in China as part of government’s first business trip to Asia. The Premier and ministers will be in Japan for the next three days before returning to BC on January 30.
Thursday, January 25 ~ OTTAWA – Alistair MacGregor, MP (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) has been named as the Agriculture Critic in the NDP Shadow Cabinet. The appointment was announced today in Ottawa by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
In this role MacGregor will also be appointed as the Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
“As someone who owns a small-scale farm property in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, I am excited to accept this appointment to serve as the NDP’s Agriculture Critic,” said MacGregor.
“The issues surrounding how we produce and consume our food are always on the forefront of the national conversation, and I am looking forward to leading the development of NDP policy on these matters and holding the government to account,” added MacGregor.
“Agricultural producers are among the most important actors in the Canadian economy, and I will make sure their voices are heard in Parliament.”
The appointment was announced today at the NDP Caucus Retreat in Ottawa. MacGregor previously served as the NDP’s Critic for Justice and Attorney General and for Seniors.
MacGregor maintains two constituency offices within the broad geographical region of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford — one in Duncan, and one in Langford.
Wednesday, January 24 ~ Deputy provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been appointed as BC’s new provincial health officer (PHO). She will replace Dr. Perry Kendall, who will retire on Jan. 31, 2018.
Health Minister Adrian Dix made the announcement to media today, including that Dr Henry is the first woman to hold that position in BC.
Dr Henry says she will contribute independent, evidence-based advice including on the overdose crisis, legalization of cannabis, and drinking water. She said there is still work to do around communicable diseases and acknowledged that British Columbians “are in the middle of a bad influenza season right now”.
Dr Henry has concerns about co-locating cannabis and alcohol in the same provincial liquor-store outlets “and impacts that might have”. “We have expressed that but it’s up to others to make decisions,” she said.
The incoming Public Health Officer says that under Dr Perry Kendall BC has “led the country” in recognizing the overdose crisis and that “a myriad of different measures to try and keep people alive” have been implemented. Dr Henry says the focus is on communities “and what we can do with their unique needs”.
She says progress will be about “building a system that will support people where they are in their journey”. She articulated that pain can be psycho-social, emotional or physical and that it’s not easy to change a chronic relapsing condition under such scenarios.
Providing a safer drug supply is part of the solution, Dr Henry said. The drugs are “toxic and killing people”. She feels strongly about not criminalizing people who use drugs and instead focusing on “helping them wherever they are”.
Today Dr Perry Kendall — who has been BC’s Public Health Officer since 1999 — thanked media for continuing to report factual stories and getting the message out properly in a new world of ‘fake news’.
Tuesday, January 23 ~ WEST COAST / VANCOUVER ISLAND. An 8.1 Earthquake has occurred south of Alaska at 01:32am. As of 4:12 am the TSUNAMI WARNING WAS CANCELLED:
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A Tsunami Warning has been issued for all coastal areas of British Columbia. It is believed the waves generated may impact low lying areas under 20 metres.
Follow the instructions of authorities in your area. Do not call police or 911 for updates. Visit Emergency Preparedness and municipal websites as well as Twitter for updates.
Minimize phone use in affected areas. For further information go to the emergency management British Columbia website at https://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/
No evacuations for Sooke are ordered at this time, says Sooke Fire Rescue. Fire crews are patrolling Whiffin Spit (CLOSED) and Billings Spit.
District of Tofino has advised residents to evacuate to higher ground. The tsunami is expected to arrive at Tofino at 4:40 am Pacific Time. See Twitter: @TofinoCA
Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop emailed out “this is not a drill”. The National Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning that includes the following zones of coastal British Columbia:
- Zone A – the North Coast and Haida Gwaii.
- Zone B – the Central Coast and Northwest Vancouver Island Coast, including Kitimat, Bella Coola and Port Hardy.
- Zone C – the Outer West Coast of Vancouver Island from Cape Scott to Port Renfrew.
- Zone D – the Juan de Fuca Strait from Jordan River to Greater Victoria, including the Saanich Peninsula.
“At this time it is believed that a tsunami has been generated. The tsunami may impact low lying coastal areas in these zones. Local governments in these zones are urged to activate their emergency plans and immediately begin evacuation of identified areas at risk for tsunami impacts,” said Chief Dunlop. No other zones of coastal British Columbia are at risk.
The Township of Esquimalt is monitoring the tsunami warning situation and are setting up a reception centre in case evacuation is necessary – details to follow.
Monday, January 22 ~ LANGFORD. Tonight at City of Langford Council, an official collaboration of the fastest growing city in BC together with leading-edge Royal Roads University was forged.
In a brief presentation to Mayor and Council, RRU Business Development Director Dale Gann said that the “attraction, creation and retention” of young talent by the local university is becoming more formal with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that Council approved.
Langford Mayor Stew Young said that “retaining young people to stay in our community” is important as the city grows. “Post secondary is paramount for this council as we have grown,” said Mayor Young, in line with his long-time philosophy of building Langford as a community where people can stay to learn, have jobs and build businesses instead of leaving for towns and cities afar. “We improve what we’ve got in our community,” Young said at Council this evening.
The MOU provides the foundation for “meaningful and successful cooperation between Royal Roads University and the the City of Langford”. In the past, the city and the university have interacted in the past, each with regard to its own mission, vision and goals. Now with the formal MOU, the benefits include exploring opportunities, conducting activities and providing strategic advice on areas of mutual benefit, including:
- Applied research and community-focused education
- Work-integrated learning opportunities for students
- Educational services and support relevant to the growth of Langford and the Westshore
- Meeting the educational needs of local Indigenous communities and international students
- Business missions, promoting economic prosperity and attracting investment
- Community development initiatives
- Relevant seminars and academic meetings
- Collaboration in sectors such as sustainability and technology
No financial or resource obligations are assumed under this agreement, which is set to last for five years.
The agreement was co-signed by RRU President Allan Cahoon and Langford Mayor Stewart Young.
Sunday, January 21 ~ SOUTH VANCOUVER ISLAND. Extreme winds have caused extensive damage and multiple outages for BC Hydro customers in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island, says the utility on their website this morning.
At present, about 65,000 customers throughout the south coast and island areas are without power. at 9 am, BC Hydro said that it expects outages to increase until the winds decrease.
“Restoration efforts are being coordinated in all regions and restoration times will be provided once full damage assessments are complete.”
On Vancouver Island, as of 9 am this morning:
> Vancouver Island South – 22 outages: 14,951 customers without power
> Vancouver Island North – 32 outages: 11,990 customers without power
Hard hit with the most customers out of power are the Gulf Islands including Galiano, Mayne, Ganges, Pender and Saturna.
In Langford/View Royal 764 customers are without power in the Atkins/Millwoods/Strandlund area.
Other areas on the current list of outages: Central Saanich, North Saanich, Sidney, Victoria (Fairfield/James Bay 702 customers without power) and Oak Bay/Saanich (2,072 customers without power).
To report an outage, call 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376) or *HYDRO (*49376) on your mobile or report it online at www.bchydro.com
Saturday, January 20 ~ VANCOUVER. Premier, ministers depart for Asia to strengthen relationships, create good jobs in BC. Premier John Horgan departed today to Guangzhou, China, as part of a 10-day mission to China, South Korea and Japan to strengthen economic and cultural ties with three of BC’s largest trading partners, expand markets, and create good jobs for people throughout BC.
Premier Horgan will promote bilateral relationships between British Columbia and key government and business leaders. The Premier will be accompanied by Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology Bruce Ralston and Minister of State for Trade George Chow. Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare will participate in the China portion of the mission to foster tourism opportunities in support of the 2018 Canada-China Year of Tourism.
The agenda includes bilateral meetings to advance collaboration with BC’s sister provinces, Guangdong, China and Gyeonggi, Korea. Other meetings and events will focus on opening up investment and trade opportunities in key sectors, including tourism, low-carbon and clean technology, forestry, energy, mining, innovation and tech, agrifoods, seafood, and arts and culture.
China, Japan and South Korea are BC’s second-, third- and fourth-largest trading partners, respectively. Developing strong business relationships in priority markets around the world is a key strategy in government’s commitment to building a strong, sustainable economy.
Travel Itinerary: * Jan. 20 – Depart from Vancouver * Jan. 21 – Guangzhou, China * Jan. 23 – Beijing, China * Jan. 25 – Seoul, South Korea * Jan. 27 – Tokyo, Japan
Friday, January 19 ~ SOOKE. Premier John Horgan today announced ‘a start’ for the process of improving the travel conditions on Highway 14 (Sooke Road). With a $10 million expenditure in the mix, Horgan’s announcement kicked off the first of multiple phases of safety, transit and congestion improvements for highway that serves as an essential commuter corridor for residents of Sooke, as well as tourists who contribute to economic development of the Sooke area. Specifically that will be:
- Three bus pullouts on both sides of Highway 14 at the West Shore Parkway, Laidlaw Road, and Harbourview Road
- A bus queue jump lane at Jacklin Road
- New safety signs at three locations (Kangaroo Road, Gillespie Road, and Parkland Road)
- A slow-moving vehicle pullout eats of Muir Creek, between Sooke and French Beach
- A new rest area at the Sombrio lookout
- A new two-lane bridge on Gillespie Road (at Roche Cove), which is an important alternative route to Highway 14 (when vehicle accidents and other incidents on the main highway block normal through-traffic)
- Intersections currently without lighting that will receive new LED lights are: Awsworth Rd, Humpback/Woodruff (including one at the bus stop), Manzer, Laidlaw, Parkland and Impala.
- Intersections that will have new LED lights installed to augment current lighting are: Kangaroo, Connie, Gillespie, Glintz/Polymede, Ludlow, Goodridge (with upgrade to the fire signal), Harbourview, Saseenos, Woodland, Winnipeg, Saseenos Elementary School (4 additional lights including two directly over each side of the crosswalk), Sooke River/Lazzar/Park-and-Ride.
Langford Mayor Stew Young has long sought improvements to Highway 14, as a way to help connect the rugged seaside forested area of Sooke to the services and growth of Langford which is now the fastest-growing city in BC (other than Surrey in the Lower Mainland). For Young this announcement was a good start, in that his vision for the west shore has included better road accessibliity to Sooke for about 25 years now.
“It’s better to put money into infrastructure than into more studies,” Mayor Stew Young told West Shore Voice News during the roadside media announcement today. Noting the housing affordability of Sooke and similarly Langford, Mayor Young said that better, safer travel on Highway 14 will help link the two communities together to build a great community and a greater economy. The scale is good here. It help businesses. As Sooke grows, you have to make sure your construction keeps up with that. I know there’s going to be more coming, there might be widening. Today we’re hearing that safety and lighting improvements are first.
Langford’s Mayor was glad to hear today’s announcement. “Give them a year or two and see how much funding they have for more. Economic development is important here in the west shore region,” said Stew Young.At the podium with Premier Horgan was Sooke Mayor Maja Tait who said Sooke and the surrounding region is connected by this single highway. “Residents and politicians and alike have been asking for safety improvements for commuters, transit users, pedestrians and everyone else who relies on this.”
Tait said that young people and retirees are being attracted to Sooke as a growing community “with proximity to large urban centres that afford us access to diverse employment opportunities, health care, educational programs and the like”. She acknowledged that Sooke relies on Highway 14 “to connect us to the west shore and Victoria.”
Horgan says his government’s budget in February will include more announcements for improvements on Highway 14, more to do with actual work on the road itself (in addition to the lighting and public transit-related announcements made today).
Over 100 people showed up for the rainy-day announcement held at 1 pm at the Park-and-Ride across from Edward Milne Community School (EMCS) on Highway 14 at Lazzar Road. In addition to politicians (including members of Sooke council, Langford Council, and BC Transit) and Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staff, there were many active members of the Sooke community including business and education leaders.
Two youth from EMCS said the impact of road closures on Highway 14 when there are accidents has meant that teachers cannot sometimes get to the school, and that when fellow students are injured on the road it affects the entire school community.
Thursday, January 18 ~ NATIONAL. The Bank of Canada’s increase in their benchmark interest rate to 1.25% (from 1%) follows two increases of .25% that were implemented in summer/fall 2017.
The bank rate is usually moved upwards as a mechanism to control or contain an inflationary market. The new rate of 1.25% is the highest level in Canada since 2009.
As of Thursday, January 18, all five big banks (TD, Scotia, BMO, RBC and CIBC) now have the same prime lending rate of 3.45%. Prior to the Bank of Canada’s move, their rates were all 3.2%.
While job numbers were apparently strong in the latter part of 2017, that data appears not to have been fully explored for job quality (i.e. part time / full time / level of benefits) and may include a wave of seasonal hiring ahead of the Christmas retail season.
In the fall of 2017 — with the anticipated impact of the mortgage stress test that is now in place (as of January 1 2018) — there began a ‘rush on the bank’, if you will. People locked into low-rate and fixed-rate mortgages and/or buying properties at all. The lower end of the market was squeezed — fewer entry level buyers were qualifying, and owners of lower-end properties were challenged to find available buyers.
The level of household debt in Canada is at its highest level ever seen, sitting at 171.1% as of the 3rd Quarter. That includes mortgages, lines of credit and credit card debt.
So while “savers will benefit” (i.e. people who already have money set aside), most of the rest of the middle class, workers and consumers will be further hard pressed to maintain lines of credit and pay down mortgages and credit cards.
The coastal transportation provider says it is introducing a smoke-free environment to support the health and wellness of customers and employees.
The new policy applies to the smoking of tobacco and any other substance, including the use of e-cigarettes. All vessels and terminal properties will become smoke and vape-free environments, including the interior of all vehicles that are on BC Ferries property.
BC Ferries says it has received many requests from customers to offer a smoke-free environment.
Thursday, January 18 ~ LANGFORD. Only one Canadian city is among the top 20 finalists in the highly sought-after prize of being the location for Amazon’s Thunderdome (its second headquarters or HQ2), and that’s Toronto.
Bids were received by Amazon from 238 cities across North America. Here in BC, a bid had been submitted by Vancouver and the growing City of Langford on Vancouver Island. In Alberta, Calgary had also shown interest by submitting a bid.
Of the other 19 cities on the shortlist, many are clustered on the eastern seaboard of the US or in America’s midland heartland, with only one on the west coast:• Atlanta, GA• Austin, TX• Boston, MA• Chicago, IL• Columbus, OH• Dallas, TX• Denver, CO• Indianapolis, IN• Los Angeles, CA• Miami, FL• Montgomery County, MD• Nashville, TN• Newark, NJ• New York City, NY• Northern Virginia, VA• Philadelphia, PA• Pittsburgh, PA• Raleigh, NC• Toronto, ON• Washington DC
It was one of Amazon’s goals to build its second headquarters some distance away from its original Seattle headquarters, which as a different shipping location would reduce distance and time for many deliveries. As well, the ‘elephant in the room’ is that Seattle is smack dab within the west coast earthquake zone.
Amazon has said it will work with each city to “dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate the company’s hiring plans as well as benefit its employees and the local community.”
The selected candidates will move to the next round of Amazon’s selection process, the company said today, January 18. Amazon says it will make a final decision on the site of its new headquarters this year.
“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough — all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s head of economic development. “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”
Amazon provided little detail about how it picked the finalists for its second headquarters, which it is calling HQ2, other than to say it based it choices on the criteria it laid out for the search earlier.
As reported by the New York Times, the H2Q bidding process has also attracted critics. They quote Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit organization that serves as an advocate for local businesses, who said that local politicians were enhancing Amazon’s image just as the company’s market power was under growing scrutiny from groups like her own. “As these cities woo and grovel, they are basically communicating this idea that we should want Amazon to be bigger and more powerful in our economy,” Ms. Mitchell said.
Other critics have said the magnitude of Amazon in any given city would displace smaller businesses in part by drawing away talent to the mega-Amazon. Whatever city gets the prized HQ2 contract will probably see an additional burden on municipal taxpayers for things like more roads and other infrastructure and require a larger system of services including housing, retail and medical. Likely appreciating this, Amazon did specify in the bid criteria that potential locations should have a population of at least 1 million, so that knock-on impacts could be absorbed.
Monday, January 15 ~ WEST SHORE. The International Student Program is a significant revenue-generator for Sooke School District 62 (SD62). Students come to study for one or more years of public education in the west shore, paying for tuition and accommodation.
In a presentation January 9 by SD62 Principal of International Students Programs, Laura Schwertfeger (at an Education Committee of the Whole meeting) addressed trustees, staff, and stakeholder reps about international students, ELL/English Language Learner students (formerly ESL) who stay as part of the community, and overall supports for welcoming.
Schwertfeger — who most recently has travelled to Switzerland to promote the west shore as a progressive place to get an English-speaking education — said students are presently in SD62 schools from about 20 countries. Most of the students attending in SD62 are from China (about 30-40%), Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Brazil. There are also students visiting from Vietnam, Russia, Austria, and Australia. The greatest number of International Students are in Langford-area schools “which speaks to housing availability”, said Schwertfeger.
There are 40 visiting students at Belmont Secondary, 20 at Ruth King Elementary, and several at Spencer Middle School. SD62 aims to balance the numbers from a range of originating countries. Most International Students come for language development but also from English-speaking countries like Australia for a short-term cultural experience. Vietnamese students are often here long-term, for 2 to 4 years. The number of Russian students has increased recently and more are coming from Iran.
The program team has visited about 30 different countries. Agents and partners to do most of the presentations, while SD62 staff personally attend areas of “significant potential”. In Switzerland “the appetite to come to Canada is significant compared to going to the US,” said Schwertfeger.
Last fall about 1,600 participants attended her presentations in Switzerland over two days. Another aspect of the International Program is “moving to an intercultural mindset” with cultural diversity supports offered to teachers, staff, students and community.
SD62 Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull says there are 280 full-time-equivalent International Students in SD62 this year. Tuition per student is $12,500 per academic year for all school levels.
While discussion of the Strategic Plan was kept tight and short at SD62’s Education Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday evening, January 9, the document itself is fairly extensive, as will be the impact of its implementation throughout schools in Langford, Colwood and Sooke over the next several years.
Parents of students attending SD62 schools will have received an email in recent weeks, asking for their input. Busy families — if they haven’t already — might want to at least read the Strategic Plan document to be up to speed with the ideas, whether or not they have the time or inclination to send an email with comments.
You can see and download the SD62 Strategic Plan at http://www.sd62.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2017/12/Strategic-Plan-Version-1-as-at-December-2017.pdf
Comments may be emailed to email@example.com and the deadline is now end of the day Thursday, January 18 (extended from January 12). The board could approve the Strategic Plan as soon as January 23.
The current SD62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge will be retiring at the end of July 2018, with a new (yet to be hired) Superintendent filling his much-accomplished shoes. The current board is comprised mostly of long-term trustees, some of whom may not run again in October 2018.
The Strategic Plan is in part a legacy document to try and ensure that the many accomplishments of the 2014-2018 board in particular will be preserved into the future.
SD62 is the fastest-growing school district in BC, with about 500 more students expected to register into schools in Langford, Colwood and Sooke each year during the next five years.
Summary SD62 STRATEGIC PLAN
> Vision: honour student voice and choice through engaging, purposeful and experiential learning in a safe and respectful community
> Values: Relationships, Choice,
> Respect, Integrity, Trust, Safety
> Mission: to develop informed, literate and resilient citizens and sustain a safe, respectful and responsive learning community.
> Goals: Learning | Engagement | Growth
Sunday, January 14 ~ SOOKE. BC Hydro will be doing some roadside work on Highway 14 (Sooke Road) this week, which they anticipate will cause some traffic delays.
As Highway 14 is pretty much the only way in and out of Sooke, the pre-advisory is helpful to commuters who rely on the provincial highway. Work will be done 9 am to 3 pm on two days:
- On January 16 it is pole work that would include equipment replacement in the 5500/5600-block stretch (Goodridge Road to Laidlaw Road), expect delays 9am to 3pm.
- On January 18 the work is a pole replacement. Expect delays just east of Kangaroo Road, 9am to 3pm.
These are just two portions of the poorly lit, poorly sight-lined provincial Hwy 14 where vehicle accidents frequently occur.
A few months ago, Premier John Horgan (MLA for the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding through which Sooke Road intersects) sent back a traffic plan to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for considerable revision because while it addressed bus transit and overall driver awareness issues, it lacked solutions for real problems that face motorists on Highway 14.
Saturday, January 13 ~ FLU SEASON UPDATE. The number of people getting influenza infections continues to rise across Canada, with 15,572 laboratory-confirmed cases for the season as of January 6. That’s almost double the first-week-of-January stats for 2017, as reported by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
The majority of cases continue to be the H3N2 type of Influenza A, a strain that tends to cause more severe illness, particularly among the elderly and children.
Usually most infections with the B strain of flu happen at a later phase in the flu season, but this year the B strain is concurrent with A strain. The B strain is appearing with about 20-times more detections so far this season than for the same time period in the last seven years, says PHAC.
Overall this year, people age 65+ are the most affected by flu. There have been 54 reported flu deaths in Canada this 2017-2018 flu season (of those, five were children). There have been 1,850 reported hospitalizations (68% of those are seniors).
People who get the flu are asked to stay home (to avoid spreading the illness), and to wash their hands frequently. If you have to sneeze, do so into a tissue or into the sleeve of your shirt or jacket.
Thursday, January 11 ~ VICTORIA. BC Premier John Horgan is “very much in family mode this week”, upon the passing of his oldest brother, Pat Horgan on January 6.
The Premier’s office announced the news today, January 11: “It’s with great sadness that we announce that Pat Horgan, Premier John Horgan’s brother, passed away on Saturday, January, 6, 2018. Pat passed away from cancer at the age of 71. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends.”
A service will be held in Pat’s home community of Port McNeill on February 10, 2018. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the BC Cancer Agency in support of lung cancer research. Messages to the family can be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
According to the Premier’s staff, John Horgan, 58, looked up to brother Pat Horgan as a father figure. John Horgan has another brother and a sister. His mom passed away about nine years ago. John Horgan was born in Victoria, the son of Pat and Alice Horgan, who had four children. Horgan has been heard to say that he has no memories of his father, who died when Horgan was quite young. But based on stories from his family, he apparently takes a lot after his dad.
John Horgan has been the MLA for what is now the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding (including Sooke), since 2005.
Wednesday, January 10 ~ BC. Three-term Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced today that he will not be seeking reelection in the October 2018 municipal election.
Robertson has left a strong footprint with his work in climate change, transportation and housing concerns in Canada’s western-most major metropolis. He was the only Canadian mayor invited to discuss climate change with the Pope in Vatican City in July 2015.
Having held the position of mayor for 10 years, Robertson today described his decision as ‘intensely personal’ and says he will not continue in politics. “An important part of leadership is to know when to make space for new voices and leaders,” he said from Vancouver City Hall today.
In a lengthy statement posted on Facebook, Robertson included that Vancouver has led the national effort to fight for health-focused drug policy and saving lives in the opioid overdose crisis.
In response to this news today, BC Premier John Horgan released the following statement about Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s decision to not seek re-election in 2018: “I have known Gregor Robertson for many years. He was a trusted colleague when we worked together as MLAs in Victoria, and he is a valued partner as we work with local governments to make life better for people. From transit and transportation, to housing and homelessness, Gregor has been a passionate advocate for people. He can be proud of the work he and council have done to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world. On behalf of British Columbians, I want to thank Gregor for his many years of public service and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted today: “Thanks, @MayorGregor, for your friendship, partnership, and years of service & work for people in Vancouver. Wishing you all the best.”
Wednesday, January 10 ~ GREATER VICTORIA. The outlying area of Juan de Fuca west of Sooke may yet get their piped water through the Capital Regional District (CRD).
The CRD Board today January 10 approved a revised draft Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). Approval of the revised draft follows a successful mediation process with the BC Government (from February 2017 until January 5, 2018), to resolve disputed provisions related to managing growth, water servicing, climate action, food systems and transportation.
CRD Board Chair Steve Price (Mayor of Sidney) was in favour of referring the RGS document to municipal councils for acceptance. “The revisions seek to address the interests of all the parties, and set the stage for how the region will approach future growth,” said Price.
Adoption of the RGS bylaw requires all municipalities within the capital region to approve the growth strategy. Mediation was triggered in February 2017 when seven municipalities (Saanich, Central Saanich, North Saanich, View Royal, Highlands, Colwood and Esquimalt) refused to accept the RGS. Provincial legislation provides specific dispute resolution mechanisms to settle an RGS that does not receive unanimous municipal acceptance.
“The mediation process was a very positive experience” says Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks. “I hope that all councils will support the mediation compromise that came out of the process so we can put this dispute behind us.” He further explained that OCPs in Juan de Fuca must be consistent with the RGS, and that once the RGS is finally approved that OCP documents in the JdFEA can finally be brought up to date.
Director Hicks said there is a backlog of work and that Juan de Fuca constituents need zoning for development. Ahead of today’s vote at the CRD board table, Hicks appealed to fellow directors to endorse the mediated RGS “to give some neighbouring residents in the Juan de Fuca to connect to CRD water, and give all JDF residents the opportunity to pass their OCPs and be an equal partner in the CRD region”.
The solutions generated by mediation focus on seven topic areas: vision / population projections, economic development, climate action, transportation, food systems, growth management and water servicing. Solutions included revised policy provisions, updated mapping and population projections, updated content related to food systems and climate action, and terminology edits.
The next step in the process is a 60-day referral of the document to municipal councils for acceptance. If all councils accept the revised document, the Board may adopt the RGS as bylaw.
The RGS bylaw will update the existing growth strategy, adopted back in 2003. The RGS guides decisions on regional issues, provides population and employment projections to the year 2038 and updates policy regarding water servicing, growth management, the environment and infrastructure, housing and community, transportation and economic development.
Director Alice Finall (Mayor of North Saanich) at today’s CRD board meeting noted that 2016 census figures were not yet included in the RGS but that waiting for that amendment would delay the RGS approval process. As Director Barb Desjardins (Mayor of Esquimalt, and former CRD Chair) pointed out, that detail can be brought up to speed after the RGS might be passed.
The 2018 RGS also provides new policy regarding food systems and climate action. Visit www.crd.bc.ca/sustainability for more information.
Friday, January 5 ~ GREATER VICTORIA. Fought for long and hard by Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks, recently-concluded mediation by the BC Government sees the extension of CRD piped water services made available to residents of JdF areas, including Otter Point to Port Renfrew (East Sooke and Malahat are also in JdFEA).
Until the mediation that concluded Jan 5, seven of the 13 municipalities within the CRD (Saanich, Central Saanich, North Saanich, View Royal, Highlands, Colwood and Esquimalt) had rejected the idea of piped-water extension by rejecting the overall Regional Growth Strategy (RGS).
Over the past year or two, Hicks had the continued support of Langford as well as the neighbouring Sooke municipality. Hicks’ pitch to Premier John Horgan (MLA for Langford-JdF) helped move things along, with Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson then extending the mediation deadline from Nov 30/17 to January 15.
CRD Directors will vote on the mediated solution at their board meeting on Wednesday January 10. If approved by the CRD Board, the RGS goes back to municipal councils for final approval.
The RGS is used as an overall guiding tool for regional development including transportation, land use, water, waste management, environmental services, arts and recreation, hospitals, planning strategies, and protective services.
Wednesday, January 3 ~ SOOKE. RCMP have identified a Sooke man as the person killed in a two-vehicle crash last Friday, December 29 in the 5900-block of Sooke Road (Provincial Highway 14).
Police said Drew Ripley, 48 — driver of a grey Dodge Caravan heading westbound on Sooke Road — was pronounced dead at the scene. A woman driving an SUV heading eastbound was taken to hospital, but later released. Police said yesterday that no charges will be laid.
RCMP, Sooke Fire Rescue and the BC Ambulance Service were called to the two-vehicle collision at about 4:20 pm on Sooke Road, between Parkland and Woodlands Roads. The BC Coroner also arrived on scene shortly after that.
The woman who had been driving the eastbound green Jeep SUV had to be extricated by Sooke Fire Rescue using their hydraulic equipment.
“The investigation is ongoing. However, it appears from initial witness reports that the Dodge Caravan was travelling westbound when it crossed over the double solid line, colliding with the SUV travelling in the eastbound lane,” said RCMP Cpl. Joe Holmes in a press release.
Road conditions were wet and the sky was almost dark, near dusk. There were no passengers in either vehicle.
The collision caused major traffic delays, however, it occurred in an area where traffic could be diverted around the closed portion of the Highway. The vehicles were removed around 10:15 pm on the night of the crash but the road remained closed as BC Hydro and road crews cleaned up the area.
Wednesday, January 3 ~ VICTORIA. The BC Government is raising the 2018 homeowner grant threshold to $1.65 million, ensuring the same percentage of British Columbia homes are below the threshold as in 2017. That percentage was about 91% in 2017.
The increase is one very firm indicator of how much the value of housing has increased in the past year (in 2017 the threshold was $1.6 million, which jumped from the level of $1.2 million in 2016).
Eligible homeowners must apply for the homeowner grant each year. To be eligible for a grant, the home must be used as the owner’s principal residence. The homeowner grant is automatically calculated on a homeowner’s property tax notice.
The homeowner grant amounts are: $570 for the basic homeowner grant | $770 if the home is located in a northern or rural area | Up to $845 for homeowners who are 65 years or older, or the homeowner is a person with a disability. | Up to $1,045 for homeowners who are 65 years or older, or the homeowner is a person with a disability if the home is in a northern or rural area.
Some low-income owners, such as seniors or people with disabilities, can apply to supplement their homeowner grant if it has been reduced or eliminated because of the high assessed value of their principal residence. Homeowners may also be eligible for property tax deferment if they are 55 years or older, or are financially supporting a dependent child.
Homeowner grants will return an estimated $825 million to British Columbians this year. The Province reimburses municipalities for the full cost of the homeowner grant to make sure municipal revenues are not affected. In the majority of BC communities, almost every home is valued below the threshold.
Home Owner Grants: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/reduce/home-owner-grant
To apply for low-income grant supplement: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/reduce/home-owner-grant/senior/low-income
Qualification for property tax deferment: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/defer-taxes
Tuesday, January 2 ~ GREATER VICTORIA. Overall in Greater Victoria the continuing demand for housing in this region retained strong interest in 2017 with those who can afford to own a home. In figures released by the Greater Victoria Real Estate Board today, 2017 saw fewer property sales (8,944 this year compared to 10,622 last year), but prices were higher at this year-end than in December 2016.
In Greater Victoria the overall actual average sale price of a single-family home went up about $50,000 in one year (Dec 2016 to Dec 2017). The HPI (data-adjusted figure based on selected criteria like transportation and proximity to schools and services) went up more than that — an increase of $67,200 between December 2016 and December 2017 which implies an upward trend perhaps for 2018 as well.
WEST SHORE FOCUS: Comparing the 2017 year-end to one year ago, actual house sale average prices were virtually unchanged in Langford ($684,132 this year compared to $685,942 in December last year) although the HPI (data-adjusted prices) jumped $84,000 during 2017.
Colwood prices skyrocketed, with an actual sales average increase of $142,565 in that same one-year period (house sales in December 2017 averaged $728,373 in Colwood compared to $585,808 in December last year).
In Sooke, the overall sale price of homes in one year dropped about $42,000 (from $527,854 in December last year to $485,718 in December this year) though both are still around half a million dollars to live in a fairly remote semi-rural area.
The availability of different types of housing probably contributes to the differences. Langford is consistently building a range of housing types including single-family, townhomes and some condos (as well as rental apartments and affordable housing buildings) while Colwood is seeing a lot of new construction in the higher end of single family homes. In Sooke it’s possible much of the best stock already sold in the very active year that was 2016.
BROADER ISSUES: The new Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) mortgage rules (as of January 1, 2018) that include a ‘stress test’ to determine if a homeowner’s income can withstand interest rate increases, caused a bit of a pre-2018 rush in housing sales in November 2017 in particular. While the government says it hopes to see the housing market cool a bit (and they say they want to protect buyers from over-reaching their ability), the dream of homeownership is increasingly unavailable to many people in Canada — especially in the inflated Victoria/Vancouver markets.
The underlying problem is a precarious job market in which fewer stable long-term jobs are available compared to in decades past. And underlying that scenario is a financial system that has for about 30 years favoured the winners to keep on winning, pushing affordability in all respects further out of the reach of average workers and much of the middle class.
In Canada overall, the crash of 2008 was followed by about nine years of stagnant economic growth. That was compounded in BC by a government whose policies to privatize, use crown corporations as cash-cows, and save at all costs for a rainy day left little fresh energy or opportunity in the economic system for small business and workers alike.
After the second world war, Canada started CMHC and created the housing market as a vehicle for personal and family investment as well as government tax revenue. Now very much an investment tool for those who can afford it, the housing financial system in Canada has completely lost sight of the main purpose of real estate which is to put a roof over people’s heads.
Pushing previous low-end homeowners back into the rental market (and keeping more people renting because they can’t afford to enter the market) is an additional ‘unintended consequence’ of rising house prices. This makes rental availability virtually nil for that new group of renters as well as those who have always rented (which includes most of the Millennials).
All of this is a crisis waiting to burst. It has yet to be seen whether actions by the federal and BC government (with options like affordable housing, as well as the ‘cooling’ of the homebuyer market) will be able to moderate the looming crisis of ‘where are people going to live’? And if people can’t afford to buy high-end or even ‘regular’ homes, the construction industry will have to shift fairly rapidly to building other types of housing to maintain their profitability.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018 ~ BC. Feedback on proposed technical changes to the next edition of BC’s building, plumbing and fire codes can be submitted online up to February 28, 2018 at this BC government link (access open since Dec 12): https://www2.gov.bc.ca/…/building-c…/the-codes/public-review
In general, over the years, standards in the BC Building Code have become increasingly strident or strict. In many cases this has added to the cost of new housing construction and therefore the ticket price of homes new homes available for sale.
While builders and those in and around the construction industry are usually the main providers of feedback, there is room for consumers to have their say.
Building Code topics for input include Accessibility, Area Calculation of Exposing Building Face, Asbestos, Energy Efficiency Standards, Exit Signs, Factory-Constructed Buildings, Fenestration (windows), Heritage Buildings, Mid-Rise Combustible Construction, Outdoor Design Conditions and Air Cleaning, Radon, Stairs (dimensions of tapered treads, handrails in curved stairs, no spiral stairs).
> BC Plumbing Code topics for input include Asbestos, and Plumbing Fixtures.
> BC Fire Code topics for input include fire systems, emergency lighting, smoke alarms and use of elevators.
The current BC Building, Plumbing and Fire Codes came into effect December 20, 2012.
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