News

The Good, the Bad and Ugly in Victoria

Perfect summer weather. - Black Press file photo
Perfect summer weather.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

THE GOOD

Magnanimous donation given by Jimmy P

Wander through the Royal Jubilee Hospital's Patient Care Centre atrium and concourse and you'll notice a name on the entranceway: Jim Pattison.

The Vancouver-based billionaire businessman and philanthropist lit up the room with his 1,000-watt smile and his vivid purple jacket during a ceremony in late July. He joined Greater Victoria Hospitals Foundation executives and Vancouver Island Heath Authority staff in announcing his donation of $5 million for the Building Care Together campaign.

The donation, to be used for state-of-the-art equipment and training at the Jubilee, was the largest ever received by the foundation and likely the largest single charity commitment ever made public in Greater Victoria.

Sensational summer highlights 2013 weather

Greater Victoria is known for its mild winters and pleasant spring and summer, but still gets more rain and grey days than cared for some city transplants. This year has been a throwback, however, with little snow to speak of in the south part of the region, and, but for a couple of notable exceptions, minimal steady downpours to dull the mood.

Summer 2013 was the season people will be talking about for a while, as brilliant sunshine and pleasantly hot temperatures engulfed the region virtually from late June to early August, providing perfect conditions for the variety of outdoor events scheduled in and around town those months.

Fall saw less than average amounts of rain, especially in November, but the region set a record low for temperature during the cold snap that hit us to start December.

To market, to market

Residential suites were first to replace the retail spaces in the Hudson Bay building on Douglas Street. But a tenant that arrived this fall added a tasteful final touch to the historic space.

After a lengthy delay, the Victoria Public Market opened in the building's ground floor to great fanfare Sept. 14. Billed as the city's first permanent downtown specialty food marketplace, it has received rave reviews from customers looking for farm-fresh produce and a variety of choices for lunch or take-home ingredients.

Vendors range from Victoria Pie Company and Salt Spring Island Cheese, to Roast Meat Shop and Sandwiches and Cowichan Bay Seafood. Farm producers set up on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and also on weekends.

 

THE BAD

Lack of childcare spaces in Greater Victoria

The expanding void of affordable childcare across Canada is faring no better in Greater Victoria, where one of the region's roughly 6,000 spaces costs between $762 and $1,085 every month (source: Vital Signs).

The burden is heavy enough for two-parent households trying to find reputable and affordable childcare providers, but single parents are face near-impossible living expenses in 2013.

Monthly government subsidies that partially cover childcare costs are merely a stop-gap measure, as organizations like the 1up Single Parent Resource Centre continue to see a rise in demand for clothing, furniture and counselling services.

Many advocacy groups are calling for a federal government solution modelled on Quebec's $7-per-day child care program, so far to no avail.

Overvalued housing swamps families

The International Monetary Fund released numbers in November that show Canada has some of the most overvalued housing in the developed world.

Nowhere are those crippling mortgages more common than in B.C., including right here in Victoria where the average single family home costs about $530,000.

There are nearly 1,500 people, mostly families, on B.C. Housing's wait list for subsidized housing, and seniors continue to pay more for independent living suites (the average monthly rent of $3,159 includes onsite meals and minimal healthcare services).

Bellwether organizations like Our Place Society and the Mustard Seed food bank have seen a marked increase in demand for their services, reflecting a community where more people are struggling to find employment while relying more heavily on government support.

Minimal action on rapid transit solution

The provincial government began promoting the development of municipal rapid transit in January 2008. Today, Greater Victoria still lacks even basic dedicated bus lanes, while the legitimacy of light rapid transit has all but vanished.

In 2010, rapid transit was endorsed by Victoria, Saanich, View Royal, Colwood and Langford.

In May 2011, B.C. Transit summed up the already "extensive" public consultation done on rapid transit options.

As 2014 approaches, the Douglas Street corridor has finally been approved for piecemeal bus lanes between Hillside Avenue and Fisgard Street.

But with the Victoria Regional Transit Commission's seemingly unending cycle of public consultation and reports, transit users grow ever more impatient for a comprehensive solution to Greater Victoria's traffic woes.

 

THE UGLY

CRD secretly purchases Viewfield Road site

Perhaps the biggest stench that originated from the Capital Regional District's ongoing sewage soap opera this past year was its secret purchase of a 1.5-hectare industrial parcel in Esquimalt.

The CRD marketed the $17-million purchase as a viable alternative to the Hartland landfill for its biosolids processing plant, but the resulting public open houses attracted a torrent of outrage from Esquimalt and Vic West neighbours and sent CRD directors back to the drawing board.

In the end, the poorly conceived idea did little more than disintegrate trust between the CRD and voters and flush taxpayer dollars down the toilet.

Canada Day bombing attempt at B.C. Legislature

In the midst of Canada Day fanfare last July, a Lower Mainland couple allegedly placed pressure cookers full of shrapnel and what they believed were active explosives on the lawn of the B.C. legislature amongst 40,000 revellers.

While the RCMP's tactics have yet to be revealed in court, its anti-terrorism unit assured the public it was never at risk during the disturbing operation and that police were watching the couple every step of the way.

The motivation behind the botched attack isn't yet clear, but the situation could have cast a permanent shadow over Canada Day celebrations for decades had the outcome been more nefarious.

Victoria councillor rejected from harbour authority board

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority board directors made a huge PR blunder last February when they told Coun. Shellie Gudgeon she lacked the qualifications to sit amongst them.

Despite receiving unanimous approval from her City of Victoria colleagues, Gudgeon was told the board wanted a councillor with more experience in tourism and the marine sector.

"This in an unelected board declining the appointment of an elected official," Gudgeon said at the time.

Eventually, the GVHA board withdrew their rejections, but not before damaging its relationship with the City of Victoria and the public.

 

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