The year in review

We take a look at the major stories that appeared in the pages of the Victoria News

Michael Major and Jane Baigent hold signs with tongue-in-cheek messages at the Occupy Victoria protest last fall.

Michael Major and Jane Baigent hold signs with tongue-in-cheek messages at the Occupy Victoria protest last fall.

January

Taxes, taxes taxes.

In Victoria, city council approved a 3.96-per-cent increase, sparking criticism from the business community which called it unsustainable. When the residential rate was later set at seven per cent, discontent

simmered, only to resurface in the fall as an election issue.

Meanwhile, Esquimalt suffered its own tax problem, and sought justice after feeling short changed by the federal government.

The municipality called for a federal dispute advisory panel review into an unexpected dip in its share of payment in lieu of taxes, known as PILT.

The appeal is for $564,765. It is yet to be resolved.

February

Esquimalt’s woes hit the news once again. This time, it was over a police bill from the CIty of Victoria deemed to be unfair. VicPD Chief Const. Jamie Graham defended the extra $462,000 charged to Esquimalt, arguing the township has more officers on patrol than before the days of amalgamation.

The situation has escalated throughout the year with no resolution as of yet.

Esquimalt surprised Victoria by putting out a request for proposals for a new policing contract. Both the City of Victoria and the RCMP submitted a proposal to win the job.

In October, Esquimalt announced it preferred the RCMP’s bid, but that’s not the last word. Solicitor General Shirley Bond will make the final decision in the matter.

If Victoria loses the contract, it would lose $6 million in contributions towards its annual policing budget.

March

Young women approached lonely bus stops with caution.

Starting in January, a suspect, dubbed the bus-stop masturbator, was approaching women waiting for the bus. At first he targeted Asian exchange students. He later became more brazen.

On March 26, he blocked a 16-year-old girl inside a bus shelter on Johnson Street near Fernwood Road, and while masturbating in front of her, asked the girl to touch him. Incidents continued in April, and then stopped despite police making no arrest in the case.

April

Victorians were startled to learn the rail portion of the Johnson Street Bridge had deteriorated to the point it was no longer safe for crossing.

The city moved quickly to permanently raise the plank to avoid liability, and re-route pedestrians and cyclists over to the south side of the traffic bridge. The rail bridge is expected to come down this February.

Meanwhile, the E&N line stopped running in March for some specific repairs that were soon discovered to be more serious than originally thought.

The Island Corridor Foundation shut down the daily passenger service indefinitely until it is able to secure $15 million from the provincial and federal governments. Getting the money depends on the results of an ongoing assessment of the 47 bridges along the train’s route. Results are expected by February.

May

Even with advance warning, dozens of prolific drug dealers were still caught up in the Victoria Police Department’s net in May.

Undercover officers bought cocaine, heroin and marijuana from 27 dealers operating in downtown Victoria, largely in the 900-block of Pandora Ave. and Reesen Park. One alleged dealer was arrested with the Victoria News article about the impending bust sticking out of his pocket.

Twenty-two men and women were arrested in Project Cinco de Mayo, mostly from May 17 to 19, and warrants were issued for five more people.

June

Amid much organizing and public fanfare, cycling in the region got a boost with the Victoria International Cycling Festival.

The event cycled into downtown Victoria from May 28 to June 12. One of the festival highlights was the inaugural launch of Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria on May 28.

Hometown hero and celebrated Tour de France competitor Ryder Hesjedal led 800 cyclists for 140 kilometres through 13 municipalities, and another 400 riders took on the 90-km trek.

Already thinking ahead to next year, organizers planned to move the date to late June 2012, to counteract a scheduling conflict with the annual Swiftsure international yacht race. They were also considering expanding the festival from two to four weeks.

July

Family and friends bid a tearful goodbye to their loved ones who left CFB Esquimalt aboard the frigate, HMCS Vancouver, on July 10.

Upon arriving in the Mediterranean Sea, it patrolled with other NATO vessels to ensure safe passage for humanitarian aid and prevent weapons and mercenaries from reaching Libyan shores, where fighting was fierce between Moammar  Gadhafi loyalists and rebel forces.

The mission came to a close at the end of October, and in November Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Vancouver will stay in the region until early in the new year. Their job: seeking out vessels that could be supporting terrorist activities and monitoring building unrest in the region.

HMCS Vancouver will be replaced by the East Coast-based HMCS Charlottetown in the new year.

August

Family and friends bid a tearful goodbye to their loved ones who left CFB Esquimalt aboard the frigate, HMCS Vancouver, on July 10.

Upon arriving in the Mediterranean Sea, it patrolled with other NATO vessels to ensure safe passage for humanitarian aid and prevent weapons and mercenaries from reaching Libyan shores, where fighting was fierce between Moammar  Gadhafi loyalists and rebel forces.

The mission came to a close at the end of October, and in November Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Vancouver will stay in the region until early in the new year. Their job: seeking out vessels that could be supporting terrorist activities and monitoring building unrest in the region.

HMCS Vancouver will be replaced by the East Coast-based HMCS Charlottetown in the new year.

September

The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce kicked off a campaign for a regional referendum on a proposed $950-million light-rail transit system. “No surprise, what we’re going to do is say there needs to be a third-party review in order to make this funding decision,” said Bruce Carter, chamber president.

Just one week later the Victoria Regional Rapid Transit report was published online. The report encompassed hundreds of details on population and employment growth, present and future travel patterns in the region and an evaluation of the selected alignment for the light-rail system between downtown Victoria and the West Shore.

By mid-September a group of B.C. mayors asked the province for an independent review of B.C. Transit, citing lacklustre communication between B.C. Transit and the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.

In early November, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Blair Lekstrom ordered B.C. Transit to undergo a third-party review. The review will address funding formulas and governance, which Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said will highlight the need for local control of transit to move from the Victoria Regional Transit Commission to the Capital Regional District.

October

An $8-billion deal put Esquimalt on the map in late October.

The federal government awarded Seaspan Marine Corp. the multi-billion-dollar shipbuilding contract. Seaspan, which owns Vancouver and Victoria shipyards, will build a non-combat fleet that includes Canadian Coast Guard vessels, an icebreaker and joint-support navy ships.

The 20- to 30-year contract work will result in new and long-term jobs and prompt capital infrastructure investment at the shipyards.

Seaspan plans to do most of the ship construction at its Vancouver yard beginning in late 2012, while 15 to 20 per cent of the workload will fall to Victoria Shipyards.

Months of speculation ended when Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins announced the township prefers the RCMP over the Victoria Police Department.

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General has ordered a review of several problems plaguing Victoria and Esquimalt’s fractured policing relationship.

A report recommending ways to improve governance, financing and dispute resolution is expected by Jan. 30.

November

Occupy Wall Street started in New York on Sept. 17 and spread around the world sparking local protests, including one in Victoria which began Oct. 15.

By early November, local politicians and police had had enough. The city ordered the protest camp that was set up in Centennial Square removed to make way for the Downtown Victoria Business Association’s temporary skating rink.

The pages of the Victoria News were filled with the faces of those seeking council seats in November.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin was re-elected to a second term Nov. 19, along with councillors Geoff Young, Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Marianne Alto, Pam Madoff and Christopher Coleman. Newcomers Lisa Helps, Ben Isitt and Shellie Gudgeon joined the incumbents in council chambers.

December

Eighteen years after fleeing Ontario with her infant, Victoria resident Patricia Joan O’Byrne was arrested for allegedly abducting her biological daughter.

O’Byrne and the girl’s father Joe Chisholm were embroiled in a custody battle in 1993 when O’Byrne allegedly violated a custody order and left Toronto with the 20-month-old. The girl, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, is now 20 years old and a student in Ontario. O’Byrne was escorted to Toronto where she remains in custody.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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