Gangnam Style. The iPhone5. Jenna Talackova. XL Foods. Superstorm Sandy. The quote of the year on Twitter: “If I hear my mother make one more 50 Shades Of Grey reference, I’m going to meet my goal weight.”
Plenty of reasons to remember 2012, some important, some decidedly not.
Lance Armstrong fell. Syria didn’t. Russia jailed Pussy Riot, but Canada let Justin Bieber roam free.
Scientists finally found the Higgs Boson — or God — particle (it was down the back of the couch) but Prince Harry lost his pants. Spacejumper Felix Baumgartner plunged 38 kilometres to Earth; so did CIA director Gen. David Petraeus.
Barack Obama won re-election largely because the Republicans committed political suicide, pandering to the Tea Party with a series of crackpot candidates who made Sarah Palin look statesmanlike by comparison. (Alec Baldwin: “You know your party is in trouble when people ask ‘;did the rape guy win’ and you have to ask ‘;which one?’ ”) Meanwhile, China’s leadership changed and most of us don’t even know the new boss’s name (though we think he just bought Alberta).
The world failed to end on Dec. 21, as the Mayan calendar supposedly predicted, and your Christmas credit-card bill arrived Dec. 27. Bummer.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the stories — again, some important, some not — that Vancouver Islanders will remember from 2012.
1) THE PIPELINES
It’s not about global warming. It’s not about the oilsands. It’s not even about the pipelines themselves. What has many Vancouver Island worried is what happens to the Alberta oil after it’s loaded on tankers.
Kinder Morgan’s desire to twin its existing pipeline to the Lower Mainland and, in particular, Enbridge’s proposal to build the Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat were the hottest political potato of 2012. Ottawa and Alberta might see oil exports to Asia as good for the economy, but coastal residents wonder why they’re in such a rush to export a precious, finite resource by the riskiest method possible.
Layered on that is unease about the growing influence of Chinese state-owned corporations in Canada’s energy sector, and a trade deal with China that is variously described as standard investor protection or the surrender of Canadian sovereignty. When Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver rants about “environmental and other radical groups” blocking development, pipeline opponents are dismissed as “extremists” and the feds weaken environmental-protection rules (see No. 9 below) it leaves the impression that the CPC (Conservative Party of Canada, Communist Party of China, Calgary Petroleum Club, take your pick) isn’t going to let B.C. stand in the way. This promises to be the biggest story of 2013, too.
2) RYDER THE RIDER
Author Richard Poplak called it “the single greatest accomplishment by a Canadian athlete in the history of the country.” The Toronto Star was only slightly more muted: “Ryder Hesjedal’s come-from-behind victory at the Giro d’Italia ... ranks among the most impressive individual accomplishments by a professional Canadian athlete. Ever.”
Victorians still don’t grasp how big a deal it was when the Belmont grad became the first Canadian to win one of cycling’s three Grand Tour races. There were 1.3 billion unique Internet searches on his name in May, the month he won the 3,502-kilometre race. It was particularly important that Hesjedal, who competes for the aggressively anti-doping Garmin team, won in the year in which Lance Armstrong was stripped of all seven of his Tour de France titles.
Back at home, 1,700 cyclists rode Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria in June. On Dec. 26, the 32-year-old became the first cyclist named Canadian Press male athlete of the year.
3) AMANDA TODD
There’s nothing new about bullying. That kids have to put up with all sorts of crap that would never be tolerated in adulthood has long been shrugged off as a part of growing up.
The modern twist is cyberbullying. A month before killing herself Oct. 10, Coquitlam 15-year-old Amanda Todd posted a heartbreaking YouTube video in which she talked of years of physical and online abuse. Her death triggered an outpouring of emotion — anger, sorrow, guilt, regret — and vows to stamp out bullying. “Bullying is not a rite of passage,” Premier Christy Clark told a Vancouver conference. We’ll see.
This fall, a score of gay and lesbian Lower Mainland RCMP officers put out a terrific video as part of the It Gets Better campaign.
4) THE SEQUELS
Former Times Colonist writer Norman Gidney used to call them Victoria’s imaginary friends, the perennial issues we talk and talk and talk about without ever taking action: sewage treatment, the Malahat, ferries....
Much of what occupied us in 2012 is what occupied us in 2011, though in some cases — gasp! — stuff happened.
4A.) SEWAGE TREATMENT
Jeez, just when you think it’s over, the sewage debate comes lurching back from the dead like Glenn Close rising out of the bathtub in Fatal Attraction.
The dispute over whether Victoria’s $783-million secondary-treatment plan is a good idea took centre stage in the November byelection in which environmentalist New Democrat Murray Rankin (pro) narrowly defeated environmentalist Green Donald Galloway (con) for the seat vacated by the NDP’s Denise Savoie.
In late November, the CRD voted to stay the course with plans to have a treatment plant built at Esquimalt’s McLoughlin Point by 2018.
4B.) THE BLUE BRIDGE
By year-end, the city of Victoria was dickering with PCL Constructors West-coast for a fixed-cost contract to build a bridge whose price tag has risen to $92.8 million today from $40 million in 2009. Construction is expected to begin in the spring, with completion by March 31, 2016. In February, hundreds watched as the bridge’s rail span was barged away.
4C.) THE FERRIES
Tax-and-spend big-government Democrats when it comes to the billions being lavished on various transportation projects in the Lower Mainland, the Liberals continue to be penny-pinching, live-free-or-die Republicans on Vancouver Island.
Having forced B.C. Ferries into a series of what critics say are counterproductive fare hikes that have driven down both ridership and revenue, the government now wants $26 million worth of cuts to under-utilized routes.
Good luck to B.C. Ferries president Mike Corrigan, who took over Jan. 1 from David Hahn, who for 8 1Ú2 years acted as the lightning rod for thunderbolts more properly aimed at politicians.
4D.) THE MALAHAT
So, the province can pump billions into Voterville across the strait (see above) but can only find $8 million to tinker with the biggest bottleneck on Vancouver Island?
This year’s worst crash was a head-on collision that killed three young Nanaimo residents and sent five other people to hospital on Oct. 14. Even when the tinkering is done, only 40 per cent of the Malahat will be divided by barriers. Ten times a year, a crash closes the Malahat for an hour or more, effectively cutting the Island in two.
4E.) THE 100 YEARS WAR
The teachers’ job action (you can’t really call it a strike) finally concluded at the end of the school year with — surprise! — a negotiated agreement, not the usual legislative club over the head, as in 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2005.…
5) SHAKEN AND STIRRED
In the end, Canada’s biggest earthquake since 1949 did little more than teach us a lesson.
When the 7.7-magnitude quake struck 40 kilometres off Haida Gwaii at 8:04 p.m. Oct. 27, Twitter exploded with a combination of valuable information and alarmist nonsense. Emergency Management B.C., which issues tsunami warnings, was slower to respond, leaving panicky coastal residents unsure whether to head for the hills, loot the liquor store or hit on the closest stranger (“Hey baby, it could be our last night on Earth”). Tofino, erring on the side of caution, triggered its brand-new here-comes-Armageddon tsunami siren — not the peaceful Pacific experience serenity-seeking tourists were hoping for. The coastal experience prompted the province to tweak B.C.’s warning system.
The earthquake did no significant damage to people or property, though Haida Gwaii’s hot springs ran dry.
6) THE TSUNAMI GLIDE
They say that over the next two years, 1.5 million tonnes of debris from the March 2011 Japanese tsunami could wash up on Vancouver Island shores — that’s 10 times the amount of trash dumped in the Hartland landfill each year.
Among the haul: a motorcycle found in a crate half-buried on a remote Haida Gwaii beach and hauled to Victoria’s Steve Drane Harley-Davidson for restoration in April. The 2004 FXSTB Softail Night Train was traced to 29-year-old Ikuo Yokoyama of Yamamoto, who declined an offer to have it returned. Instead, he asked that it be displayed at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as a memorial to those killed in the earthquake and tsunami.
7) RESERVE FIRE DEATHS
In the space of a single month, four people died in four residential fires on Vancouver Island reserves.
First, a 28-year-old man was badly hurt in a trailer explosion on the Songhees reserve. Then a fire on the Tsartlip reserve killed Wilfred Joseph Henry Jr., 44. Joanne Crystal Joe, 19, died in a fire on Cowichan Tribes land New Year’s Day. On Jan. 25, Devon Drake, 6, and his brother Jordan Drake, 9, died when flames consumed a house on the Nanoose First Nation’s Snaw’Naw’As reserve.
Bono. Adele. Oprah. Jeneece. The real celebrities only need one name.
Vancouver Island’s best-known kid had a peaks-and-valleys year. Jeneece Place, a $5.5-million home-away-from-home for families travelling to Victoria for children’s medical treatment, opened in January. She also turned 18 (man, that makes us feel old) and graduated from Claremont Secondary.
But the reality is Jeneece Edroff lives with a serious condition, neurofibromatosis, which causes tumours to grow along nerve pathways. After she was told she needed an operation that could cost her the use of her legs, a benefactor flew her family to the Mayo Clinic, where the diagnosis was more optimistic. If anyone should have built up good karma, it’s Jeneece.
9) THE WAR ON SCIENCE
Supporters see prudent cost-cutting and streamlining. Stephen Harper’s critics are unsure: Is the prime minister Orwellian or merely Stalinist?
He has certainly done a tidy job of choking off the flow of unwanted information and bulldozing the roadblocks to resource development.
The Conservatives muzzled government scientists, shut down an Arctic observatory critical to global-warming research, axed an acid-rain program, killed the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, slashed funding to the National Research Council and other science-based agencies and gutted the Environmental Assessment Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act and Fisheries Act.
Among the casualties: anyone dealing with marine pollution, including researchers at the Institute of Ocean Sciences at Patricia Bay.
Ottawa did, however, scrape together $9 million for its Responsible Resource Development ad campaign.
10) CHRISTY, DOES OUR FOREHEAD FEEL HOT?
Victorians happily took Christy Clark out of context when she said she tries to stay away from the capital because of its “sick culture.” She was talking about the legislature, not the city, but that didn’t stop hyper-sensitive residents from bleating as though we had just come home and found her in bed with Vancouver.
Few premiers leave the City of Gardens without being scratched by the thorns. In February, the Hon. Ted Hughes won a $60,000 libel judgment against Bill Vander Zalm. Note to Zalm: Don’t defame anyone whose name begins with “the Honourable.”
11) GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS
It’s the kind of treasure-in-the-basement fairy tale we all dream of: A pair of 17th-century Ming dynasty armchairs sit virtually unnoticed in Fairfield’s St. Matthias Anglican Church for 20 years before being recognized and auctioned in New York for $758,500 in September. The cash-strapped church, whose parishioners support such causes as the Rainbow Kitchen, the Mustard Seed Food Bank, Our Place and a housing facility for low-income seniors, has no shortage of uses for its $615,000 share of the money.
12) MOTORCYCLE MADNESS
It was a 250,000-hit YouTube sensation, a rider’s-eye video of a motorcycle screaming through Trans-Canada Highway traffic at 300 kilometres per hour in April.
It took until July for Saanich police to gather enough evidence to charge 25-year-old Randy George Scott, whose dangerous-driving trial is scheduled for October 2013.
In August, a blue 2006 Yamaha R1 was auctioned off for $4,651 under a law that lets the province seize and sell property used for illegal activities. Some wondered what would have happened had the crotch rocket hit the 1,500-litre sewage slick that closed the Trans-Canada when a honey wagon overturned in May. (“There’s no movement on the Trans-Canada,” said the radio that day. “I disagree,” replied the Times Colonist’s David Bly.)
13) PATCHWORK POLICING
With a population of just 330,000, Greater Victoria is already policed by a crazy quilt of four municipal departments and three RCMP operations, making us the second-largest (after Vancouver) city in Canada without a combined force.
Esquimalt council’s solution? Add yet another standalone detachment to patrol a municipality of just seven square kilometres.
The sanest political solution of 2012 had to be Solicitor General Shirley Bond’s rejection of Esquimalt’s attempt to divorce VicPD and marry the Mounties instead.
In December, the Oppal commission concluded fragmented policing was one of the reasons serial killer Robert Pickton was allowed to elude detection for so long.
14) LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS
Remember the olden days when we got worked up about urban deer?
OK, they’re still here (predation by deer and geese caused Galey Farms to abandon some of its farmland) but now we have critters with teeth and claws, too. There was the lone wolf, dubbed Staqeya (that’s Lekwungen for, um, wolf) that took up residence on Discovery and Chatham Islands this summer. Then, in addition to the cougars seen in the usual suburban and semi-rural places (one feasted on sheep, goats and alpacas in Central Saanich before being shot in December) were the big cats spotted closer to the core: James Bay, Ross Bay cemetery, Beacon Hill Park, queuing for venison at the Cook Street butcher’s....
We got all excited about the arrival of snowy owls this fall until we realized they were only coming to the Island because they’re starving in the Arctic.
Langford’s Ginger Morneau photographed the city’s wildest wildlife encounter: an octopus drowning a gull off the Ogden Point breakwater in March. No truth to the rumour the octopus was hired by vengeful streetcleaners.
15) REAL ESTATE
In a city where so many people’s financial future is tied up in their homes, Victorians follow real estate stats the way other investors track the Dow Jones. Residential sales plunged and prices slipped a few points in 2012 — though our $596,000 single-family home average would still make most Canadians swallow their gum.
The average could get bumped up if James Island, the idyllic eco-retreat of U.S. cellphone billionaire Craig McCaw, sells for its $75-million listing price. Sitting just off the Saanich Peninsula, the downtown-Victoria-sized island features a 5,000-square-foot main house, half a dozen cottages, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, an airstrip, a pool house, a manager’s residence, an all-season harbour and a western-themed village.
16) THE FOSTER BASH
You want glitz? We got glitz. The David Foster Foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary with May’s Miracle Weekend, a star-studded — Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky, Pamela Anderson, Sarah McLachlan, Michael Bublé, Josh Groban, etc. — event that included a hastily cobbled-together ceremony in which it was announced that the harbour walkway from Ogden Point to Rock Bay would be named after the 16-time Grammy winner. (That was Bublé’s idea.) The homecoming raised $4.6 million for the Victoria-raised Foster’s charity, which helps families of children who need organ transplants.
16B.) THE CARLY RAE CONNECTION
Foster’s Victoria roots are well-documented, but who knew that the woman who sang the world’s most lip-dubbed and parodied song of 2012 (check out Barack Obama’s 33-million-hit YouTube version) cut her chops here?
Carly Rae Jepsen, whose Call Me Maybe topped charts around the globe, was 17 when she moved here in 2004 to spend a year at the Canadian College of Performing Arts. “I spent the year training nonstop,” she told the TC’s Mike Devlin. “You couldn’t keep me away from it. I loved it.” She still remembers the cheesecake at Pagliacci’s.
17) THE END OF SEX
Editorialists thundered and morally indignant Victorians picketed when Red Hot Video opened in 1982. Yet when the tired little Douglas Street porn store slipped away this summer, the neon Hot Video sign (the word Red had burned out years ago) above the blacked-out windows flickering its last, few noticed.
In June, Langford neighbours forced Ma Miller’s pub to back away from plans to bring in exotic dancers. That leaves Victoria, a city that once boasted such peeler bars as the Icehouse, the Brass Rail, the Sherwood, Oly’s and the Kings Hotel (“Home of the A-Class Dancers”) with just two strip joints, the Fox and Monty’s.
Either Victorians have become monks, or this Internet thing is catching on.
18) GOODBYE, SIMON
It wasn’t the way Simon Whitfield imagined ending his Olympic career, crashing and breaking his collarbone. Never mind, Canada’s flagbearer in London leaves with gold and silver triathlon medals and a reputation as one of Canada’s greatest true Olympians. Vancouver Island produced 48 summer Olympians this year, a whopping 15 per cent of Canada’s team. Freestyle swimmer Ryan Cochrane won silver, as did the Elk Lake-based men’s eight rowing team. Bronze medallists included track cyclist Gillian Carleton and open-water swimmer Richard Weinberger.
19) GOODBYE, HERMAN
In a year in which we lost the likes of Nora Ephron, Neil Armstrong and Davy Jones of The Monkees fame (and went way over the top in covering the death of Whitney Houston) it almost slipped by when 75-year-old Jim Unger, whose single-panel Herman cartoons once appeared in 600 newspapers in 25 countries, died here in May. A onetime London bobby, Unger drew Herman for two decades, first in Canada, then the Bahamas, before retiring to Saanich a decade ago.
20) THE MICHENER
We won. OK, some of us only won vicariously. But Lindsay Kines, Les Leyne, Jody Paterson, Paul Willcocks, Adrian Lam and Lyle Stafford earned the Times Colonist the Michener Award for public-service journalism. Their reporting on the B.C. government’s treatment of people with developmental disabilities brought the newspaper the greatest honour in Canadian journalism. Good for them.
© Copyright 2013