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Letters March 20: Island's east side perfect for rail; we don't have enough electricity; use cougars to control deer

The disused E&N tracks near Lampson Street. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

East side of the Island is perfect for rail

Frequently opponents of rail talk about the lack of a business case for rail, but rail is about the future of transportation on the Island, not whether it makes business sense now.

It’s accepted that we need to transition to zero emission cars but it’s also generally pointed out such a transition will require huge exploitation of resources. It would be better to give people the option of not needing personal cars and that means public transit.

I’m a native Islander born and raised in Victoria and at 67 years old I’m amazed at the ongoing growth up and down the east coast. Cars lead to sprawl while trains lead to densification around train stations precisely giving people the option of not needing a car.

Nearly all of the burgeoning population of the Island is in Victoria and up the east coast to Campbell River, a linear corridor ideally suited for train service. I suspect having a modern rail system would tie the Island together in a more cohesive socio-economic unit.

More generally I’m disturbed about the lack of investment in Island transportation for the past 20 years while I see multi billions invested on the Lower Mainland.

The Malahat was identified as a problem some 20 years ago but there’s still not even a plan. It’s clearly inadequate.

If governments find fixing the Malahat too difficult, reviving rail service would be a way of avoiding the issue: make the Malahat four-lane divided everywhere except where it goes through Goldstream and divert future traffic growth to a restored rail system.

Opponents of rail also like to talk about how expensive restoring rail service would be but conveniently forget to talk about how expensive highways are. What did the Mackenzie interchange cost? About $100 million.

Arthur Ralfs


Island has lost its best transportation chance

Our government’s E&N “decision” is a classic in its obsequious, deliberately muddy positioning. The only thing clear to me, is that we Islanders have almost certainly lost the only alternative to road and highway travel we’ll ever have.

No more chances of removing large amounts of freight from our crumbling roads, no more possibilities of bypassing gridlock with regular passenger trains, all gone.

Even while watching the E&N die the death of a thousand cuts these past few decades, I held out hope the decision makers truly understood the importance of keeping the right of way completely intact.

Consider me crushed.

Jamie Masters


Rail as appropriate, but not necessarily rail

Policymakers should do everything possible to ensure the Island Rail Corridor remains fully constituted and in public hands.

The corridor is a unique asset: it is continuous, which for transportation considerations is of great importance; it is publicly owned; it was defined and remains a “construction” dedicated to transportation; and, it tracks through much of the populated Island.

Although rail may be the appropriate technology for some of the corridor, its much-publicized shortcomings must be seriously weighed.

Policymakers and the public should remain open to technological alternatives even if this means conserving the corridor with faith in prospects of yet to be revealed or perfected transportation innovations.

It may be that emergent transportation technologies such as, by example, connected and autonomous vehicle corridors will provide highest and best use of the Island Rail Corridor, or sections of it.

These and others should and will need to pass many tests including political ones that are already rehearsed in these opinion pages.

For the present, the prime Corridor policy test is its conservation. We should keep it whole and public.

Edd LeSage

North Saanich

The green path ahead might burn more coal

I am all in favour of aspiring to create a greener planet, but fossil fuels will be a part of our lives for generations to come.

Fossil fuels do not just power our vehicles, they are a key component in just about everything in our lives. Most of our household items have fossil fuels mixed into them in some way.

Plastics, which are used in everything, have a significant fossil fuel component.

My biggest concern about this push toward electric vehicles is that the electrical infrastructure around the world won’t be able to keep up to the demand.

In Canada, I think it is possible because we are blessed with renewable hydroelectric power. But the rest of the world will face a serious challenge.

China and India, for instance, have to rely on coal-fired plants to produce electricity, all of which produce a tremendous amount of atmospheric pollution.

It begs the question, could the move toward electric vehicles actually exacerbate the climate change problem by forcing developing countries to construct more coal-fired electricity plants to satisfy the need to supply all the electric vehicles.

Paul Arnold


Bring in cougars to control the deer

As an ethical hunter who respects the animals I harvest to put meat on my table, I am absolutely appalled at the proposed fallow deer cull on Sidney island by blasting them from helicopters,much like American "sportsmen" killing the invasive feral hogs for ‘"fun."

This is not only extremely traumatic and terrorizing to the deer, but entirely unnecessary, as previous fallow deer culls have reduced the population from thousands to about 500 – easily managed by skilled hunters whose goal is to kill the deer without it even hearing the gun go off, humanely harvesting the offending feral deer for meat.

The reason any species gets out of control is lack of a predator / prey relationship, then either human hunting or introduction of a pair of cougars to keep the population in check is the natural solution, not blasting deer from helicopters … this is uncalled for and extremely offensive.

Whoever suggested that "solution" in the parks board is not qualified for the job.

Peter M. Clarke


Those submarines keep taking our money

So, we spent $750 million on obsolete British submarines in 1998, one of which killed a sailor on the maiden voyage in 2004, not to be used again until 2014.

These subs have seen virtually no active service. Now the government intends to spend more taxpayer dollars refurbishing them.

Government at its finest.

Mike Spence


Forest industry made its own bed

Re: “Don’t blame over-harvesting for forestry woes,” letter, March 12.

The ablution of the forest industry is history by omission, a version that does not withstand closer scrutiny.

What the letter fails to tell readers is that the forest industry made its own bed and is responsible, not for the mountain pine infestation itself, but for the way in which it chose to log dead wood and where.

The forest ministry’s own records show that the industry did not log only dead trees but also plenty of live trees in its salvage operations, often more valuable tree species than beetle-infected lodgepole pine.

Additionally, the ministry’s records of cutblock layout and of permit dates indicate that the forest industry deliberately first logged infested pine forests closest to their mills, thereby making worse the problem of finding timber economical to log at a later date.

Perhaps these two facts give rise to an alternative version of events to that portrayed in the letter and explain how the forest industry exacerbated the timber supply crisis of today.

As to the trumpeting of a recent study that found that 85 per cent of the B.C. pellet industry’s fibre supply comes from byproducts of sawmills, we are left asking: Who financed the study? Drax. Who provided the data? Drax.

And why didn’t the forest professionals who authored the study use the same data sourced by Ben Parfitt from official government records?

Finally, the letter is presumptuous to correct Parfitt for saying that the date on which infestations began was in 2009. This is obviously a reporting or editorial error, not one made by Parfitt, who wrote a major documentary titled “Battling the Beetle” in 2005.

Anthony Britneff


Won’t be easy to add 10,000 trees a year

Planting 10,000 trees a year, which has been proposed in Saanich, would be the easy part.

Keeping those trees maintained and alive for the first seven years would be cost prohibitive if Saanich employees were involved.

A new tree needs to be watered at least five times by hand a year for the the first five years for it to establish in a streetscape or park if irrigation is not present. An employee may be able to water 70 trees a day so that is 143 employee days to water 10,000 trees just once.

Then the next year another 10,000 trees come on line while the first year trees still need watering. At Year 4, 40,000 trees would need to be watered and maintained.

The reason why the City of Victoria could not change their residential garbage collection to a mechanical arm on the truck dumping the wheelie bin was the high frequency of conflict between the arm movement and the existing street plant tree canopy.

Not sure why the Saanich Parks management could not advise Saanich mayor and council of the concerns and limitations … then Saanich Planning could also speak how the impact of garden suites and infill construction restricts future planting on private residential properties.

Better use of mayor and council’s time would be to control cost of service delivery and the swell of new exempt employees being hired, which vastly exceeds the growth of the municipality’s population.

Bryan Taylor


Canada should not help Putin, the madman

I have been involved in all levels of athletics in Canada since the mid 1960s as an athlete, parent, coach and now as a national level official with Athletics Canada.

I attended the International Olympic Academy in Greece and was a delegate to the Scientific Olympic Congress in Munich in 1972.

I have always encouraged students and athletes to follow Olympic ideals and the philosophy of fair play in all their competitive sports.

I am well aware of and personally experienced the fact that if a Russian athlete was living, training and being coached in Russia, he or she was in no way able to express an independent opinion regarding the country’s political policies.

In fact, they risked arrest, possible disappearance and harassment of their families.

If a Russian athlete has renounced Russia’s policies and is living, training & being coached in another country and can prove that their permanent residence is outside of Russia, then, perhaps that athlete could qualify to be on the Neutral/Refugee team of stateless athletes who are in the process of trying to qualify for citizenship in countries other than Russia.

As a Canadian who has lived both in Canada and abroad, I know we are respected as being an example of a democratic country.

Why would we help the madman, Putin, in his quest to use athletes as just another tool in furthering his ambition? I think our national reputation would be badly tarnished, just as many Olympic medals won by Russians over the decades have proven to be.

Aileen Lingwood



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