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Letters March 28: Remote work a boon for government employees; Victoria's downtown chasing tourists away

The Richard Blanshard Building on Blanshard Avenue, which houses the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. Letters-writers suggest government workers benefit from the province’s decision to allow remote work. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Government employees not there for businesses

Re: “Government is sacrificing ­

downtowns for remote work,” ­commentary, March 23.

With respect, David Fulbrook could not be more wrongly focused. It is not and never has been government’s responsibility to provide downtown businesses with a never-ending supply of captive customers.

Most government offices are not open to the public. The ones that are tend to be located where it’s convenient for the public, not for downtown business trying to flog overpriced coffee, sandwiches and muffins.

To maintain the government worker gravy train, it would appear that Fulbrook would like to see thousands more trips to downtown, with more congestion, a greater carbon footprint, increased parking costs, stress and inconvenience for workers and shoppers.

No data points are mentioned in Fulbrook’s analysis, no worker preferences addressed, just a thinly veiled allusion to evil “union” demands. Here’s kudos to the head of the B.C. public service for recognizing the best interests of government, its workers, the environment and taxpayers and for having the courage to act. As Bob Dylan pointed out, the times they are a-changing.

A.F. Carlson


Awakened office workers won’t be human fodder

Re: “Government is sacrificing

downtowns for remote work,” ­commentary, March 23.

David Fulbrook’s proposed solution to the various crises gripping downtown Victoria is to force office workers back into the office buildings he leases to them.

His vision of a vanguard of commuters solving a complex problem other stakeholders have otherwise failed to could be laughed off as naïve if it wasn’t so self-serving.

His handy list of remote work “ills” suffered by these would-be leasers isn’t convincing set against the gains in work/life balance, time with family, decreased time in cars and the cost of commuting that these workers have seen in the past three years.

Workers have seen another way that is, on balance, better for them. Statistics back this up; productivity is steady. Modern connectivity makes many jobs location-independent. The work is still getting done and people are healthier in this new remote model.

What I don’t see Fulbrook doing is auditing his own role in what has become not just a mental health and addiction crisis, but a crisis of staggering unaffordability in our cities that is creating these economic refugees.

Does he squeeze every drop of profit from his residential properties without any reflection on how lack of affordable housing is pushing people onto the streets?

I imagine many rental property owners in this city share this blinkered denial of their own role in this growing crisis. (In 2021 B.C. had the highest eviction rate in the country, as per a UBC study.)

The massive cultural shift to remote work is very threatening to property owners like Fulbrook and Merchant House Capital.

Office workers have awakened to a better way for themselves and their families. These workers becoming human fodder to push out the “undesirables” from our downtown core is not an attractive proposition.

Caleb Stull


Avoiding downtown hurts Victoria’s economy

My wife and I are coming to Victoria to see a show at the Royal Theatre. We have cancelled our hotel booking and will come in and back to Qualicum Beach on the day of the show.

Cuts to Victoria’s police budget and the ongoing troubles in the downtown area have persuaded us that this is the safest option. We are both in our 80s and do not relish the idea of having to look over our shoulders when on the streets.

We will save about $600 counting meals and hotel costs, money that should be entering the Victoria economy.

Perhaps council should be reconsidering its priorities when cutting police budgets and realize that we are probably not the only people who are having second thoughts about a stay in your beautiful city.

Rod Sharpe

Qualicum Beach

There are no monsters in downtown Victoria

Recent Times Colonist letters about our downtown core describe a phenomenon of uncivilized drug-addled criminals who are a scourge to “normal people.” Reading these TC letters, you’d think downtown was infested with monsters.

We speak of our most vulnerable population as if they are villains rather than people who are doing their best to survive the harsh reality of a city where rental prices have crept into the thousands and you rarely leave the grocery store without dropping $50 for the bare essentials.

Even those with full-time work and stability are struggling to stay afloat.

I don’t want to dismiss what are valid concerns for personal safety; there is never an excuse for violence and discrimination.

My issue is how so often we exclusively blame individuals rather than the reasons that have forced them into desperate situations. How are poverty, crime and violence connected? Who deserves safety and security? Are safety and security conditional to maintaining employment? Is housing reserved for the wealthy?

If you found yourself jobless, homeless and without social support, you too would do what you could to survive. No amount of policing or surveillance would change the absence of your basic human rights.

Victoria has a class problem. We will not achieve the safety of all unless we include even the most vulnerable of us.

And make no mistake: every resident of this city, housed or unhoused, is part of our community. We must not leave them behind.

Sonja Pinto


Smith’s cannabis club has a proven track record

Re: “Agency seizes virtually all stock of Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club,” March 24.

The provincial government is way out of line chasing Ted Smith and his Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club. Yes, some products exceed authorized medical strength, but Smith has a 25-year track record of success in healing, and his club has thousands of members.

Meanwhile chasing the club for over $6 million in fines is clearly a waste of government resources and appears to be co-ordinated harassment.

So, Mr. Government, please back off Ted Smith. Instead give him a medal and recognition for community service, like Victoria city council has done.

S.M. Shuler


Community safety includes cancer patients

Once again the “Community Safety Unit” has raided the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club.

This club, which requires a physician’s permission to join, provides excellent quality products far superior to those produced under federal guidelines.

Victims of cancer turn to the VCBC for help because the legally available products are too weak.

Victoria council unanimously sent a letter to the provincial government asking that the VCBC be allowed to provide services to the cancer victims they help.

Given the shortage of resources to deal with so many ills in our society, why is it that the CSU continues to raid the VCBC?

“The Community Safety Unit’s mandate is to deliver a province-wide compliance and enforcement program to prioritize public health.”

If the mandate of the CSU is to prioritize the health of us citizens, why are they attacking the only agency on the Island providing top-quality marijuana products to victims of cancer?

Bert Slater

North Saanich

Point Ellice House needs to be preserved

To lose Point Ellice House through government apathy and lack of concern for Victoria’s history is an absolute abomination.

This exceptional example of Victorian-Italianate construction along the Gorge Waterway is known as the most original and extensive collection of family ­artifacts from the late 1800s.

Its treasures and grounds are unparalleled as a prime example of life along the Gorge Waterway in an era when three-masted schooners arrived into early Fort Victoria.

Historic buildings are witnesses to the esthetic and cultural history of our city, helping to give us a sense of place and connection to the past. These buildings help us to appreciate our history.

Point Ellice House provides life to our history because a real family actually lived on its premises. They ate at the dining room table and played tennis on the front lawn and drove their buggy along the roads around Victoria.

All of the O’Reilly artifacts serve as an important source and evidence of early life in Victoria.

Maintaining heritage buildings is notoriously difficult due to a number of issues. These can include decaying wood, lost or forgotten building methods, damp and the myriad other issues that affect old wood-frame buildings.

The bureaucratic nature of historic preservation is formidable. I know that.

We need to realize the relevancy of preservation. Museums and works of cultural heritage are testimonies to heritage destruction all over the world.

Let’s see a concerted government effort to maintain and preserve this important early chapter of Victorian Canadiana.

Hazel Harris

Vic West

Doing what is needed to protect property

Re: “Courtenay couple assaulted after confronting teens performing social media stunt,” March 25.

I am disturbed and disappointed at the law-enforcement authorities and legislation that support intruders’ rights and do not provide protection to law-abiding citizens.

People are not safe in their own homes, and if they want to protect their own property they may be charged with possible crime? What is this?

Are we encouraging culprits who can freely walk into peoples homes and kick their doors?

The 16-year-old juveniles know that what they are doing is wrong. This is not acceptable.

There is a saying that “if the fence starts eating the field, who is going to save the crops?”

By the same token, what is the role of our police force? They are not protecting citizens even after launching a complaint. Why do we spend taxpayer dollars in keeping them?

It is time that the government and the law-enforcement agencies start looking into the reasonable action that one can take in protecting their homes.

The Courtenay couple reacted to continuing harassment by the youth. They did what they felt was necessary to protect their property.

If the law and the police do not protect citizens, they have every right to take matters in their own hands. This type of unprovoked act must be punished.

Mano Sandhu


Spending too much money while our debt stays high

Premier David Eby is tossing money about with such hasty abandon that even the drunken sailors are raising a droopy eyelid, wondering if their status is indeed threatened.

He spoke of the choice last fall, when the enormity of the provincial surplus became manifest: pay down the debt (somewhere around $67 billion) or spend the money today.

As I leaned toward cynicism, the politicians removed that small comfort by openly concluding there was no payback in paying down the mortgage: Who remembers that on election day?

Not surprisingly, Eby decided on “investing in the people.”

Our premier, along with a few other provincial and federal spendthrifts across the country, must be causing heartburn for Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada. Now, as we all know, Macklem’s main objective is to rein in the inflation rate from the six to eight per cent range of the past year to about two per cent.

To do this, he has to take money from all our pockets so we spend less (politicians don’t like to say this but when they say “slowing down the economy” they mean reducing our personal cash). And one of the only ways he can do this is to raise interest rates.

So as Macklem tries to cool the trajectory of inflation, he has politicians in B.C. pouring rocket fuel back into the economy to the tune of about $7 billion! But then I guess there’s just no flair in paying down the debt.

Iain Donaldson


Even on a Zoom call, the oath is meaningful

Re: “For many, Canadian citizenship is fake,” letter, March 24.

The letter claims that people from other nations who take the Canadian oath of citizenship, and become dual citizens, are essentially lying. As an American ex-pat who recently became a Canadian citizen, I couldn’t disagree more.

My eyes were filled with tears, as I watched 98 people, of various nationalities, raise their right hands. As the presiding judge noted, many of them had fled hardship, violence and even war to take this oath.

To me, it looked like the most diverse episode of Hollywood Squares ever. Yes, it was a Zoom ceremony, and yes, I was extremely moved to see all of us commit to Canada.

I’m still an American, but my wife and I have chosen to live in Victoria. We fear for America, as divisions there intensify.

We want only the best for our birth nation, and for our daughter and grandchildren who live there.

At the same time, we are grateful to have been welcomed to Canada — to live in a safer, kinder, more fact-based country. I look forward to voting here and to helping make Canada even more of a beacon to the world.

Taking an oath of loyalty to Canada was one of the most meaningful things this American ex-pat has ever done.

Ira Shorr


Police Chief Del Manak, you deserve better

Victoria has the best, and most stand-up police chief in decades.

He oversees the toughest and most difficult crime-ridden downtown core that has ever existed here.

Our mayor and council literally spit in his face continually.

Del Manak, please find a place to continue your career in which you are treated with respect and reverence.

We left behind will rue the day, and cry for our loss.

You deserve better.

Dewane Ollech



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