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Letters April 16: Ferry service for Gulf Islands; exclude investors from housing; dental plan doomed to fail

B.C. Ferries vessel Salish Heron’s car deck. TIMES COLONIST

Making schedules better for Gulf Islands residents

Re: “Schedules work against Gulf Islands ferry users,” letter, April 12.

Determining service levels and schedules for the Gulf Islands is a complex puzzle. There are five routes with six ships and 10 ports of call. Any change to sailing times or service access that may benefit one community risks deteriorating service for another.

Our priority in making these decisions is not tourists — it’s the people who live on the islands and rely on us to get them where they need to be, and we’re taking concrete steps in response to what the communities and crew who serve and live in those areas have told us.

In recent years, we’ve substantially increased capacity to meet the region’s growing demands with the addition of new, bigger Salish Class vessels, and with added capacity coming to more routes by 2027 with our new and redeployed Island Class vessels.

By carrying more people, we can reduce the number of sailing waits, and when we do run late, we have processes in place to have connecting vessels wait for the transfer traffic to arrive so we don’t leave people behind.

We also have more improvements on the horizon, including those that will give our customers more transparency into terminal and sailing conditions, and empower them to make better informed decisions about their travel.

At the end of the day, we are an essential public service, and that means continuing to be thoughtful about the different needs of Gulf Islanders — and all people — who travel each of our routes.

Brian Anderson

Vice-president, Strategy and Planning

B.C. Ferries

Federal housing program is a boost to sellers

Ottawa’s new housing subsidies program, marketed as a means for young buyers to buy houses at today’s ridiculously inflated prices, is in fact a set of pass-through subsidies to holders wishing to sell properties at the rarefied height of today’s house market.

This is the case because not only will these subsidies not reduce house prices, but by pumping cash into buyers’ hands, they will obviously support the unsustainably high house prices that have resulted from financializing housing in Canada.

When so few buyers can afford to buy a house, a better plan is, first, to exclude every category of investor — from hedge funds to REITs to small independent rental market predators — from the house market to prevent any more houses being rented at exorbitant rates.

Prices will therefore come down. Why? Because the supply of potential buyers sufficiently flush to pay the going rate for a house not meeting the demand of sellers looking to make a killing on the properties they hold will force those sellers to take a haircut.

Ottawa needs to understand that its function when it comes to housing is not to maximize the economic rents property holders get to extract from Canada’s wealth-creating sectors, but to house Canadians at prices in line with the productivity of Canada’s real economy.

Bill Appledorf


Lawlessness gives us a great opportunity

The long-standing crime drama series Law and Order expanded north of the border this year with Law and Order Toronto: Criminal Intent.

This creates a great opportunity for us, as the local film commission could pitch our area as the next expansion, suggesting Lawless and Disorder Victoria: Municipal Intent.

There are countless sites in the city which would offer perfect sets, and cast recruitment would be breeze. Let’s not let a bad thing go to waste.

Scott Clark

View Royal

It will take a lot of money to solve social problems

Recently a woman was beaten and had her face severely damaged by an angry man in response to her polite request that he reduce the noise he was making outside her front door. Another person was pursued for several downtown blocks by a man shouting “I am going to kill you.”

It seems clear that services for people who are psychologically challenged are inadequate. Many people point to the closure of institutions 30 or so years ago as a factor contributing to the apparent increase in violence and other abuses toward ordinary people and in particular to various gendered, sexual and racialized minorities.

These are problems which are not being sufficiently well addressed by governments. Combined with homelessness and the ecological crisis facing this planet as the result of the present self-destructing economic system, they do not bode well for future generations.

Those who are deeply concerned about what they see as excessive government spending need to reconsider their position in the light of social problems that are unlikely to significantly improve soon.

Resolving them to any great extent would require considerable increases in cost to both governments and the private sector.

Rennie Warburton

Retired sociology professor

University of Victoria

With our drug problems, remember basic rights

There was a time when smokers were allowed to smoke pretty much anywhere. As the danger of that “habit” to bystanders (in addition to users) became known, laws were enacted to prevent smoking in many public areas. Smokers cried “foul.”

They had “rights.” However, laws persisted and designated smoking areas were identified. None of those included hospitals.

Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon, a former health minister, has been quoted as saying that there should be “no smoking of drugs, no open drug use in the hospitals.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix called Falcon’s five-minute solution “disrespectful to the most vulnerable people we work with.” After being disrespectful to Falcon, Dix then interpreted Falcon’s speech as “putting critically ill people on the street.”

This is not the time for political one-upmanship. This is the time to consider the options that address the “right” rights, to look at the greater good.

The best solution has already been suggested and in fact, had been performed in the past. For example, all medications, including those to manage withdrawal symptoms, should be administered by medical staff.

No outside drugs, no drug dealers, no smoking of any kind, in hospitals — full stop. Then the “right” rights of the many will be in place.

Dawn Devereaux


Going soft on drug users threatens communities

When a house is on fire, you don’t convene a task force to decide what to do — you act swiftly to put it out before considering future fire prevention strategies.

But, in the face of the crisis of rampant use of illicit drugs in hospitals, the provincial government merely kicked the problem down the road.

Dangerous drugs being used in the vicinity of others or near building air intakes is extremely hazardous. “Harm reduction” for users apparently trumps even the safety of patients and staff in hospitals. Where is the “harm reduction” for them?

Health Minister Adrian Dix labelled Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon “disrespectful” after he expressed the outrage we all feel at this situation. What is truly “disrespectful” is putting the rights of illicit drug users ahead of everyone else’s.

The NDP’s strategy of normalization and facilitation of addiction is a failure. Their “hands-off” approach to drug users — no matter where they are using or what they are doing — threatens entire communities.

Floating a solution that requires hospital systems already straining under overload to build a separate area for illicit drug use shows how far this government has gone down the rabbit hole.

Doubling down on their short-sighted, ineffective — and, in this case, dangerous — decisions instead of acting to correct their mistakes demonstrates that it’s time for the NDP to go.

Marie Jacobs


When we permit drug use, we promote it

The provincial government has instructed hospitals to provide space for patients to use illicit drugs.

This hearkens back to the opium dens of the 19th century, echoing the maxim, “those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it.”

This is a poor use of our scarce health-care dollars or hospital space, when very ill patients have to occupy beds in the hallway.

We live in the only province that has decriminalized drugs, modelled on Oregon’s law for harm reduction. Should we not look at their subsequent experience of harm expansion, rather than reduction, and copy their response to repeal that legislation?

Directing our health care dollars to timely, effective treatment to help people overcome their addictions, rather than simply permitting them, will truly achieve harm reduction. What you permit, you promote.

Jane Milliken


Federal dental plan is doomed to failure

Federal Health Minister Mark Holland wants to reassure dentists who are reluctant to register with the Canadian Dental Care Plan. His answer is to make it easier to register. This ignores the main reason dentists will not sign up for the program as it now exists.

The plan is administration-heavy for both Health Canada/Sunlife and dental offices. It is inefficient and costly. It asks that dentists provide treatment for less than the actual cost.

The B.C. Dental Association Fee Guide is produced each year based on careful analysis of the cost of doing each procedure in the dental office. We are not told where the numbers for the new plan’s fee schedule come from.

The plan is modelled after the old Non-Insured Health Benefits plan, which is generally agreed to be one of the worst plans ever used in Canada.

Dentists tried to inform Health Canada and have advocated for a plan that will be successful in helping Canadians get the dental care they deserve.

I ask that Holland not present the issue as dentists negotiating for more money. We are advocating for a plan not doomed to failure.

Eha Onno, BSc, DMD

(Dentist for 26 years, largely with vulnerable populations)

Pender Island

We should stop funding private schools

The solution to the need for the public school districts to cut funding of important programs is clear: Stop funding private school systems.

Former premier W.A.C. Bennett knew this, and said: “Private money for private schools and public money for public schools.”

His son Bill Bennett and his education minister began the funding of private schools in B.C. At the same time a harmful restraint program was forced on the public school system.

I was chair of the Greater Victoria School Board at the time and we submitted two budgets — a mandatory restraint one and a needs one. If we had not submitted a restraint one we would have been fired and replaced with a government appointee. This happened to the Vancouver and Richmond boards.

The irony was that as soon as private schools received public funding they were no longer independent. The last size of the funds going to private schools that I have record of was $600 million a year.

If that money was invested in the public system, many of the cuts would not be necessary. Wake up, B.C. government, and stop funding private schools.

Carol Pickup

Former Greater Victoria School Board trustee and chair


Why are music programs targeted for cuts?

Why is it whenever I read about school district budgets being balanced, it’s always music programs that take the hit?

There’s not a day that goes by that I (and most other people, I suspect) don’t listen to music by some means.

However, the most complicated math that most of us do on a daily basis is something along the lines of: If gas is $2 a litre, how much will it cost to fill my 55-litre gas tank?

If the Greater Victoria School District and the provincial government were honestly interested in saving money, they’d amalgamate the region’s three school districts, seeing as they all serve a similar area and demographic.

Angus Forsyth


We need to protect our tree canopy

Re: “Portal shows areas most vulnerable to extreme heat,” April 12.

The Capital Regional District’s new Extreme Heat Information Portal is welcome — but will mean little if not backed up by policies for preserving mature tree cover (especially in urban areas).

As long as municipalities allow property owners and developers to cut down mature trees with nothing more than the obligation to plant two saplings somewhere to replace every tree cut, heat islands will expand rapidly.

A policy of imposing a fine of, say, $1,000 or more per ring of every healthy tree cut down may give people more pause before removing mature tree cover.

Until then, we’ll know that the authorities’ attitude to the subject is not serious.

Jonathan Stoppi


Is Victoria better off? Just thought I’d ask

I don’t recall anyone campaigning for Victoria council on the puerile notion to replace a monumental work of public art with a kiddies’ splash park. While running for office, did any of the Gang of Five say, “If elected, I will give myself a 25 per cent pay raise”?

Was Victoria’s mayor voted a mandate for “intentional transformation” of the city (whatever that means)? Now we have an Official Community Plan process that is criticized for being tailored to a pre-determined outcome.

Who knows what other surprises this bunch has up their sleeves?

In our 10th year of governance by progressive mayors and councils, it might be time to ask: “Is Victoria a better city now than it was in 2014?”

Frederick Shand



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