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Letters Aug. 4: Missing middle plan welcome, but check its effectiveness; when will Canada ban the bomb?

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Construction underway in February at 1025 Johnson St., a 12-storey mixed-use affordable rental tower. A letter-writer says Victoria's missing middle housing initiative has the potential to be this council's most significant achievement, but future councils should follow up to ensure it works as intended. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Promising housing plan must undergo evaluation

Victoria residents will weigh in this evening on the city’s missing middle housing initiative, arguably the most important piece of legislation of this outgoing council.

It comes for decision in the middle of summer during the dying days of what many consider a deeply troubled administration.

It’s up for debate just days after the governance report review was tabled, a high-level analysis by a reputable third party, the business consultants MNP. The damning document offers 30 recommendations on how the city can govern itself better.

It also comes after learning that during the past 16 years the City of Victoria has never received a peer award from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The Community Excellence Awards recognize excellence in governance, service delivery, asset management and sustainability.

That said — despite these reservations and concerns about process, divisions on council, and public opposition — the housing crisis for ordinary families has long reached a critical stage and must be addressed.

If the bylaws are approved by council, a motion should follow that this promising middle income housing initiative be evaluated at the one-year point to mitigate any serious issues that may arise.

This is one step, but there is much more to be done.

If progress is to be achieved, it will be left to the next council to also streamline administrative procedures and regulations that make Victoria one of the most expensive municipalities in B.C. to create affordable housing.

Stan Bartlett, vice-chair
Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria

Let’s learn from Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On Aug. 7 and 9, 1945, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two non-military targets, killing 230,000 people. Today’s nuclear weapons are thousands of times more destructive.

Given the present danger posed by NATO’S first strike policy, why has Canada refused to join 122 countries that have signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?

When will Canada respond to the request of Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, to “acknowledge Canada’s contribution to building the first atom bombs, express regret for the deaths and suffering they caused, and sign the United Nations Nuclear Ban Treaty.”

David Ramsay
Brentwood Bay

Short-term rentals are hurting Salt Spring

As a former resident of Salt Spring Island, I believe a major contributing factor to the rental crisis is the rapid, uncontrolled growth of short-term vacation rentals, which have drastically reduced the availability of long-term rental accommodation in many tourist destinations as well as contributing to rent increases for the few that remain.

The proposed solution of a vacancy tax on the 20 per cent of properties that remain vacant for more than six months a year will do nothing to improve the situation because they’ve never been part of the long-term rental inventory, rents would be too expensive for the average worker even if they were, and the owners like to keep these vacation properties at their disposal 12 months a year and likely pay whatever tax was required to do so.

Since there have never been more than a handful of rental apartments on Salt Spring, long-term rentals have normally consisted of either single-family homes or guest cabins/guest suites attached to the homes of permanent residents. Many of those residents are suddenly discovering they can make a lot more money renting them to tourists at $250 a night than renting them to employees of local businesses, ferry workers, musicians or hospital employees at $1,200 a month — and it appears about 400 of them are currently doing just that.

This problem is not unique to Salt Spring because it’s being faced by tourist communities all over the world including major tourist destinations like Paris, Rome and Barcelona (which is implementing restrictions on short-term vacation rentals in order to try and bring back affordable accommodation for its workers).

Ann Jessey
Qualicum Beach

Saving money, and helping to save the planet

Fossil fuels are energy-dense. They also burn a non-renewable energy source that will continue to increase in price until it runs out, if climate change doesn’t make the planet uninhabitable first.

I’m thankful that B.C. Transit is moving to electric buses, and municipalities will move to electric service vehicles and garbage trucks. It saves money and doesn’t put tonnes of pollution into the air.

I have one. Plug it in at night and it costs me about $7-8, whereas it used to cost me up to $200 at Costco after driving across town to save $15 on a tank. Plus I’m not spending as much money on servicing the car.

As you say, there is a need for power equipment in remote places, and electric power isn’t there yet. The same argument was made about replacing horses with motor transport. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.

Now people ride for pleasure, just as I have no doubt people will keep driving their vintage motor vehicles 20 years from now. The bonus is not choking on pollution — is that such a bad thing?

David Cottrell
Saanich

History shows progress in fossil-fuel use

Re: “What a legacy! Thank you, fossil-fuel industry,” column, July 28.

Trevor Hancock blamed the “fossil fuel industry” for the “climate chaos.” However, the real sinner was the invention of the internal-combustion engine. Without it, there would be little demand for petroleum, instead the steam engine would provide motive power, burning coal, a worse source of carbon emission.

Similarly, natural gas displaced coal-generated household gas for cooking and heating. Another case of a cleaner-burning fossil fuel displacing another.

As for coal, Queen Elizabeth I encouraged her people to use coal instead of firewood, because the forests of England were being depleted due the use of lumber for ship and house building, furniture and firewood. Thus the forests, a renewable resource, were set to disappear.

Historically, there is a progression in the use of fossil fuels, each of which have different and unique qualities. Any solution has to take this into account. It also has to be done within a global context.

The latter is extremely important; acting locally is only worthwhile if it has a positive global impact without damaging the local economy.

A failure to recognize the above by our “green” politicians impedes their ability to develop positive solutions.

I would ask Hancock: Where did humankind go wrong in its progressive use of fossil fuels, and what should it have done instead? If he can’t answer that, then the green movement is in trouble.

David A. Clark
Saanichton

James Lovelock warned of upsetting the balance

Re: “We were warned about the environment,” letter, July 29.

How many remember Gaia? One name largely forgotten is Prof. James Lovelock, who died on July 26, his 103rd birthday.

He was a respected British scientist among whose achievements was the electron capture detector capable of detecting minute amounts of dangerous toxins. Its use led to the discovery of pesticide residues in the natural environment, work which inspired Rachel Carson to write her book Silent Spring.

The 1995 Nobel prize for chemistry was won by three scientists who used the detector to warn that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were a danger to the ozone layer. Some thought Lovelock should have shared the award.

In the 1950s and 1960s, through investigations using his detector, Lovelock came to realize the effect of living things on the equilibrium of Earth’s atmosphere. Rather than simply adapting to evolve, life itself influences its environment.

In 1965 he suggested an active control system or balance between the planet and life, which he called Gaia, a name suggested by his friend, novelist William Golding.

At first the theory was ridiculed by many people including scientists, but climatologists gradually began to support it because they could see the interaction between biology, geology and atmospherics.

Lovelock went on to warn that the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of rain forests might be happening too fast for the Gaia system to be maintained. His book Gaia was followed by The Revenge of Gaia (2006) and The Vanishing Face of Gaia (2009).

Lovelock’s electron capture detector is still used by meteorologists today. He was appointed CBE in 1990 and Companion of Honour in 2003.

Andrea Ashton
Victoria

Top Gun instead of Canadian history

So let’s get this straight. The public is not allowed to visit the history floor at the Royal B.C. Museum due to claimed “decolonization,” yet they can still attend the Imax and watch Top Gun: Maverick instead.

Instead of offering the public Canadian history, we are still allowed to be fed Big Brother next door’s Hollywood version of reality. 1984 is not an instruction manual for the party.

Sasha Izard
Saanich

From eight to one in Fairfield-Gonzales

The article in Sunday’s Islander about the gradual disappearance of gas stations certainly highlighted some of the changes that are taking place in our society.

As an example, in the Fairfield-Gonzales area, at one point in the 1950s and 1960s there were eight active gas stations. It is hard to believe.

Now, only one station remains that actually sells motor vehicle fuel, while two other buildings are still in place, but don’t sell gas. The other five buildings are completely gone and have been replaced by other structures. How time changes.

Joyce Harrison
Victoria

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