Letters Nov. 29: John A. Macdonald statue; councillors’ pay; hospital parking fees

Leaders should shape opinion

Re: “The wrongs of history remain, regardless of their name,” Lawrie McFarlane column, Nov. 24.

Lawrie McFarlane retreads the old argument that removing John A. Macdonald’s statue or changing the name of George Jay School is unjustified because those individuals represented the prevailing moral ethics of their time.

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I disagree with him for two reasons. First, there was, indeed, opposition to their proposed policies, especially by those affected, Chinese immigrants and First Nations peoples.

These peoples had no legal recourse and relied on political leaders for protection. Second, these men were community leaders. They cannot claim that’s what everybody thought, as an excuse.

It was their role to shape public opinion, not blindly follow it. McFarlane also argues that this is an attempt to bury historical context.

The long-standing practice of honouring the “great” men of history in this manner presents a whitewashed impression of their impact on the societies they served. True historical context requires a much more nuanced discussion.

A good example is the series of articles currently running in the Islander section that fully examines the treatment of the Japanese in the Second World War. Macdonald and Jay have received more than their full share of honours; it is time to move on.

I say change the name of the school and keep Macdonald’s statue in the basement.

Steve Dove, MA (history)

Creating historic scapegoats dishonest

Re: “Removing Macdonald statue makes sense,” letter, Nov. 26.

In the words of distinguished historian Herbert Butterfield: “The study of the past with one eye on the present is the source of all sins and sophistries of history. It is the essence of what we mean by the word ‘unhistorical.’ ”

And that is why Lawrie McFarlane hit the nail on the head in his Nov. 24 column when he argued that scarcely a historical figure would survive the scrutiny of contemporary moral judgments, despite otherwise outstanding achievements like the creation of Canadian Confederation.

Today’s fetish for creating historical scapegoats is as intellectually dishonest as it is abortive, and is certainly no path to reconciliation.

J.G. Lover
Oak Bay

Councillors already among highest-paid

Re: “Victoria councillors seek taxpayers’ support for 50 per cent pay hike,” Nov. 15.

Victoria city councillors need to get a grip on reality and a better understanding of their role and function before asking for a 50-plus per cent increase in salary.

I did some basic research into other Canadian municipalities, which shows Victoria city councillors are already among the highest-paid councillors in the country based on the number of citizens served.

The councillor-salary cost to taxpayers is $4.19 per citizen. Raising their salaries to $70,000 a year would equate to $6.51 for every citizen served, or almost 2.5 times the cost in most other municipalities, and five times the cost in Calgary, for example.

If councillors want a full-time salary, perhaps the number of councillors should be reduced. Another option would be to add more councillors at a lesser salary so they could maintain another job and this role could be truly part-time.

What is likely more necessary though, is to perform an audit and review of councillor functions to ensure they are focusing on the key responsibilities of their role, rather than working on their own pet projects.

Council is charged with a wide range of responsibilities, such as taxation, budgeting, municipal planning, development, parks and the provision of local public services. Councillors spending their time and effort on their own interests or activism areas, then asking the taxpayers to pay for it, should not be tolerated.

Bernadett Maxwell

Leaves are gold — why give them away?

Re: “Oak Bay councillor wants to ban gas leaf blowers,” Nov. 23.

I support 100 per cent the banning of leaf blowers. At the same time, I wonder why people want to blow or rake their leaves off their garden beds in the first place.

I am always surprised when I see people raking or blowing all the leaves off their property and placing them at the curb for the city to take away. The city uses them to create healthy soil in our parks and boulevards.

Leaves are gold — they create beautiful soil for plants to grow. Not only do they enhance the soil, they also keep the soil moist in the summer and warm in the winter, attract beneficial insects, prevent erosion and aerate the soil.

Patty Johnston

Shipping containers for instant shelter

As a longtime foster parent, I am all too aware of the challenges and ramifications of humans sleeping on our streets without beds or sanitary facilities.

But there are solutions, albeit not ideal. The military uses shipping containers for portable bunkhouses — these are available right now and could provide a place to sleep out of the rain. Set them up out of town and bus people in.

Tractor-trailer units set up as bunkhouses could be brought in at 8 p.m. and removed at 7 a.m.

Neither of these are ideal, but they do provide much-needed shelter and they are available right now.

Doing nothing or ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. We can provide a place out of the weather with less impact than we have right now.

Doorways and vacant lots are not a solution for sleeping quarters, and stairwells and back alleys do not make good latrines.

Peter M. Clarke

No-charge parking a subsidy to car owners

Re: “Hospital parking fees under review,” Nov. 26.

There is no such thing as free parking. Even at home, parking costs money — the land where the cars are parked costs money. There are property taxes, liability and so forth.

Parkades are expensive to build. If you include space to get in and out, one car requires in excess of 20 square metres.

Costs to build parkades run in excess of $2,500 per square metre. The cost of one space is likely to be $50,000. Plus there is the money for cleaning, heating, liability, security and more.

The vast majority of cars parked at a hospital are not there for emergency purposes. There are bus stops closer to hospital entrances than any long-term parking space.

According to the article, parking brings in gross revenue of $40 million. That is likely below the costs of parkades, the balance being subsidized by taxpayers. If the users do not help pay for parking, then who does? Health-care budgets?

No-charge parking is yet another subsidy favouring those of us who own cars.

Robert Townsend

Act of bravery deserves recognition

Re: “Girl, 16, saves woman: ‘I would do it again,’ Nov. 26.

This is more than an act of kindness, it’s an act of bravery, heroism and pluck all rolled up in one fearless lady. She will do great things throughout her life and we wish her well.

We say Sara should be recognized publicly, just not sure what governing body looks into acts of independent fearlessness.

Alan Gregory
Oak Bay

Recognition of Indigenous rights

Re: “ ‘We made history’: UN Indigenous rights bill approved unanimously in B.C.,” Nov. 26.

I feel prouder to be a British Columbian that I can ever remember, since the B.C. government chose to officially recognize the rights of our Indigenous people, in alignment with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Unfortunately, so many indigenous children have been separated from their families, our foster-care system has been called the new residential school system. So we have a long way to go. I think we have also seen that our Indigenous people are the ones who carry deep and abiding wisdom about how to relate to the land and living systems, during this time of global climate crisis.

I am participating in the reconciliation dialogues sponsored by the City of Victoria and feel deeply grateful for the opportunity. Let us begin this process with a good heart and clear mind, and keep going, no matter what obstacles we meet.

Shayla Wright

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