Letters Sept. 10: Downtown is worth visiting; respect for turtles; restaurant patio seating

Downtown is as lively and safe as ever

Every day I read letters to the editor lamenting that our downtown has become dirty, deserted and dangerous and I wonder what the writers are seeing that I am not.

I live in Vic West and walk downtown three or four times a week at various times of the day and evening. Our downtown is as lively and safe as ever. The shops are busy, the restaurant sidewalk patios are hopping and the streets certainly don’t feel unsafe.

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My only complaint is that it can be difficult to social distance due to the crowded sidewalks. Yes, it’s true that Centennial Square and upper Pandora Street are problem areas, however, the rest of downtown is just fine.

I worry that these negative letters will discourage people from coming downtown and will become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Don’t believe everything that you read. Come see for yourself.

Jaroslaw Wyshnowsky
Vic West

A better caption for a great photo

That was an amazing photo of a duck and turtles on a log. In the many years I have been going to Beacon Hill Park I have never seen a turtle. The caption accompanying the photo was inappropriate however. Our Beacon Hill ducks would never be so rude as to tell the turtles to “move along.” A more appropriate caption would be “Sorry I’m late. Say, is this the Ducks Unlimited meeting?” I’m sure that other readers would have better alternate captions as well.

Errol Miller

Getting a seat at a restaurant patio

When the bylaws changed to allow patios due to COVID, restaurant owners embraced it. It was a way to recover some of the losses incurred over the past few months and a way to make up for the lost seating capacity

But Victoria can’t seem to move ahead or be innovative. For example: Joe Fortes, one of the big mainstays in the heart of downtown Vancouver, allows for patrons to reserve on their outside rooftop patio (what a concept). But read the fine print — if it shut down due to poor weather — you are not given a table inside in lieu of. Even so, Vancouverites still loved the prospect of being able to bask in the sun while downing a few bevies.

Victoria, on the other hand, can’t seem to grasp this concept. It’s a 30 to 45 minute wait, like we haven’t been waiting on just about everything these days. Lineups everywhere. COVID is one of the biggest reasons why people who otherwise excel in time management find themselves in a cold sweat on a hot summer day waiting for patio seating. It boggles the mind.

If restaurateurs are resistant to patio reservations, how about trying a waitlist app? But in Victoria, you have to walk into a restaurant to put yourself onto a wait list.

Victoria restaurateurs should use this opportunity to fine tune getting people into their restaurants rather than making them go somewhere else.

Jennifer Downie

Our Place is in the wrong place

It seems the quality of life of thousands of productive citizens is being neglected with regard to the burgeoning homeless problem.

In addition to the hotels and rest homes provided to house the homeless, there are plans to purpose-build housing and services in the area centred on Our Place. It has been obvious since the days of the Cool Aid Flophouse at the Belfry, to the current Bedlam on Pandora, that the negative impact of these places on business and citizens cannot be contained.

An efficient solution would be to close Our Place and centralize all housing and services – and camping, if need be – in the under-used area bounded by Douglas-Chatham/Caledonia and Bay Streets, where there are no residential neighbourhoods and few businesses to impact.

Please act now before this problem is permanently entrenched on Pandora Avenue.

Ian Robson
34-year resident of Harris Green

Anxiety about returning to school

I was a teacher for 35 years here in B.C. and I have no children.

This school startup is like no other and the fear is evident in all about to take part. “Fear” is an imperfect word but has often been paired with the “unknown,” and is that not where we are headed?

Students are afraid for all the normal startup reasons, but then there is also the “wash” they are getting from all of the adults in their lives who themselves are nervously navigating COVID waters.

Experience tells me that students are adaptable and resilient and that through any crisis, lessons are learned and growth occurs. Students will never forget, but Phoenix-like, they will arise.

Parents are being pushed and pulled in different directions. However their goal is simple. Do what is best for my child. In order to meet that goal though, there are many steps.

Having all of the information is step one. That means information about the virus, the government response, the schooling options and their family’s needs. Information is fluid though, which means parents must be as well. Dropping kids off at school can no longer be a parent’s only responsibility.

Support, assessment and active, daily involvement are necessary. Parents must act in concert with students and schools starting from day one.

“How was school today?” is not the depth of the dialogue that needs to be happening in Canadian homes. Parents now more than ever need to be active participants in their child’s education.

Mark R. Fetterly

Oak Bay Lodge should house homeless

I am struggling with the arguments presented by B.C. Housing and Oak Bay for not agreeing to use Oak Bay Lodge, recently vacated by the last of its senior residents, as temporary housing for the homeless.

My elderly father was a resident there until 2015, and even at that time arguments were being made about its unsafe state. Many more, often frail, elders have resided there since until being relocated to the new Summit care home in July.

Why are we now being asked to accept that this vacant public care facility is unsuitable for temporary, secure shelter for people — seniors among them — who have no homes at all?

Any concrete plans for the future of Oak Bay Lodge and its repurposing are still a long way off. The question of the future of the site has been on the table during and ever since my last term on Oak Bay council in 2014.

Is the restrictive covenant really a serious barrier to doing the right thing, even temporarily, in the face of the ever-escalating homeless crisis in the region?

Equally I have grave concerns about moving the homeless population to neighbourhood parks where children play close to schools and daycares, and I know some members of Victoria council and staff share this concern.

They are well aware that relocating tents to residential neighbourhoods is dispersing the problem, not solving it.

Victoria has been under ongoing pressure to manage and solve the issues around housing and the homeless, largely without much-needed regional cooperation.

The pandemic has exacerbated these pressures. Housing the homeless and serving their needs will not be solved without full participation by regional and other levels of government.

While the province is working diligently with the City of Victoria to secure temporary shelter, federal funds are needed to ensure the longer-term goal of decent, permanent housing along with appropriate supportive services for the homeless who are also dealing with mental health challenges or addictions.

The time is now for our decision makers at all levels to pull together to solve this ever-growing crisis.

Pam Copley

Canada’s military budget is prudent

Re: “Reassess military budgets amid deficit fight,” letter, Sept. 5

The expat American who suggests, “Canada’s autonomous military has had its own way for a long time” must know that the Canadian Forces cannot spend or act without civilian government policy or cabinet approval and blessing as directed by the minister of national defence.

Furthermore, like most organizations the greatest expense is wages and benefits. As for Canada’s defence capital budget, historically in peacetime it has served to only replace aging equipment, ships, aircraft to maintain Canada’s modest capability to keep watch over the second largest country, with the longest coastline in the world, and participate in multi-national operations to keep the world’s sea lanes open, support peace operations, and its NATO and other treaty obligations.

While there is much Canada-U.S. cooperation the notion that Canada deploys its military at the bidding of the U.S. is just wrong.

Canada was in Afghanistan with more than 40 other countries, Canada did not participate in Gulf War 2, and there are dozens of examples in history where Canada has acted contrary to the U.S. when it was not in our national interest.

The fact that Canada spends less than (the NATO country guide) two percent of its GDP on defence but continues to punch above its weight in the world demonstrates that Canadian defence and foreign policy is prudent and balanced.

Gerald W. Pash

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