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Letters May 17: Damage to Saanich; Oak Bay blasting; sitting duck for wildfire; Alice Munro

The atrium at Saanich Municipal Hall on Vernon Avenue. BRUCE STOTESBURY, TIMES COLONIST

Saanich council has damaged community

It makes me proud to be a Saanich property owner when I see Saanich doing what it can to protect our rural areas from the curse of having suites in our rural properties. We know how these suites will cause traffic congestion and ruin the character of these neighbourhoods and on top of that they could ruin the utopian dream Saanich council has of 15-minute communities.

I realize this must be quite the blow for council, as they’ve done an excellent job of keeping those of lesser incomes out of our neighbourhoods only to have the province step in and mandate its “small-scale multi-unit housing” law. It turns out that businesses can’t find staff who can afford to live here and residents can’t find the services we need, including everyone from an oncologist to a pizza delivery guy, and our young people have to migrate to Alberta if they ever want to own a house and have a family.

Seriously, Saanich council needs to make amends for the damage they’ve done to our community over these past decades with their archaic zoning and engineering requirements. You’ve done our community serious injury and it’s time to make things right.

Build houses where there is available land and if it takes 30 minutes to walk to the store or a five-minute drive, so what? We are in a housing crisis and you blather on about rural suites? If the minister does anything but toss this request in the garbage he’ll have to allow all other municipalities the same option.

My advice to council is to give community-building a try. Who knows, you might find it rewarding.

Brian Town


Oak Bay blasting bylaw neglects homeowners

Oak Bay is revamping its blasting bylaw — what an opportunity to include provisions that protect nearby properties. However, at a recent council meeting, apart from councillors Cairine Green and Hazel Braithwaite, members shrugged their shoulders at the suggestion.

Yet, one of the prime responsibilities of a municipality is to protect its residents and their property.

Property owners where blasting will occur are required to hire a third party to undertake a pre-blasting survey. We can hope nearby properties will be included, but that is not ensured.

Neither will an affected homeowner necessarily have any say on who is hired to do the survey or that its results will be shared.

If the report is not thorough or accurate, how will they know? What recourse will they have if damage to their property ensues? On what basis can they make a claim?

An owner can take pre-emptive action — lots of photographs, hiring their own surveyor — involving considerable time, effort and cost. How fair is this for a situation they have not caused?

What if damage does occur? What if it is extensive, how long will it take to resolve? Will the home be livable?

More than one home insurer has asserted that “no insurance company’s policy provides coverage against blasting damage.” This means affected property owners have to deal directly with the blasting firm’s insurer, but the scales are strongly tilted against the individual homeowner.

Oak Bay council is passing up an opportunity to make a difference, adjust an outstanding wrong and set an example for other municipalities.

Diana Butler

Oak Bay

Fort Nelson is barely prepared sitting duck

Have any lessons been learned from the Fort McMurray fire disaster? Is there a wide, low-combustibility, low-fuel zone around Fort Nelson, and if not, why not?

According to 2024 satellite images, the forest still extends to within a few yards of the subdivision houses, around most of the town, i.e. it is a fire disaster just waiting to happen.

Who has decided that it is better to focus primarily on firefighting, and accept high risk of incineration of the town, with losses of homes, businesses, infrastructure, medical facilities and schools, plus the huge personal distress and life disruption accompanying all this? Instead of creating a protection zone around the town at a tiny fraction of that cost.

Even solely on financial grounds, this was a very bad decision.

This is a primary protective measure that by now should be standard at most forest-surrounded towns, where forest gets tinder dry in spring and summer.

Paul Akerhielm, P.Eng (ret.)

Campbell River

We never had a war on drugs

Re: “Consider evidence and experience in the war on drugs,” comment, May 11.

Ben Goerner wants drug policy change. He says we should consider evidence in the war on drugs.

First, there has never been a war on drugs. We still do not penalize drug dealers, so no war. They win without a fight. Drug cartels laugh because they know they can continue to do business here and we do nothing about it.

Goerner says look at the evidence. The only evidence I see is complete chaos. He says if you think there is one answer you are wrong. Singapore and Malaysia have one answer. Does it cure the problem 100%? No. But it is significantly better.

They do this to protect their citizens. If you are an addict, they help you, but if you deal drugs, you have been forewarned.

Goerner says without the current harm reduction there would be double or triple the number of deaths. That means between six and 12 people are saved every day by harm reduction. That’s quite a wide ranging “fact.” Where’s your evidence?

Considering Goerner’s credentials, I suggest his viewpoint is very one-sided. Supplying drugs is insanity. There is no quality of life as a drug addict. Do you give alcohol to an alcoholic?

A government-provided drug supply is supporting addiction and is paving the way for a beautiful toddler to become a drug addict in the future.

I’m moving to Singapore.

Paul J. Martin


Tribute to Alice Munro was superb

The tribute to Alice Munro by Hillel Italie was superb. Many readers will be remembering Munro’s fine writing, and some will fondly recall meeting her.

I am one of the very lucky ones in the latter category. Munro was staying at the nearby Royal Scot Hotel in Victoria, when she learned that she had won the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2013.

I was eating lunch at the Fairmont Empress Hotel on the day the winner’s name was announced. As I walked back to my table, I saw Alice Munro sitting with a few family members at the back of the iconic Bengal Lounge. She was sitting underneath one of the old punkah fans, not far from that old tiger skin mounted high up on the wall.

It was such a perfect location to meet Alice Munro. She was radiant with the news of her most recent and stunning literary honour. When I came over to her table to shake her hand, I was the only one who had approached her. I congratulated her, and informed her that I had thoroughly enjoyed her short stories for many years.

I related how her books were my reward at the end of a long day of “stamping out disease,” as I referred to it. She smiled when I described how her stories would transport me away from my days filled with diagnosis and disease. Instead, I would calm my mind with dreams arising from the wondrous images she created with her words.

Her smile was even broader when she told me that she had never had anyone tell her that was what her intricate tales could do, for a devoted reader. I shook her hand again and apologized to her family for interrupting them. I left Alice and her family smiling and amused. I did not ruin my memory or her obvious pleasure by asking for her autograph.

Catharine Dewar MD



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