Listen to this CFAX Radio interview from May 9, 2013, where I discuss a proposed ban on smoking in parks and other open spaces in the Capital Region:
Link to CFAX Radio interview, May 9, 2013
Download CFAX Radio Podcast
By Bill Cleverley, Victoria Times Colonist, May 9, 2013
A proposal that would have made Greater Victoria parks, playgrounds, public squares and beaches no-smoking areas was defeated Wednesday by Capital Regional District directors 12 to 11.
Several CRD directors worried the ban was too wide-ranging and would be impossible to enforce, especially in remote areas.
Juan de Fuca director Mike Hicks painted a picture of campers near Port Renfrew sitting around a campfire on the beach, Lucky beer and cigarette in hand.
“There’s more harm coming from the bonfire than there is from the cigarette and it won’t be enforced. There’s no health risk more than the fires,” Hicks said.
There were laughs around the board table when Hicks noted his sprawling district is where many people choose to go to get away from all the regulation in Greater Victoria.
Vancouver Island Health Authority staff would have enforced the proposed bylaw, mainly in response to complaints.
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns expressed concern about confrontations or people not going to parks because of the ban, which had the potential to make the park experience “much nastier.”
“If you can’t enforce it, if you don’t intend to enforce it, you shouldn’t be doing it.”
Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt tried but failed to get enough support for a bylaw change that would have banned smoking in public squares, playgrounds and sports fields but allowed municipalities to choose non-smoking beaches or beach areas.
Isitt said the change would mean the region could designate heavily used beaches such as Thetis Lake as non-smoking “without unreasonably interfering with the liberty of individual smokers to kill themselves” on more remote beaches.
By Bill Cleverley, Victoria Times Colonist, April 24, 2013
A cycling task force has been established by Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin.
The task force’s goals are to engage the public on the city’s Bicycle Master Plan and to create a comprehensive plan that takes into account pedestrian and greenway needs, Fortin said.
“Our current cycling plan is out of date and needs to be rejuvenated,” the mayor said.
“We also realize that … times have changed. Victoria has changed and people have changed. We’re looking for an opportunity to really reflect the huge current interest around cycling. It’s where we want to go as a city.”
The task force will be made up of Fortin along with councillors Marianne Alto and Ben Isitt.
A Capital Regional District Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan last year estimated upgrades to cycling infrastructure throughout Greater Victoria could cost as much as $220 million.
The region currently has cycling rates of nine per cent in high density areas and about 3.2 per cent overall. However, those numbers could go up to 15 per cent regionwide and 25 per cent in areas of high density if infrastructure improvements are made, the master plan said.
By Bill Cleverley, Victoria Times Colonist, April 18, 2013
Victoria should consider implementing a whistleblower policy as a guard against misconduct, KPMG Enterprise says in its annual audit of the city’s 2012 financial statements.
“Without such policies, employees of the city may not report areas of concern and misconduct, risks and fraud that otherwise would have been reported may go undetected,” the report said.
KPMG also noted the city filled a risk management position during the year, while an internal audit position was left vacant.
“Given the size and complexity of the city there are areas where fraud may occur and go undetected without proper controls in place. The internal audit function works towards continuous improvements of controls and helps to limit the risk of fraudulent activity,” the report said.
“The city should investigate opportunities to add internal audit capability using existing staff or contractors, or jointly conducting such work with other [regional] municipalities.”
Council asked staff to report back on KPMG’s recommendations.
Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said he believes there are enough policies in place to protect both employees and the city’s interests.
Fortin said he expects staff to bring forward a recommendation about a whistleblower policy.
“It’s something, I think, that has been recommended year after year … and we investigated it,” he said.
“We have good policies that allow for those sorts of concerns, in regards to having independent officers [such as the city manager and solicitor] that report directly to council.”
[Update: Mayor Dean Fortin said whistleblower legislation will be brought forward in May for city council's consideration]
Wael (Bill) Fanous was hired in February 2010 as the city’s first director of internal audit and risk management. Fanous resigned in December 2011 to take a job in Alberta. His position was not filled.
Coun. Ben Isitt said councillors were not consulted on leaving the position dark and it should be restored.
“I think it’s prudent fiscal management to have an internal risk management function that’s at arm’s length from both political and senior management influence,” Isitt said.
By Judith Lavoie, Victoria Times Colonist, April 11, 2013Capital Regional District directors have added their voices to the chorus calling on the province to block the permit for a contaminated soil dump at Shawnigan Lake.
On Wednesday, directors endorsed a motion by Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt to support the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s request that the province deny South Island Aggregates a waste discharge permit in light of inadequate public consultation and conflicting hydrological and technical opinions.
The resolution also called on the province to amend contaminated site regulations and the permitting process to allow for “thorough and appropriate” consideration of local government input and land-use regulations.
Only Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen voted against the motion, saying the 24-member board was being asked to take a public-interest advocacy position — something that is outside the CRD’s jurisdiction.
The Environment Ministry has issued a draft permit for South Island Aggregates’ application to use its quarry at 460 Stebbings Rd. in Shawnigan Lake as a dumping ground for 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year — much of it from the Greater Victoria area — for the next 50 years.
The public comment period ended this week, and Environment Minister Terry Lake has said the decision on whether to issue a permit will be made by a ministry regional director, based on the technical judgment of staff.
Shawnigan residents, who fear their water source could be contaminated, demonstrated outside the Environment Ministry’s Jutland Road offices before Wednesday’s CRD meeting.
Demonstrators chanted “Hey, hey Terry Lake, keep your hands off our lake,” and “We are not Victoria’s toilet,” as they marched in front of the offices.
“It’s important for them to realize we are not going away,” said Bruce Fraser, Shawnigan’s CVRD representative. “We’re trying to recruit the assistance of people worried about the Victoria watershed.”
Isitt said regions should be dealing with their own contaminated waste.
“We have to insist that the development industry here in Victoria takes full responsibility for disposing of [contaminated] waste in the most environmentally sensitive way,” he said.
The City of Victoria is putting contaminated soil from the Johnson Street Bridge project in a berm, Isitt said.
“There may be additional costs, but that’s the most responsible way to proceed. That soil should be processed here.”
By Peter Rusland, Cowichan News Leader, April 11, 2013
Final word on the draft permit for a controversial soil treatment dump in Shawnigan Lake — and the 300 official submissions it sparked — rests with a provincial bureaucrat.
It appears authority rests with Ministry of Environment official Hubert Bunce, not environment minister Terry Lake.
“The Environmental Management Act, which governs decisions made by statutory decision makers, does not require the minister to sign off, and the minister does not have the ability to overturn a decision made on sound technical merits,” MOE staff told the News Leader Pictorial in an email.
About 300 comments from Cowichanians about the South Island Aggregates proposal to dump tonnes of contaminated soil into a Stebbings Road treatment quarry were received by Wednesday’s deadline and are being sifted by provincial staff in the ministry’s Nanaimo office.
The Ministry of Environment received submissions from the local government, First Nations, health officials and community about SIA’s proposed plan, widely opposed by south-end folks.
A number include specific technical information needing careful consideration against the conditions in the draft permit, staff said.
“There are three possible outcomes based on their review: the statutory decision maker may choose to issue the permit as is; issue a permit with further modifications or additional conditions; or deny the (SIA) permit application.
“It’s too early to estimate how long it will take to make a decision — the submissions include a great deal of detail, and staff will take whatever time is necessary to fully consider the community’s input.”
Once a formal permit is issued to SIA, there is an option for appealing to the Environmental Appeal Board.
Further, any legal action against ministry staff — including union and non-union employees — is respectively covered by collective agreements, and the Financial Administration Act, staff says.
Meanwhile, Wednesday also saw the Capital Regional District back demands by Cowichan’s regional brass for Victoria to deny SIA’s permit.
The CRD passed Victoria city Councillor Ben Isitt’s motion demanding the ministry bury SIA’s soil-dumping permit.
That motion — twinning an earlier motion by the Cowichan Valley Regional District — now heads to the province, along with a request that contaminated-site regulations be amended to include additional input from local governments.
That’s something Cowichan leaders have long demanded after dirty soil was allowed to be imported, under a provincial permit, to a treatment site near the Koksilah River.
CRD staff are also probing potential impacts on Victoria region’s water supply at Sooke Lake, if SIA’s permit is approved.
According to Isitt, hydrogeological evidence seems to indicate pollutants in Shawnigan’s watershed could reach the capital’s water source.
Listen to this CBC Radio “On the Island” interview from April 10, 2013, where I discuss why I submitted a resolution to the Capital Regional District Board opposing a proposed toxic soil dump in the Shawnigan Lake watershed:
Link to CBC Radio interview, April 10, 2013
Download CBC Radio Podcast
By Liz Craig, HQ Cowichan Valley FM, April 10, 2013
Those opposed to the dumping of contaminated soil in the Shawnigan area could be getting a boost in the way of support from the Capital Regional District.
CRD director Ben Isitt is putting forward a motion calling on the board to go on record supporting the CVRD and opposing issuing a permit to South Island Aggregates.
“We’re neighbours and I think it’s important that we either stand together or we fall together, and I think there is nothing more precious than our drinking water supply,” he said.
“I think it’s extremely important that we have a united front between local governments across the island on this issue, because if we allow the contamination of Shawnigan Lake’s drinking water supply I think that ultimately that will affect all of our capacities to protect our own drinking water.”
A number of Cowichan residents are expected to present as delegates at the Wednesday CRD meeting, including CVRD director Gerry Giles and Shawnigan Water Roundtable’s Georgia Collins.
Concerned citizens will be gathering beforehand outside the Ministry of the Environment to protest starting at noon.
The CRD meeting gets underway at 1:30pm.
Isitt, also a Victoria city councillor, is putting a similar motion before city council next week.
By Lexi Bainas, Cowichan Valley Citizen, April 10, 2013
Shawnigan Lake residents are taking their protest against the dumping of contaminated soil in their watershed one step further today (Wednesday, April 10) at noon as they picket the Environment Ministry in Victoria at 2795 Jutland Rd.
They will be joining Greater Victoria residents in an information picket to stop the permit for South Island Aggregates for a contaminated soil facility.
Later today, the Capital Regional District board of directors is voting on whether to oppose the controversial waste-disposal application.
Both protest and motion are part of a concerted push to force the provincial government to take a closer look at how it approves the removal and dumping of contaminated soil.
“The Shawnigan watershed provides drinking water for more than 7,000 people in the Shawnigan area. To put a toxic soil dump at the headwaters of a drinking water supply is inappropriate,” Georgia Collins, chair of the Shawnigan Watershed Roundtable, said Tuesday.
Her group is participating in the information picket and addressing the CRD board, along with Cobble Hill Area Director Gerry Giles.
“Environment Minister Terry Lake has given us his personal assurance that our drinking water is not at risk,” Collins said. “We want him to know that the risk is too high.”
The board will debate and vote on a motion from Victoria City Councillor and CRD Director Ben Isitt opposing the controversial waste-disposal facility in the neighbouring CVRD regional district.
His motion says that as the province appears to be on the verge of approving a contaminated soils facility that is vehemently opposed by residents served by the nearby watershed, and that their protests are backed up by significant scientific concerns, that the CRD board support the residents of Shawnigan Lake, the Cowichan communities and the Cowichan Valley Regional District is calling on the Province of British Columbia to invoke the precautionary principle and deny the waste discharge permit application for property at 460 Stebbings Rd. in Shawnigan Lake and that the CRD send its concerns on to the province.
By Bill Cleverley, Victoria Times Colonist, April 5, 2013
Victoria won’t be digging into the issue of the dumping of 100,000 tonnes a year of dirty dirt near Shawnigan Lake until it gets more information.
On Thursday, Coun. Ben Isitt wanted Victoria council to endorse a motion calling on the province to deny a waste-discharge permit to South Island Aggregates for its property at 460 Stebbings Rd. in Shawnigan Lake.
The provincial Environment Ministry has issued a draft permit to South Island Aggregates, which wants to expand its gravel-quarry business by allowing contaminated waste to be dumped in its mined pits.
Isitt’s motion also called on the province to amend its contaminated-site regulations to take into account local government input and land-use regulations.
“It’s consistent with the position adopted by the Cowichan Valley Regional District Board related to their concerns over the disposal of contaminated soil within the Shawnigan Lake watershed,” said Isitt, adding there may also be connections to the aquifer that leads into the Sooke watershed. “The precautionary principle should prevail and the city should place itself on record in requesting the provincial government decline a permanent licence for the disposal of soil.”
By Bill Cleverley, Victoria Times Colonist, March 27, 2013
Victoria wants the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority’s bylaws changed so it doesn’t have to get into another fight over who it to appoints to the body.
The city has written to harbour authority chairman Bill Wellburn calling for a general membership meeting to be held to amend its bylaws so that members’ appointees aren’t subject to vetting by the authority.
“This would essentially give each [harbour authority] member the right to appoint its [representative],” said Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt.
Victoria News, March 20, 2013
The topic of vehicle speed limits in residential neighbourhoods is up for discussion again at a public meeting March 27 at S.J. Willis school.
Speakers include representatives from Community Advocates for Reduced Speed and the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, plus Victoria councillors Shellie Gudgeon and Ben Isitt, Saanich Coun. Vic Derman and Oak Bay Coun. Michelle Kirby.
A Victoria council resolution to lower the default speed limit in B.C. from 50 to 40 kilometres per hour will be considered next month by the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities. Any change has to be mandated by the province. For more about the meeting, visit the Facebook page Public Forum on Municipal Speed Limits.
S.J. Willis school is at 923 Topaz Ave.