Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dope-growers must be homeowners?

While I was on the bus last week I met a man who is an immigrant from the US who said he loves Canada. I asked why, and he said he loves it because he has a license to grow medical marijuana here. He uses the stuff for arthritis pain and his contract with the government allows him to grow for himself and for compassion clubs.

I didn't ask him if he owns his own home, but according to an article by Matthew Burrows in the Georgia Straight recently, the Conservatives' new Bill C-15 will criminalize tenants who grow the weed, even for legitimate purposes. Here's the link:

I went to look for the bill to see if Burrows' conclusion might be correct, and I'm still not entirely sure if he's right or not. I was reading the Legislative Summary and I have to admit it made me crosseyed because there are so many variables, but it looks as if, depending on some of the variables, a person could get up to 14 years in jail for growing cannabis in someone else's property (I suppose this is where renting comes in), compared with only 7 or maybe even 5 years maximum if that and some other qualifiers are avoided. Sounds like a lot until you realize that the bill provides a maximum of life in prison for dealing in other drugs.

Here's the section about mandatory minimum sentences, from the Lebislative Summary of the bill written last January, 2009 (the summary has a disclaimer saying it doesn't assert that it is really accurate about the content of the bill itself - it's not ). I put sections that seemed relevant to marihuana sentencing in bold, in case you want to try to unravel it yourself.

A. Clauses 1 to 3: Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Sections 5 to 7 of the CDSA deal with, respectively, the offences of trafficking in a controlled substance, importing and exporting such a substance, and the production of a controlled substance. Clauses 1 to 3 of Bill C-15 amend each of these sections.

The current section 5(3)(a) of the CDSA makes trafficking in a substance included in Schedule I or II an indictable offence. The maximum punishment for this offence is imprisonment for life. This measure reflects the seriousness with which these substances are viewed, particularly the opiates and coca and its derivatives found in Schedule I. One exception is found in section 5(4) of the Act and concerns trafficking in Schedule II substances, mainly cannabis and its derivatives. Should the amount trafficked not exceed the amounts set out in Schedule VII to the Act (3 kg of cannabis resin or cannabis [marihuana]), the maximum possible punishment is imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years less a day.

Clause 1 of Bill C-15 amends section 5(3)(a) of the CDSA to provide in certain circumstances for mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for the offence of trafficking in a substance included in Schedule I or in Schedule II if the amount of the Schedule II substance exceeds the amount for that substance set out in Schedule VII. There will be a minimum punishment of imprisonment for one year if certain aggravating factors apply: the offence was committed for a criminal organization, as that term is defined in section 467.1(1) of the Criminal Code (a group of three or more people whose purpose is to commit serious offences for material benefit); there was the use or threat of the use of violence in the commission of the offence; a weapon was carried, used or threatened to be used in the commission of the offence; or the offender was convicted of a designated substance offence, or had served a term of imprisonment for a designated substance offence, within the previous 10 years. A “designated substance offence” is defined in section 2 of the CDSA to mean any of the offences in sections 4 to 10 of the CDSA, except the offence of possession of a substance found in Schedule I, II, or III to the Act, as set out in subsection 4(1).

Clause 1 amends the CDSA to impose a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of two years if certain other aggravating factors apply, including that the offence was committed in or near a school, on or near school grounds, or in or near any other public place usually frequented by persons under the age of 18 years. Defining such places may prove to be difficult. The use of the term “community centre” in former subsection 810.1(3)(b) as a restriction on the movements of those who may commit a sexual offence against a child was found to be overly broad and, therefore, a violation of section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.(59) The minimum two-year punishment will also be imposed if the offender used the services of a person who is under 18 years of age, or involved such a person, in committing the offence or committed the offence in a prison, or on its grounds. The term “prison” is defined in section 2 of the Criminal Code to include a penitentiary, common jail, public or reformatory prison, lock-up, guard-room or other place in which persons who are charged with or convicted of offences are usually kept in custody.

New section 5(3)(a.1) of the CDSA reenacts the current section 5(4) of the CDSA and imposes a maximum punishment of imprisonment for five years less a day if the trafficking offence is for a small amount of cannabis or its derivatives, as listed in Schedule II.

The current section 6(3)(a) of the CDSA makes the importing into Canada or exporting from Canada of a substance included in Schedule I or II of the Act or the possession of such a substance for the purpose of exporting it from Canada an indictable offence. The maximum punishment for this offence is imprisonment for life. Lesser maximum punishments apply if the offence is committed in relation to substances in the other schedules.

Clause 2 of Bill C-15 imposes a mandatory minimum punishment of imprisonment for one year if the offence is committed for the purpose of trafficking and the substance involved is included in Schedule I and is in an amount that does not exceed one kilogram, or is listed in Schedule II. The minimum punishment will also apply if the offender, while committing the offence, abused a position of trust or authority or had access to an area that is restricted to authorized persons (such as in an airport) and used that access to commit the offence.(60) As in clauses 1 and 3, the maximum punishment of imprisonment for life is retained. Under new section 6(3)(a.1), the mandatory minimum punishment increases to two years’ imprisonment if the Schedule I substance that is trafficked is in an amount that exceeds one kilogram.

The current section 7(2)(a) of the CDSA makes the production of a substance included in Schedule I or II of the Act, other than cannabis (marihuana), an indictable offence with a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life. Subsection 7(2)(b) of the CDSA makes the production of cannabis (marihuana) an indictable offence with a maximum punishment of seven years’ imprisonment.

Clause 3 of Bill C-15 imposes a mandatory minimum punishment of imprisonment for two years if the subject matter of the production offence is a substance included in Schedule I, with a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life. The mandatory minimum punishment is increased to three years if any of the health and safety factors listed in new section 7(3) apply. These health and safety factors are:

the offender used real property that belongs to a third party to commit the offence;
■the production constituted a potential security, health or safety hazard to persons under the age of 18 years who were in the location where the offence was committed or in the immediate area;
■the production constituted a potential public safety hazard in a residential area; or
■the accused placed or set a trap that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to another person in the location where the offence was committed.

If the substance produced is one listed in Schedule II, other than cannabis (marihuana), new section 7(2)(a.1) imposes a mandatory minimum punishment of imprisonment for one year if the production is for the purpose of trafficking, or for a term of 18 months if the production is for the purpose of trafficking and any of the health and safety factors listed above apply. If the subject matter of the production offence is cannabis (marihuana), subsection 7(2)(b) will double the maximum possible term of imprisonment from 7 to 14 years.

Mandatory minimum punishments will also be introduced for the production of cannabis (marihuana), with their length depending upon the number of marihuana plants produced. The term of imprisonment will be at least six months if the number of plants produced is more than 5(61) and fewer than 201 and the production is for the purpose of trafficking. The minimum penalty increases to nine months where the number of plants produced is fewer than 201, the production is for the purpose of trafficking, and any of the health and safety factors also apply. If the number of plants produced is more than 200 and fewer than 501, the minimum term of imprisonment is one year, which increases to 18 months if any of the health and safety factors apply. The minimum term of imprisonment will be two years if the number of plants produced is more than 500, which will increase to three years if any of the health and safety factors apply. There is no mention of the production being for the purposes of trafficking when the number of plants is more than 200.

You can read more about this bill at: The summary includes some things about the debate over mandatory minimum sentences, and yet it also refers to the establishment of Drug Treatment Courts.

Don't rely on any of this as legal advice. I'm not a lawyer and am only skimming the surface in looking at this bill.

All of the bill except sections 10 and 11 are apparently awaiting a date announcement about when they go into force. [There is no description of any section 10 or 11 in the legislative summary, so perhaps they are sections expunged in previous revisions].

There was one section of the summary that suggested that growers of medical marijuana are being limited by law to growing only enough for themselves and one other patient. Here's that section:

In addition, the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations(23) allow for authorizations to possess marihuana to be issued to those persons who can prove a medical need for it. A holder of a personal-use production licence is also authorized to produce and keep marihuana for the medical purpose of the holder.(24) A specific limitation on the lawful source of supply of dried marihuana was declared invalid as contrary to section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 2008.(25) The one-grower-to-one-user ratio was held to unjustifiably limit the ability of authorized persons to access their marihuana for medical purposes. This decision was confirmed by the Federal Court of Appeal.(26) In response, the government published in the Canada Gazette on 27 May 2009 Regulations Amending the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations.(27) These proposed changes will double the current ratio, making it one grower to two users. The explanation accompanying the proposed amendments states that a full review of the access to medical marihuana is required given that the program was never intended to facilitate the widespread, potentially large-scale production of marihuana for medical purposes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Mt. Pleasant Library Now Open

After some delay past the announced date, the new Mt. Pleasant Branch libary at the new Mt. Pleasant Community Centre is finally open. The address is 1 Kingsway. Here's the web page that has the hours, buses that stop there, etc., on it.

Unlike when the branch was in Kingsgate Mall, it's now going to be open 7 days a week, 9-9. except 9-6 on Sunday. However, it will be closed Dec. 24-26, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.

After a few trips just looking into the windows(including on the announced opening date when it didn't actually open), I finally went inside.

It seemed to me quite an oddly shaped space and a pretty tight fit to maneuver in some areas. The entranceway is narrow and the checkout desk is right by the door. This would theoretically allow the librarian there to stop anyone who set off the alarm at the entranceway, but I noticed that with long lines and only one checkout clerk they didn't actually have enough staff behind the desk to enforce that.

There are a LOT of computer terminals there, in more than one room, and most of them were busy when I went, not just with people looking up books but also doing other kinds of communication.

I suspect it may not actually have more shelf space than the original Mt. Pleasant Library in Kingsgate Mall had - but of course it has more shelves than the temporary, transitional library in the mall (except paperback racks, which seem to be fewer and are also way in the back). They also don't yet have any racks of used books for sale there. I had brought a bagful of paperbacks to donate, so I hope they will be able to put them out soon.

One of the aunties thought it very convenient that there is a display of new books and fast reads face-out just at the entrance. The face-out shelves should help them make the most of the few new books they can afford in this era of library cuts.

One of the strangest things in this library is a gas-burning fake fireplace, in the back where there are also a few comfortable chairs for sitting in to read. Although the fireplace is completely enclosed in glass, seeing actual flames in a room full of paper seems a bit disturbing.

There are a lot of large windows in the library, but one of the aunties commented she thought it seemed rather dark inside. It will be even darker after the multi-storey condo developments planned for the surrounding properties go up.

The landscaping around the outside is not finished yet. One of the aunties commented that the city must have spent several thousand dollars apiece for the tall trees with root-balls they bought to plant alongside. Some medium-sized trees with root-balls were left on the ground unplanted and unguarded over a weekend and we noticed they had gotten damaged by someone or something.

Despite my minor complaints, I expect to walk over there often. My next request will be for hitching posts where you can tie up your dogs while you go in.

The #99 bus now stops at Fraser

At long last, the #99 express bus to UBC is making stops at Broadway & Fraser. Previously it went straight from Clark to Main (and vice versa).

The first time I rode the 99 to that stop, last week, I commented to the bus driver that a lot of us had been trying for years to get that stop added to the route. He said that the new stop was creating havoc in the schedule, because it added three minutes to the route but the extra time had not been added in to the schedule. (One stop doesn't really take 3 minutes, but there was another new stop added to the route as well, farther west, and of course each stop occurs in each direction.)

One of the aunties raised the issue of the #99 bus not stopping at Fraser at one of the city planning consultations, where they were talking about development of the two blocks of Broadway just west of Fraser. Wanting the 99 to stop there was one suggestion everybody at the meeting strongly favoured. The planner told us that maybe getting the 99 to stop there would be the tradeoff for accepting 12-story building development along that stretch of Broadway.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Homeless Shelter in Mt. Pleasant Open House Jan 13

A temporary winter homeless shelter was announced today - its opening day - in Mt. Pleasant at 677 East Broadway. It is scheduled to be open until "no later than April 2010."

The shelter will be holding an open house on January 13, from 5 to 7 pm, if you want to see inside.

The shelter is one of several being provincially funded just from now until April 2010.

City staff was ordered to issue permits "on an expedited basis."

The location is the same piece of city property where the 12-story building for homesless and "hard to house" is being planned. It's right by the westbound Broadway & Fraser bus stop where the #9, #8, and now also the #99 buses stop.

I post below the letter I received in email from city housing planner . The letter came with two attachments, but as they are in .pdf I can't post them to the blog. Email her if you want to receive them.

One attachment states that city staff has been ordered to issue permits on an expedited basis so that provincial funds can be spent for temporary winter shelters around the city. The one is Mt. Pleasant is listed as 677 East Broadway - development permit #DE413544.

Here's the letter:

The Mount Pleasant Community Planning Team wishes to advise you of the following:
The City of Vancouver and the Province of BC are working with local non-profit operators in implementing a Winter Response to provide additional shelter capacity during the winter months. All shelters will be in neighbourhoods that have been identified as having a substantial homeless population but lacking adequate shelter resources. Shelter locations may include Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano, Downtown and Grandview-Woodlands.

On December 15th, council allocated $500,000 towards the Winter Response. Together with a $1.2 million contribution from the Province, funds will be used for renovations and shelter operations. All shelters opened as part of the 2010 Winter Response will operate for the winter months, closing no later than April 30th, 2010.
The first of these shelters will open tonight in the Mount Pleasant area at 677 East Broadway. The shelter will provide space for up to 40 homeless individuals each night. The shelter will be open 24/7 and will be operated by Raincity Housing and Support Society. An Open House will take place at the shelter on Wednesday January 13th, 2010 from 5 PM - 7 PM.

Please find attached a copy of the information letter sent out to neighbours of the shelter in addition to the Operations Management Plan provided by Raincity Housing. For more information please contact me via email or phone (noted below). You can also contact the shelter operator directly, contact information is provided in the attached letter.

<> <>

Thank you,
Andrea Gillman
Andrea Gillman
Housing Planner
City of Vancouver
phone: 604-873-7542
fax: 604-871-6488

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nov 18 - Dec 9, Mt. Pleasant Planning Workshops

Upcoming Mt. Pleasant Planning workshops:
Date Topic
November 18, 2009 Mt Pleasant Heritage and Character Workshop
November 25, 2009 Housing Addressing local and city-wide housing needs
December 2, 2009 Culture Promoting culture and addressing artists’ needs
December 9, 2009 Transportation Increasing pedestrian safety, promoting walking and biking, and addressing transit issues

I went to one of these planning workshops recently. The sandwiches were excellent, and people's ideas were excellent. However, we got the impression that the city planner has already made up her mind or had had her mind made up for her that zoning will be changed to allow and encourage not only one building but multiple buildings of up to 12 stories along the Fraser part of the Broadway corridor. The intention seems to be to use the one city building planned for the hard-to-house as the thin edge of the wedge for massive development. It was also shocking to see that several people who had had intentions to locate businesses along this part of Broadway had been turned down for zoning variances - a doctor's office and a restaurant, for example, were turned down on grounds that they didn't have a parking plan. This while buildings in our area have been allowed to sit vacant for months and years. What most people seemed to be saying, but not really listened to, is that there is not enough green space in our area to support this increase in density, and that we want to keep the neighbourhood a sound working-class neighbourhood. Also, almost everyone wanted the 99 bus to stop at Broadway & Fraser. I guess we'll get to talk about that again on December 9.

Here's a release about the next workshop:

from "Chew, Beverly"

dateMon, Nov 9, 2009 at 11:51 AM
subject Mt. Pleasant Heritage and Character Workshop


The next Residential Area Workshop for the Mount Pleasant Planning Program will be on Heritage and Character on NOVEMBER 18, 6-9pm. This workshop will focus on preserving buildings and enhancing heritage and character area in Mount Pleasant.
Please call me or reply to this e-mail to register for this important workshop. Feedback from the workshops will lead to the drafting of policies and plans for the residential areas in Mount Pleasant.

Feel free to forward this e-mail to your neighbours, and network or distribution list. Also, the Mount Pleasant Planning program is on FACEBOOK and TWITTER. Sign up for updates through facebook or twitter at - just click on the links on our homepage.

Sandwiches and snacks will be provided. Childcare is available upon request.
Upcoming workshops:
Date Topic
November 25, 2009 Housing Addressing local and city-wide housing needs
December 2, 2009 Culture Promoting culture and addressing artists’ needs
December 9, 2009 Transportation Increasing pedestrian safety, promoting walking and biking, and addressing transit issues

Beverly Chew
City of Vancouver
Community Planning Department

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Have your say on Green Space in Mt. Pleasant

fromChew, Beverly
dateFri, Oct 9, 2009 at 2:59 PM
subjectMount Pleasant Residential Area Workshops

hide details Oct 9 (1 day ago)

<> Greetings,
Fall is underway, and the best part about this season is the lovely crisp weather, just the right weather for coming out to a community workshop. The Mount Pleasant Planning Program is nearing it's final stages in the planning process, and we would like to invite you to a series of Residential Area Workshops, starting October 21, 2009. The first workshop will be on Parks and Open Space. This workshop will address issues related to parks, outdoor pools and playgrounds, greening streets and lanes, daylighting streams, and adding more community gardens and park space.

Mark this date on your calendar now. I've also included dates for the following workshops. Please feel free to contact me if you need additional information about the workshops or the planning program.

All workshops will be held at the Native Education Centre, 285 E. 5th Ave (at Scotia) from 6:00 - 9:00pm on Wednesdays.

A light dinner and refreshments will be provided.
October 21 - Parks and Open Space
October 28 - Safety, City Services, and Culture
November 18 - Heritage and Character
November 25 - Housing
December 9 - Transportation

Looking forward to seeing you at one of the workshops,

Beverly Chew
City of Vancouver
Community Planning Department

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Translink draws idiotic conclusion from survey!

Some months after answering an online survey from Translink, I received the following in email. I think their reasoning that $637 million was lost to the economy because people chose not to take single-occupancy-vehicle trips is truly insane.

Just because people don't take trips all alone in their cars doesn't mean they don't spend the money they want to spend! One, they might be spending it closer to home instead of driving into downtown - that would be great for their neighbourhoods. Two, they might be postponing their shopping until they can do more things in one trip, maybe a trip taken with someone else in the car.

I think we should be grateful that people are not taking so many trips alone in their cars to distant locations in the city. Keeping those cars from being used in a wasteful manner should be viewed as a goal, not a tragedy! There are places to shop all over the city, we don't need people getting into cars and driving like Zombies to any particular location without reflection.

Boo to Translink's rhetoric, and yay to sensible people in the Metro Vancouver area!

The Cost of Congestion to the Environment and the Economy

Dear Panelists,

Here is what you had to say about trips you don’t take by private vehicle because it’s too difficult to get there. We’ve made a calculation of the impact of this on the economy. Being stuck in traffic also impacts the environment, which this study indicates you highly value. The link to the full report in the Members’ Library is found at the bottom of this report.

Best Regards,

The Team at TransLink Listens


Metro Vancouver residents value both a healthy economy and a healthy environment. Their responses to a February, 2009, survey indicate that a transportation network in need of investment is costing us all. Although the Canada Line and Golden Ears Bridge have been opened since the time of the research, an efficient transportation network will continue to be a challenge, in part due to the large numbers of people forecast to move to Metro Vancouver.

NRG Research Group estimates that, based on results of an online survey completed by 2,621 Metro Vancouver residents in February, 2009,10.6 million single occupant vehicle trips were not made during the preceding year, 2008, due to congestion and lack of a simple, direct route. People choose simply not to make the trip because it’s too difficult to get there.

This resulted in residents not inputting an estimated $637 million into Metro Vancouver’s economy, largely in the retail, food and entertainment sectors.

NRG state that, “regardless of the accuracy of participants’ estimates, one thing is clear: Many Metro Vancouver residents believe that traffic congestion and routing problems are seriously impacting their ability to get around in a vehicle, and their purchasing in the area. Considering the size of BC’s economy, participants’ estimates suggest that they did not contribute what could have amounted to 4% of the relevant industries’ GDPs.”

In addition to simply not making some trips, drivers are driving alone less--mainly to save money (81%), but also to save time (60%), and due to environmental concerns (47%).

People are finding the following ways to save time and money on their single occupant vehicle travel:

#1 Combining SOV trips (56%)
#2 Switching SOV to transit, cycling, ride-share (41%)
#3 Changing the time of day for SOV trips (30%)
#4 Choosing a closer destination (29%)
#5 Replacing SOV with online solutions (28%)

In addition, more than half of drivers (58%) say they are being more diligent in their vehicle maintenance.

Attitudes toward the environment were explored in the same study. Close to 9 in 10 local residents (88%) are very or somewhat concerned about the environment and global warming.

The most effective solution to global warming, according to local residents is “governments worldwide taking unified action” (88%), followed by “planting more trees” (87%), “using renewable fuels” (83%) and “educating those unaware of the impact of their activities” (81%).

Although residents point to light cars and trucks as being the #2 source of global warming, they clearly want leadership and unified action on the environment.

“People want to make sure that their own individual actions to protect the environment are not offset by the actions of others who may not know what environmental damage they are doing.” says Richard Elias, Senior Researcher at NRG, who was responsible for the analysis in this report. “We think that’s part of the reason why ‘educating others [who are] unaware of the impact of their activities’ was seen as effective by four out of five local residents completing the study”.

Dr. Adam Di Paula, Senior Vice President of NRG, added:

“We are seeing unified action on the global economy. Perhaps now is the time for unified action on the environment. Better yet, maybe we could create economic solutions that also benefit the environment.”

This study underestimates the true value of congestion costs, as it focuses on the cost of lost passenger trips only, and not the cost of delays in goods movement and the cost of delays in people getting to places.

In the 2006 Transport Canada report, the costs associated with congestion in Vancouver (2003 numbers quoted in 2002 dollars) were estimated at three different thresholds of congestion (50%, 60% and 70%) and ranged from $403 Million to $629 million. The biggest component of this -- 93% of the total costs-- was the costs associated with being delayed. Other costs included the cost (at the 70% level) of 98 million litres of fuel and 243 thousand tonnes of GHG emissions. **

While the costs cited by Transport Canada can be quite substantial, they typically do not take into account the vehicle operating costs (beyond the cost of fuel), costs associated with increased emissions, costs associated with increased noise, costs associated with freight transportation, off-peak congestion costs, and congestion caused by non-recurrent events (bad weather, accidents, blockages, etc.). **

**Transport Canada: Environmental Affairs (March 2006 – Revised July 2007) The Cost of Urban Congestion in Canada.

This report is found on TransLink’s website at It is also published in the Members’ Library available to people who sign up to become on-line advisors to TransLink at NRG caution that it is difficult to assess the accuracy of residents’ estimates in an online survey. Actually keeping a diary of single occupant vehicle trips made and those that would have been made, if there were an easy way to get there, may be a more accurate method.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mt.Pleasant Community Planning Meeting

The Mt. Pleasant Community Planning Program will have a meeting September 20, 2009, called "Shopping Area Workshop #4." It will be a continuation of planning to develop Mt. Pleasant's shopping areas.

Workshop #4 will be about the future of Broadway West, UpTown, and Broadway & Fraser shopping areas, and the Main 2nd to 7th Avenues Commercial/Light Industrial Area.

The subject will be locations where change should occur, areas to be served by rapid transit [maybe we can get the 99 to stop at Broadway & Fraser!], sites for building more affordable housing [an SRO is going to be proposed for Broadway and Fraser - will there be enough supportive services to make that work?], or places in need of revitalization.

"Feedback from this workshop will lead to the drafting of design principles and policy plans for the shopping areas in Mt. Pleasant."

Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009
noon to 5 pm
Native Education College
285 East 5th Avenue

Registration required in order to arrange for food and seating. Call 604-829-2004 or email

For more info, visit

The release came from Peter Burch, Planner, Mt. Pleasant Community Planning Program.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Participatory Theatre about Women's Lives

Dear family, friends, allies, and supporters,
Vancouver Status of Women
is excited to present

A Theatre of the Oppressed Workshop for Women
Facilitated by Carmen Aguirre

Application Deadline: September 25th 2009
Application Form ... [email for a copy]

About the workshop:
Ignite is a workshop that seeks to create a space of dialogue where participants can explore their life experiences through theatre. Carmen Aguirre will guide the group through theatre games and exercises that lead participants into the gradual creation of scenes from the stories of their lives. Using these theatre tools participants can explore the challenges and possible avenues for action for their communities around issues such as race, class, gender, land, motherhood, immigration, religion, sexuality etc.

This is a FREE program. Food, bus passes, and on-site childcare will be provided. A small honorarium will also be granted to participants with full completion of the workshop.

Who can apply?
Women interested in using theatre to explore the challenges and possible avenues for change for their lives and the lives of their communities. No theatre experience necessary!

Women living with systemic barriers are especially encouraged to apply. This may include but it not limited to barriers around race, age, poverty, queer/lesbian/two-spirited/trans-identity, disability, single motherhood, displacement. Indigenous women and women of colour especially encouraged to apply. VSW if a trans inclusive organization and trans folks are especially encouraged to apply.

About Theatre of the Oppressed:
Created in Brazil in the 1960s by theatre practitioner Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed uses theatre as a tool to explore issues in a community. Using theatre games and exercises, the community creates a play based on their own stories, which they themselves perform. Theatre of the Oppressed has been practiced all over the world in the last forty years and is considered an important tool for healing and action in communities ranging from survivors of British Columbia's First Nations residential schools to youth struggling with addictions in the downtown eastside.

About Carmen Aguirre:
Carmen is an award-winning theatre artist who has written and co-written fifteen plays, including Chile Con Carne, The Trigger, and The Refugee Hotel. She is currently working on her one-woman show Blue Box, commissioned by Toronto's Nightswimming Theatre. As an actor, Carmen has sixty film, tv, and stage acting credits. She has been directing for the last sixteen years, most recently Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters at Studio 58, which landed on The Vancouver Courier's Top Ten Plays of 2007 list. She is currently directing the world premiere of The Refugee Hotel in Toronto. Carmen was the founder and director of Vancouver's The Latino Theatre Group, which ran from 1994 to 2002. The Latino Theatre Group created and performed twenty-five Forum Theatre plays on themes ranging from racism to safe sex, inter-generational conflict, exile, family violence, police violence, sexual abuse, homophobia, and sexism. The group also created and performed two full-length plays, ?QUE PASA with LA RAZA, eh? and Spics n' Span at The Firehall Arts Centre. Carmen trained as a Theatre of the Oppressed/Forum Theatre facilitator with Headlines Theatre Company and with Victoria's Puente Theatre from 1992 to 1996. Further training with the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed, Augusto Boal, happened in Brazil in 1993 and Seattle in 1997. As a freelance Theatre of the Oppressed facilitator, Carmen has worked with: The Vancouver School Board, Fort Nelson First Nations, Seton Lake Indian Band, The Boys' and Girls' Club of Greater Vancouver, OXFAM, Kitsilano Community Centre, Neworld Theatre, The Purple Thistle Centre, No One Is Illegal, Theatre Terrific, Theatrix, The Vancouver Playhouse, The Environmental Youth Alliance, The Anti-Racism Neighbourhood Network, YouthCo, and Studio 58. Carmen is a graduate of Studio 58. More about Carmen Aguirre at:

Workshop dates/time: Seven Monday evenings, 6pm-9pm:
Monday October 5
Monday October 12 (note: this is a holiday)
Monday October 19
Monday November 2
Monday November 9
Monday November 16
Monday November 23

Workshop location:
Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House
800 East Broadway, at Prince Albert Street
Vancouver – Coast Salish Territory
*Please note that Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House is wheelchair accessible*

How to apply?
Fill out the application form attached and send your completed form to
María Escolán at 604-255-7508 (fax) or

Ignite will also need a few volunteers for logistical support. Please let us know if you want to be a volunteer/participant by emailing María Escolán at

Maria Escolan
Women's Centre Coordinator
Vancouver Status of Women
2652 East Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC V5K 1Z6
Phone 604-255-6554 Fax 604-255-7508

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Skunk Season! %#@

There seem to be an unusually large number of skunks in the hood this summer. They also seem to be very nervous and spray at the slightest disturbance. Almost every night one of them lets off in the vicinity of our home and the smell comes in the window. They usually do this around 3 to 4 am, and the smell wakes me up.

Tonight I made the mistake of letting the dogs out when they barked and they caught a skunk full in the face. This is the second time it's happened in 3 years. This time I didn't let them back in the house for more than a second. Still, the smell is suffocating. Here's the recipe that seems the most vouched for for skunk smell. I can hardly wait til the drugstore opens and I can try to buy a gallon of peroxide!

Whatever you do, don't bring a freshly skunked pooch into the house! The dog will rub on things and tranfer the smell, then the whole house will smell like a skunk. If you must bring him in, wrap him in something washable until you get to the bathtub.

Skunk Smell Remover
1 quart 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
1/4 cup Baking Soda
2 tbsp Dish Detergent. The stuff for washing dishes in the sink, not something for dishwashers.
Mix the ingredients in a large bowl, because it will boil up like Vesuvius. We are, after all, making an oxygen generator. Wash the dog with this while it is still foaming, because it is the oxygen which reacts with the thiols in the skunk stink to neutralize the odor. If it sits around, it will loose it's efficacy because the oxygen boils off. Don't try to store it in an airtight container, because it will blow up. The brew also works for clothes, humans and unlucky cats.

Sometimes being chased by a dog is not enough to scare a polecat off the property, in which case, mothballs will do the trick.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Current State of Community Television in Metro Vancouver

Vancouver used to be among the best of the world's cities in terms of having public access to community television. There were local facilities very near if not actually in Mt. Pleasant back then. Now, many parts of the world, including in Asia, the US, and Latin America, have passed us as we went backwards. Here's the story from one who was there. - FW

Current State of Community Television in Metro Vancouver

By Sid Chow Tan, August 13, 2009

A dozen years ago, government regulators and cable companies delivered a near lethal blow to community television. The government ruling and self-serving interpretation by dominant cable operators Rogers and Shaw led to the dismantling of community television thousands strong volunteer networks and local office infrastructure and resources in Metro Vancouver. This near death scenario continues, seemingly with government and corporate collusion, and begs for a judicial review. As well, the Auditor General should review the $800-million in public money handed to cable companies across Canada on behalf of community television the past ten years. That’s $60-million to Rogers and Shaw in Metro Vancouver the last ten years. In 2003, a Senate (the Lincoln) report stated its “frustration” and “dismay” that no information exists on what happens to cable company expenditures on behalf of community television. There’s no way to find out if citizens got their money’s worth!

In Public Broadcasting Notice 1997-25:131, the government regulator - the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) - handed community television to cable companies. It boldly and trustingly states: “This policy reflects the Commission's belief that opportunities for local expression would continue to be provided in the absence of a regulatory requirement. In the Commission's view, after more than twenty-five years of operation, the community channel has achieved a level of maturity and success such that it no longer needs to be mandated. Apart from its benefits to the public through local reflection, the community channel provides cable operators with a highly effective medium to establish a local presence and to promote a positive corporate image for themselves.”

The Commission’s boldness was mistaken and its trust misplaced. On November 19, 1996, more than three months before the new policy announcement, Rogers began shutting down its neighbourhood television offices, beginning with 1010 Commercial Drive. Thousands of volunteers and dozens of staff worked in this and another sixteen or so community television studios and offices throughout Metro Vancouver. In Vancouver alone, there was a full studio along with four neighbourhood community television offices – two in Kitsilano, one in the West End and the Commercial Drive location. Volunteer community-based productions such as Complaint Department, Production Parade, Metro Magazine, Chinatown Today, Global Justice, Pressure Point and East Side Story dominated the then Rogers cable community channel. The programming opportunities, production training in local offices, mentorship and extensive volunteer networks are all but gone from Shaw, now the dominant cable operator in the region through a swap of assets with Rogers in 2001.

Shortly after Rogers announced the closure of the Commercial Drive office, the volunteers there hastily constituted a not-for-profit society to weather the anticipated corporate assault on community television. Rogers, taking flak for the closures, agreed to support the volunteers for two years while Community Media Education Society was organised to safeguard the spirit and legacy of community television. Two workgroups developed. One to work on regulatory and public education efforts and the other to continued the production of community television programs. The production workgroup begat three not-for-profit community television corporations. First came Independent Community Television Co-operative, then Vancouver Community Television Association and ACCESS TV (Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society), which initiated and helps produce FearlessTV and Saltwater City Television. Along with the Slim Evans Society, best known for its Working TV. All now have regular timeslots on Shaw’s local cable community channel. None receives any financial support from the public funds collected by Shaw - an estimated $6-million annually in Metro Vancouver.

Now Shaw’s cable community channel is called Shaw TV and its community television in Metro Vancouver is directed from the Shaw tower at Coal Harbour. Ironically, with a studio there, volunteers from Vancouver need to go to Surrey for studio production. Volunteers from Port Moody need to come to downtown Vancouver to pick up a camera to do a shoot in Port Moody and then return the gear. Shaw’s appreciation of community-based volunteers is underscored by their miserly ways towards them. Volunteers and non-profit groups pay for all transportation, parking, refreshment and tape expenses for their productions. Yet Shaw has the public money to provide the same to its production personnel, including company vehicles. More miserly and destructive was the shutdown of local offices and studios and laying off production staff over the past eight years. Shaw continues to believe and explain community television is better after cuts to local offices and staff and loss of the volunteer network. These are dastardly deeds and show Shaw’s corporate greed trumping community need.

A judicial review is in order. The Broadcasting Act clearly states the Canadian broadcast system is comprised of public, private and community elements providing a public service essential to the maintenance and enhancement of national identity and cultural sovereignty. Yet the CRTC, our broadcast regulator mandated to uphold the Broadcasting Act, believes the community element no longer needs to be a regulatory requirement for cable operators. The resultant confusion allowed cable companies such as Shaw to refuse broadcast of programs produced by not-for-profits. This was a clear violation of CRTC rules and the spirit of community television. A judicial review may explain why cable companies receive and control the entire cable community channel levy, leaving not-for-profit groups to fundraise for their community television needs. There is no logic when community programming produced by volunteers is only available by subscribing to a corporate service. Unbelievably, the CRTC says Vancouver cannot have a low power community television is because there is no room on the broadcast spectrum. There’s room for public and private broadcasters but none for a community broadcaster, one of three elements in the Canadian broadcasting system. How is that fair?

Canada has played a central role in the development of community television and is considered by many to be the birthplace of community broadcasting. The community element was developed to provide local groups with training to access the broadcasting system. Community broadcasting, which is local, volunteer-based and largely not-for-profit, is often able to broadcast a diverse range of voices, alternative points of view, and innovative programming ideas. In January 2008, CRTC Broadcasting Public Notice 2008-4 announced a comprehensive review of its policies with respect to community-based radio and television. The objective of this review will be to ensure that the Commission’s regulatory policy supports the development of a healthy community broadcasting sector. Over two months have passed and there is still no information available on when the review will begin.

Given the community television carnage wrought by Shaw and Rogers in Metro Vancouver, one could say the CRTC’s review is too little to late. It would be better to have a judicial review of the current state of community television. At the least, the Auditor General should let citizens know what happened to the $800-million in public money given to cable companies. The worrisome lesson here is that the federal government can hand the public trust of community television to cable companies, who want citizens to be passive consumers and not active makers of media.

For more on community television, go to and see CRTC Broadcasting Public Notices 1991-59, 1997-25 and 2002-61. You can email cmes @ if you want to get involved in community television.


Sid Chow Tan has been a community television volunteer for over twenty years. He help found and has been or currently is a director of Community Media Education Society, Independent Community Television Co-operative (Vancouver and Victoria), ACCESS TV (Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society), W2 Community Media Arts Society and Slim Evans Society, which produces workingTV.

Your Help Needed to Reinstate Community TV in Vancouver

Yesterday, I met Sid Chow Tan, who is one of the elders of community media in Vancouver. He told me more about what excellent community TV access Vancouver used to have, and about the many groups that are coalescing to ask to have this service restored. Here's a website and a letter he forwarded to me - I'll also blog his history of the Vancouver community TV:

Dear Friends of community-access TV:

CACTUS needs your help to prepare for the review of the community TV
sector. The hearings are scheduled for Feb. 1st, and the call for
comments is likely to be posted in late September.

We need your help now, to contact and ask support from many
organizations and individuals across the country. We'd like to
familiarize them with CACTUS' position before the call for comments is
published, and are asking for help for members willing to make phone
calls during the last week of August and September.

In a nutshell, CACTUS is asking that:

1) a new production fund be established to which independent community
production groups can apply to set up their own community-access

2) that these channels will be multi-platform access centres that may
hold a radio and television license simultaneously, broadcast over the
air, teach web design and webstream programming, and share resources
with other community organizations that specialize in communications;
for example, community newspapers, libraries, theatres. The idea is
that the community should be able to "one-stop-shop" if they have a
project that they want to get the message out about. We envision that
this model will leverage existing infrastructure, be efficient, is
flexible enough to evolve in the future, and will enhance the
understanding of media literacy in the community. It is becoming more
and more common around the world.

3) We will ask that the programming produced have must-carry status
on cable, Telcos, and any other distributors that serve the area so
that the signal will be truly accessible to all.

Here are some of the groups that we want to contact during the next 6
weeks. If you have a particular interest or already have good
contacts with any of these groups and are willing to spend time on the
phone, please contact Cathy Edwards ASAP:

- video and filmmaking co-operatives, including IFVA, the Independent
Film and Video Alliance
- municipalities and town councils
- university closed circuit television channels
- well-known people who got their start on community TV (e.g. Mike
Meyers, Dan Ackroyd, Tom Green, Guy Madden)
- other organizations that have intervened at recent hearings in
support of community media and diversity; for example, Friends of
Canadian Broadcasting, the Canadian Conference on the Arts, guilds and
professional associations whose members historically received training
at community-access channels.
- MPs
- community service organizations, non-profits, etc. that benefit from
exposure on community TV
- organizations that promote media literacy, equal access to IT,
Internet access, etc.
- others that you can think of

What would help is if you are willing to take on one category to
contact. We will help prepare you with the phone script, sample
letters of support that the contactees might send in, etc. Aside from
helping out the sector now that we've finally got a committed hearing,
it's an opportunity for you to network with like-minded individuals.

If you can help, please call Cathy at (819) 772-2862.

The CACTUS Team.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

front porch farmers' markets


A farmer's life is feast or famine. During the long hot days of summer, crops are flourishing and farmers' markets gathering twice a week to sell the bounty. Any harvest a farm can't sell now, will go to waste, or if another few hours can be found at the end of a 16hr day, maybe a few surplus raspberries will get frozen for winter sale. Come winter though, farmers markets dwindle and local fresh food becomes less abundant—what a farmer makes in the summer better carry the cost of farm and family through the rest of the year.

Front porches all over Greater Vancouver are joining a movement to smooth out the feast and the famine farmers experience by becoming 'mini farmers markets' every week. Yes, that's right, front porches--and car ports and even play houses are being converted for a few hours every week into pick-up spots for those ordering their foods through an on-line farmers market. Established by a group of loyal local foodies and farmers market groupies, NOWBC Co-op (Neighbours Organic Weekly) has organized this on-line farmers market and neighbourhood delivery system. By scooping the summer's excess and bringing farmers' bounty to any neighbourhood in the city where it is wanted, when the feast is on, the co-op can help farmers reach more people and get all of their food sold.

“There is no farmers market here, the closest is Kits, but with the kids and busy weekends, I just don't get there.” says Joanna Michal of Dunbar, who gets food through NOWBC. Now it doesn't matter whether there's a farmers market near a person, or if a person is available during the hours a market is open, they can still get food from these small local farms through a front porch near them. And it doesn't stop at the end of the summer. When the feast is over, the on-line farmers market continues running year round--because farmers keep farming, even in winter here. “We're getting ready to to transplant our fall and winter crops of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards and brussels sprouts” Christopher Bodnar of Glen Valley Organic Farm reports. Though winter crops may be less plentiful, there is still harvest, just very few places to sell it. “One of the challenges for small-scale farms is finding appropriate outlets to market their products.” says Bodnar.

NOWBC Co-op is a 50% volunteer run co-op interested in sustainable foods, the 100 mile diet and supporting our local organic growers. There are currently 25 of these pick-up spots around and about the city, and the number is growing. Front porches have been volunteered in Mt Pleasant, Riley Park, North Van, Dunbar, UBC, Fairview, Renfrew Heights, Commercial Drive, Coquitlam, New West—you name it. To check-out the on-line market and look for one of these farmers market drop-offs, or start one in your own neighbourhood, go to or email

Meg O'Shea orders food from NOWBC's on-line farmers market, “I choose to buy through NOWBC because I know the organization has done my homework for me, selecting farmers and producers who supply local, organic, REAL food.”

For more information contact:

Joanna Michal - 604-222-0262
NOWBC Co-op Community Outreach

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ask Shaw for Community TV Channel(s)

Shaw Cable/Telephone/Internet Broadband company is one of the businesses located in Mt. Pleasant. You can see a building with their name of it on Great Northern Way near the VCC Clark Sky Train Station.

Shaw is really pushing to get subscribers for the digital service. I looked at what they offer, but all I saw was more and more channels of the same to me irrelevant stuff. I decided to call their number and put in my request for community TV channels. The place to talk about this turns out to be by calling their 1-800-950-7429 and choosing the options for cable service and change or order new service. A woman on the line took my request, said she'd pass it on, and said if enough people asked for that, they might offer it. Here's what I asked for:

Community TV channels.

As someone who is very interested in local events and issues, I have long wished that Vancouver was like other major cities in having dedicated cable channels for community TV programming. Years ago Vancouver had a community TV production facility and at least one dedicated cable channel, but subsequent cable company owners dumped that service in the interest of using those channels to make more money. There is some "community" programming on Shaw Channel 4, because community program access is mandated by the CRTC, but very little of it comes from the community video production companies (Vancouver now has 6 of them, I've heard), and it's only half an hour at a time, and editorially controlled by Shaw.

Now that digital TV is coming in, there is the possibility to offer way more channels than anybody could ever watch. What this means is that "narrowcasting" - content for smaller segments of the audience, is going to be much more important. If you have some of those hundreds of channels for community programming, you can have a meaningful share of the audience for a skilled amateur production about iris gardening or speeches from a conference or storytelling or bicycle repair.

Shaw Channel 4 is supposedly a community channel - they have some shows of their own that cover people in the community, and because of a court case they also now allow little half-hour blocks scattered here and there for the work of local community TV production groups that are not part of Shaw. You will see Shaw's disclaimer before each of these segments airs, saying that they are forced by the CRTC to offer this time.

But there are at least six well-established independent television production companies in this town. They go to all sorts of events and videotape them, and I really love to watch these things. Right now, I have to watch online or go to a special screening if I want to watch, for example, the keynote speakers from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Convention, or panelists from the Where's the Money in the Media? event held at Vivo in May (both recorded by Working TV). I would like to be able to turn on the TV any time of day and see local community events and ideas.

In a related trend, community video groups have joined up with the W2 project and will be putting a multimedia centre into the old Woodwards building on Hastings Street, downtown, where members of the public will be able to video events and get production training.

What is most lacking is to get the channel space for community people to air their work.

Why don't you phone up Shaw, too, and ask for some community TV channels? You dial 1-800-950-7429 and press 1 for English (or choose Chinese), 1 for residential service, and then 1 to order or change your service. Tell them what you want, and let's see if we can get it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A look beneath the surface

Marcus Bingham of the Forest Science Department, University of British Columbia, was telling me about the role of fungi in linking the roots of different kinds of plants under the surface of the soil, and actually transferring carbon from one kind of plant to another. He sent me this link, from which the photo below was taken: He says it's an "ectomycorrhizal (‘ecto’ is a particular classification of mycorrhiza) root system of a conifer seedling."

Mycorrhizae. ALBERTON, O., & KUYPER, T. (2009). Ectomycorrhizal fungi associated with seedlings respond differently to increased carbon and nitrogen availability: implications for ecosystem responses to global change. Global Change Biology, 15 (1), 166-175 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2008.01714.x

The site at the link also has interesting things to say about how excess carbon affects the relationship of plants to each other. For example, an excess proportionally of carbon turns into excess sugar in plants and reduces the percentage of nitrogen in their diet (nitrogen, which builds protein). So, the more carbon we put into the environment, the more we put the plants (and ourselves, as plant-eaters, as well as the plant-eaters we eat) into sugar shock and protein deficiency.

Time to stop driving and start walking!

Here's another link related to the problem of excess carbon in the atmosphere - it's a radio program and you can download it by right-clicking your mouse on the link and choosing save-as. Play it in your ipod while you're walking, eh?

WINGS #12-09 The Atmosphere Trust Time: 28:40. Protecting the atmosphere is a trust for future generations.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Translink Survey on Funding Closes June 30

This is their consultation. - FW

Important Choices - Transportation Projects and Funding - Survey Closes June 30


Dear TransLink Listens Advisor,

You are cordially invited to participate in TransLink's "It's Your Move" on-line public consultation exercise (which takes about 15 minutes or more) and then complete a short survey about the transportation plan for the next 10 years.

This is your opportunity to tell us what you think regional transportation planning priorities should be over the next ten years and how you think we should pay for them.

As an added incentive to participate - those who participate in the exercise and complete the survey by June 30, 2009 will be entered into a contest to win one of five cash prizes:

- Two prizes of $500 cash
- Three prizes of $100 cash

We are increasing the prizes to acknowledge panelists' time in becoming familiar with Transport 2040, the 30-year vision for the region. In addition, TransLink Listens provides significant research cost savings.

The proposed 10-year Plan, and ways to pay for it, is just the start. Your decisions will be instrumental in setting the course for the liveability of the Region, and we hope that providing this information will assist you in making informed decisions. The results of this consultation will be reported to TransLink's Board of Directors.

Watch for the most important survey in TransLink's history, on TransLink Listens July 3, 2009. We hope you'll be a part of it.



The TransLink Listens Team

Neighbourhoods Pissed at Translink Planning

Copies of this letter are circulating in email. It challenges the notion that public "consultation" means giving the public time to hear and object but not any time to get their heads together and to effectively raise alternatives. Maybe with Kevin Falcon moving from the Transportation Ministry to Health, his heavy-handed style will be lifted from Transportation? (But moved to Health? - shudder) -FW:

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver

June 24, 2009

TransLink Board of Directors
1600 - 4720 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC V5H 4N2

Attention: Mr. Tom Prendergast, CEO

Re: TransLink’s Transport 2040 - Consultation on the 10 yr. Funding Plan
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver is a City of Vancouver wide organization of neighbourhood groups that includes about 30 residents' associations, CityPlan Vision implementation committees, ratepayers’ associations and community groups. We are commenting on the current and proposed TransLink funding models. Since TransLink's Transport 2040 and Metro Vancouver's 2040 Regional Growth Strategy were drafted in parallel, we are also including some of our comments on Metro's 2040 proposal which is interrelated with TransLink. Please consider this letter as part of our comments to TransLink under your consultation process.

Our concerns are mainly related to TransLink using real estate development, rezoning and land speculation to fund transit. The substantial change to use real estate to fund transit was done without public consultation and we adamantly oppose this direction. We support TransLink having a stable source of funding from Provincial and Federal taxation sources and abandoning the use of real estate speculation.

Our comments to date for TransLink funding sources are as follows:

1) Do not use property taxes or real estate development - Transit is a responsibility of the Provincial and Federal governments, so the funding sources
should be from those senior level sources of taxation not from the few civic sources of taxation. Therefore, property taxes and real estate development / rezoning / land lift should all be off the table as they are sources for civic fund raising for civic amenities. If these sources are used to fund transit then the Province is downloading onto the municipalities. There is a systemic conflict of interest for Translink to be both a regulator of land use policy and a real estate speculator / developer. There has been no public consultation to date to justify this direction or to having an unelected appointed Board of Directors.

2) Transit funding should be based on polluter-pay rather than user-pay principals[sic]- Transit fares should be lowered to encourage transit ridership. Those who pollute should pay more for transit through increased gas taxes, carbon taxes, variable vehicle levies, road user fees, parking fees, goods movement fees, or other polluter based charges.

3) The balance of funds should come from Provincial and Federal taxation sources-The municipalities only collect 10% of taxes while Provincial and Federal governments collect the remaining 90%. Senior governments must stop downloading onto municipalities as described above in #1. Any shortfall in funding should be provided by the Province and the Feds.

4) Increase and improve TransLink’s public consultation process -
There has not been broad public consultation on TransLink’s direction or funding. We think that one rather confused workshop for the whole City of Vancouver is not adequate. Most residents do not know what the options are or that TransLink is proposing to use real estate development as the future main Transit funding source based on a Honk Kong model. This has never been publicly debated.

The main comments we have on TransLink's involvement in the Metro Regional Growth Strategy are as follows:

Our concerns with this proposal are mainly related to a substantial change of governance for municipal planning process, lack of clarity in the Metro proposal, and using the Regional Growth Strategy to give TransLink, which is now in the land development business, undo influence in municipal planning.

1) We oppose Metro, Provincial and TransLink regulation of municipal Official Community Plans (OCP): Unlike previous regional growth plans, this draft proposes shifting the authority over land use decisions. The Regional Context Statements and the Official Community Plans (OCP) would require Metro Board approval for compliance to the Regional Growth Strategy; TransLink approval of the OCP and large developments for implications to the regional transportation system; and
Provincial approval for developments along highways. This is an attack on the principle of subsidiarity; it would make municipal officials less accountable and public involvement in planning virtually meaningless. Municipalities should retain control over land use planning and approvals within their boundaries.

If Metro's intent is to protect green zones and industrial areas, then any regional authority should be restricted to absolute protection for green zones and qualified protection for industrial areas and only these should be required to be shown on a map. Metro should have no authority over or formal input into land use policy other than green zones and industrial areas. We do not support the City of Vancouver's motion amendment D that proposes regional land use 'input' for Urban Centres and Frequent Transit Development Corridors, as the wording is ambiguous and could be
construed as adoption of policies or plans that have not been subject to local area planning and Community Vision implementation under City Plan. Also, because of TransLink’s real estate development conflict of interest, TransLink should be allowed to review and comment only, without any authority over land use policy.

2) TransLink's conflicted roll [sic] as both planning regulator and developer: Land lift is a municipal asset that is used to provide amenities such as community centers, parks, and facilities. TransLink has been given a mandate to raise funds through real estate speculation, rezoning and land lift to pay for transit which is primarily a provincial responsibility. We strongly oppose this downloading onto municipal governments. It appears that the Province is using the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy to facilitate TransLink real estate dealings by giving this unelected board authority over land use decisions that could override municipalities. Since TransLink and their private development partners would have a financial stake in those decisions, conflicts of interest would be systemic.

3) Regional growth strategies are too prescriptive: The details outlined on pages 16-18 of the draft report are overly prescriptive in regard to density bonus provisions, variable development cost charges, reduced parking and other financial incentives for development. Although municipalities may choose to use such incentives from time to time, they involve significant trade-offs, and should not be prescribed in the Metro plan as they would be routinely used to fund transit and possibly other provincial responsibilities in place of amenities. The prescription for 'Large-scale, high density commercial office and retail uses' in the
Metro Core ignores and could conflict with the imperative to retain an adequate supply of old but functional buildings - essential for maintaining commercial diversity and affordable spaces for new ideas and enterprises.

4) Frequent Transit Development Corridors are too broad: The Frequent Transit Development Corridors as shown on Map 2 are described on Figure 2 (page 18) as 400 to 800 metres on both sides of the corridor for medium and high density development. In some municipal locations this may be reasonable if they have a generally large lot layout and only a few transit corridors. However, in Vancouver, 400 to 800 metres would result in mass upzoning of the entire city! The Metro plan should generally describe transit oriented development to be close to transit without specifying where it should be located. Detailed community planning
within municipal boundaries should be under the sole jurisdiction of the municipality.

5) Provincial control of developments along highways: Developments impacting highways should also be under municipal control. It is a concern that
requirements for provincial reviews of developments along highways could be a way for the Province to use land lift and rezoning to fund highway improvements. Again, this would constitute down-loading. While such authority might ostensibly be a check on car-dependant sprawl, it could actually facilitate environmentally destructive highway-oriented residential, commercial or industrial development.

6) Green zones would be more vulnerable: Under this proposal green zones would be more easily removed from protection, which would make them subject to “horse-trading” between municipalities, a practice we oppose. Exemptions from Green Zones should require unanimous support of the Metro Board, not just 2/3 support as
proposed. Also, some green zones are shown within Urban Containment boundaries and should be excluded so they cannot be developed (e.g. UBC Endowment Lands and the North Shore).

7) Timelines for public consultations are inadequate: We agree with the conclusions under 'Public input to date' in the CoV staff report. There has not
been enough time for the public or their elected representatives to understand the issues and to respond. We implore Council to insist on an extension of the Metro public consultation. The deadline for all input by May 22, 2009 is not acceptable.
These and other concerns raised at during the May 20th Metro public forum at the Wosk Centre confirmed that more work and substantive changes are required for the Regional Growth Strategy and Translink funding models. To this end we support a better opportunity for public participation in both the TransLink Transport 2040 funding proposals and the Metro Vancouver 2040 Regional Growth Strategy.

Ned Jacobs
On behalf of the Steering Committee
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver
Group contact email:

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Vote Clerking at Mt. Pleasant Neighbourhood House

Voting personnel in the May 12 Provincial election had to work about a 14 hour or more day. There were about 8 voting boxes at the Mt. Pleaseant Neighbourhood House, and each one had a table with officials at it. There was also a table for people to register if they were not on the rolls at all, and another table for people to vote absentee if they were not at their own polling place.

There was a voter book for each voting box, and if people had voted in advance polling that was already marked into the book, so they couldn't vote a second time.

I was just a voting clerk, at the table for Box 100. People came into the room and were met by one of two very young and smiling women who stood on their feet the whole time the polls were open, greeting people and directing them to the right table. Box 100 had the most traffic of any of the boxes, or so it seemed. My job was to look at people's i.d.'s, find their names on the voting list, have them sign beside their names, affirming that they had the right to vote and were only voting once; and then I gave their voter number to the person sitting next to me. She was the boss of our table. She had to write the voter number on each of two stubs for each of the two ballots (the election ballot and the referendum ballot). One stub stayed in the book and the other stub was torn off along with the ballot.

People took their ballots and went behind a screen at the end of the table and marked them. If they asked us questions about what was on the ballots, we weren't allowed to tell them anything, except that they should mark one X or check on each ballot, and if they didn't want to mark the ballot they didn't have to. If they had questions, all we could do was refer them to information posted on the wall, which included the text of the referendum in a number of languages.

Judging by the names and conversations, there were people from a very large variety of ethnic groups voting in our location.

When the people brought their ballots back to the voting captain at our table, she tore off the numbered stub from each ballot and gave them back to the voter to put their now-anonymous ballots into the ballot box. Some people were in a hurry and left us to put the ballots in, but most did it themselves. Most people were friendly and fairly patient. The lines never got terribly long - people arrived in waves, starting with early-birds before work and the people who had just dropped their kids off at daycare, and peaking again at lunchtime, picking up again around 3 when shiftworkers got off, and then another big rush right near 8 pm when the polls closed. Of course most of the people who arrived at the very last minute had problems to solve, like needing name changes or address changes. This was very hard on the people at the table that handled that, and they started making mistakes that will probably come back to haunt at the next provincial election, in the form of incorrect voting cards getting mailed out. But five years from now a lot of more people will have changed their names and moved.

There were a lot of steps to the ritual, especially in the case of new or changed registrations, that could throw the voting clerks off. I myself made two mistakes, that I caught later. One was not realizing that a voter had failed to sign the book. The other one was not noticing the last newly-registered voter's sign-in on the next page, and so giving an incorrect total for the ballot count. Eventually, when the number of ballots didn't match up the count, we kept going over it until I found my mistake. This made our table the last to finish. Luckily we had assistance from a young man who had really studied the system carefully and had experience of a previous election. We were all very patient and good-natured. If you follow all the steps during the counting process, the procedure is designed to be sure you catch all the mistakes.

Less than half the number of voters registered for Box 100 actually voted. There were about 173 on the voter list, and about 11 new registrants on voting day, but only 82 actually voted.

When we did the count, we first had to separate the election ballots from the referendum ballots. We had a set of grids to mark down the votes for each candidate, then we separated each candidate's votes into a separate pile. Each time it looked as if a candidate had 25 votes, we rubber-banded that pile of ballots, and re-counted that group to be sure we had marked them correctly. Jenny Kwan had far and away the majority of the ballots. The Liberal candidate had about half as many, the Green candidate had only 16, and in our box the Communist candidate got none. No other parties were running candidates in Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant. Of those who actually marked their ballots for the referendum, BC-STV passed in our box by 62%.

Each party is allowed to have a scrutineer at each ballot box. We ended up with only one, I'm not even sure what party she was from. There are processes for scrutineers who are there at the start of the day to see that the ballot box starts out empty before it is sealed, and is fully emptied at the end of the election. Ours didn't arrive til our count had started, and she watched us do the count. We didn't have any ballots that were strangely marked in our box, but if we had, there wss a list for us to use to decide if it was possible to ascertain the intent of the voter or not.

The count done at the actual box is reported to the head of the polling place and that's the first information that goes to the press. Then we had to take our box to the polling headquarters downtown, where the ballots would be re-counted. The absentee votes cast at each polling place are not counted on the spot, but they are counted about a week later. In some districts, this can mean a change of the final result.

Having seen how the votes were counted, and how difficult it is and what failsafes are in place, I have to admit that a changeover to a system like BC-STV would have meant a lot of work figuring out, learning and teaching a new ballot-counting method. Instead of getting finished at 10 pm, counts might well have gone into the wee hours. My experience showed me how easy it is to make mistakes even in a simple system. Back when I was promoting STV, I remember one older women from the neighbourhood telling me she was against it "because I think they would screw it up." Maybe that's a realistic assessment.

What I would still support in the way of election reform for BC would be instant runoff voting. This is where people's first choices are counted and if there is no winner that has a majority then there is a runoff among the top two candidates. Anyone who didn't vote for one of the top two, their ballot then goes towards their second choice. This would eliminate the problem of vote-splitting by third and fourth parties resulting in a government formed by a party that never received a majority of the votes. I think that would be not too difficult a modification of our current system, and maybe only add an hour or so to the counting job.

For my actually 15 hours of work on voting day, plus my two hours of training time, I received about $270 in pay. That's about $15.88 an hour, which is almost twice the minimum wage.

I did enjoy the experience of being part of the process and getting to see my neighbours performing their civic duty. I don't know how much the Neighbourhood House made off the deal. They were very nice to us, including I got a free carton of chocolate soymilk that was there for giveaway.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

You can vote anywhere in provincial election May 12

Unlike the Federal election, for the May 12 provincial election you can vote at any polling place in the province on election day. So, if there's a polling place across from your house or your workplace, for example, that is not your assigned location, you can vote there. Be sure to bring an official i.d. that shows your address, like a driver's license - or, one picture i.d. and one thing like a utility bill, for example, that shows your residential address. Persons lacking such things can bring a letter of attestation from a facilities manager, such as a shelter manager. Work on getting those letters has been underway on the Downtown East Side already.

The provincial electoral commission is nonpartisan, and they seem to be really working to help as many people to vote as possible. Poll workers have been instructed to err in favour of the voter - unlike the Federal election, where people were sent home. If you forgot your proper i.d., a neighbour can vouch for you - but a voter can only vouch for one other person.

There will be two ballots this time. One to vote for your choice for a Member of the Legislative Assembly, and one to vote on the Referendum.

The Referendum is asking if you agree to changing our voting system, or if you want to keep First Past the Post. As mentioned, I support the change to Single Transferable Vote. That will allow you to, for example, vote for the Green candidate first and the NDP second, so that if your first choice candidate doesn't win you haven't inadvertently helped the Liberals get a majority. Because adjacent ridings will be merged, you'll have more choices of candidates, so you can help elect more MLAs, but in the end the number of MLAs will be exactly the same. [The opposition is implying that there will be fewer MLAs under BC-STV. Not so!]

The STV is heavily supported by young people, and I don't think we should disappoint them. A review after three elections has been recommended by the Citizens Assembly; and the legislature is still allowed to change the system at any time.

Kingsgate Mall Sold?

This is just gossip at present, from one of the aunties whose nephew works in construction. She says he said that Kingsgate Mall has finally been sold, that the buyer is Jimmy Pattison, and that he is going to change the Buy-Low there to a Save-on-Foods.

My research online shows that that Pattison group includes both Buy-Low and Save-On-Foods, as well as several other named chains. Their site says that they put different stores in different locations, depending on which best suits the conditions in the neighbourhood. So, why would Buy-Low be switched over to Save-On? Maybe the demographic of the neighbourhood going up has something to do with it. Buy-Low has already added a deli section, which is not at all cheap, and a few other hi-end items. Their prices are also higher than the smaller local stores for fruits and vegetables. [They also compete with the downstairs Shoppers Drug for loss-leader grocery items (be sure to check ice cream prices in both stores before deciding where to buy).] I'm wondering if Save-On-Foods is designed for a richer demographic than Buy-Low.

At least it's not an IGA!

Saturday Tai Chi at Mt. Pleasant School

Dr. Lyla Yip's Tai Chi class is meeting outdoors at the Mt. Pleasant School on Saturdays now at 1 pm. We're still working on Chi Gong exercises, plus the Yang style 24 steps, plus have recently started following along and getting idea of a Chen style 24 steps that has larger, looser movements. We are mostly older women, and we have a very pleasant and relaxed time while improving our balance, limberness, strength and grace. Come join! We are each giving Lyla $10 a month.

Bus service "improvement" for whom?

Translink kindly puts out a tiny newsletter for bus riders. The headline for the April 10 edition, the last I picked up, says "Better bus service starts April 20." The article begins with "Bus service is getting better ... All over Metro Vancouver we'll be making improvements to bus routes and service for the summer. Read on to find out what bus services will be improved in your area."

So, reading on I find that service on the 9, the 84, and the 99-B, which serve our area, are among 14 routes on which "services will be adjusted to reflect lower summer ridership." In other words, bus service will be reduced!

No details on how long we'll have to wait for the bus now.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Why I'm Voting for BC-STV May 12 - NUANCES

Of all the reasons given for supporting the proposed new electoral system for British Columbia, I haven't heard much at all about my favourite. It is voter self-expression.

Under First Past the Post (our current system), you get to vote for one choice for an MLA, and if you want to be a strategic voter, then you are always honour bound to vote for the candidate you think can beat the candidate you fear or mistrust the most. So, say you don't want the Liberals to get in again, you think well I have to vote for the NDP because if I vote for a weaker party, I'll be throwing away my vote.

If you're not a strategic voter, under first past the post, you can express that you really resonate to the message of the Work Less Party, for example, and devil-take the results. But if you're one of only maybe 300 people who vote for that party, you'll feel really marginalized - you'll have no way to know how many voters love the idea of reducing the work week and spreading the jobs around more. And neither will any of the political parties.

Strategic or unstrategic, in either case, you're going to have some cognitive dissonance; and to resolve that, you basically have one choice - to become more cynical. Because you have to choose between voting your feelings and being "practical." And being practical means you have to choose a party you are not very enthusiastic about just at the moment, to keep a party you dislike from getting in.

If you get cynical enough, then you have one more choice. You can stay home from the polls altogether, and a lot of people do that. And then everyone says "look, the public doesn't even care who gets chosen - they're not interested in politics."

But say we actually pass the BC-STV. Opponents say that in countries where it's used, the major parties still win just about all the seats all the time, so it doesn't make any difference. But what they're not looking at is the information that the voters can pass on to the people who do get elected, and to each other, through the voting process.

If you were to choose a Workless Party candidate first, and a Marijuana Party candidate second, and an NDP candidate third and the Green Party candidate 4th, for example, you'd be contributing to a statistical record with nuances. It could could show if there's a public inclination towards cutting the work week and legalising pot; yet, because neither of those candidates would get elected (not soon, anyway), your vote would still roll over to support organised labour against the free-traders. You could even vote for most or all the NDP candidates running in your riding and if the NDP got more than enough votes to elect their candidates then part of your vote would still be left over to help elect the first Green to the provincial legislature. Strategic voting would be really strategic then, in more ways than one.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tai Chi classes on Saturdays, 1 pm

Dr. Lyla Yip is teaching Tai Chi classes at Mt. Pleasant School now that it's spring, outdoors under the overhang. Several of the aunties are attending - try it, you'll like it. It's very good for improving balance and flexibility and strength, in a gentle manner. Drop-ins welcome. Generally we do some chi gong exercises and the 24-step version of the Yang style, and now she has started showing us how to do a short form of the Chen style, too, which has larger and more fluid movements than the Yang. Here's Lyla's web page:

Warning about Shoppers Drug Seniors Day Coupons

On the last Thursday in March, I bought $50 worth of goods at Shoppers in order to get the 20% senior discount. They also gave me a coupon worth $10 they said could be used "on your next visit." When I tried to pay with this coupon on my next visit, they told me the coupon was expired. The fine print showed that it had expired on March 29, only three days after it was issued.

The Fencewalker

At North China Park one can often see the fencewalker these days. The man drives a black car up to the Great Northern Way side of the park, gets out, and hops up onto the chainlink fence. He squate while he gets his balance, and practices balancing on one foot and letting his other leg swing loose. Then he gradually works up to standing and walking. If he missteps and has to come down, he starts over. He is moderately good at this, but clearly aims to perfect it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dangerous Dog Balls found in Mt. Pleasant

Doctor Lyla Yip forwarded me an email about a kind of rubber ball that is soft-skinned, bumpy, and has only one hole in it. There were some gruesome pictures of a dog that lost its tongue because the suction created by this type of ball sucked its tongue into the hole, and the tongue swelled. Apparently there are a lot of cases of this kind of disaster.

Suzette and I found one of these balls on the ground while we were walking the dogs. It's true, it does create a powerful suction through the one hole. However, I did an experiment and my hypothesis was correct: The thing to do if you find one of these is to poke another hole in the ball - preferably before your dog's tongue gets caught. I used a screwdriver to poke a hole in the other side of the ball we found, and it now no longer creates suction. It also doesn't hold its shape so rigidly if squeezed, but, hey, you can't have everything. Physics rules.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

City Thinking about Snow Now

I was pleased to see one of the older garbage trucks come down our street this morning, with one guy driving and one behind putting the cans onto the truck attachment for dumping and then putting them back on the side of the road. They were working both sides of the street at the same time. That's the technology that was abandoned for the fancy new automatic can-dumpers that can be driven by one person with nobody working the back of them, but apparently the older trucks are still around for emergencies. A few days ago, a workman told me that garbage trucks were out trying to pick up but got stuck in snow.

Lifting the cans is hard work, and the guy handling them looked tired, but I cheered him as they took our trash. It's been a long time. Now, if the recycling truck would just come by....

Meanwhile, City Hall is waking up to the fact that this sort of thing can happen and looking at making some plans. Cope Councillor Ellen Woodsworth called for some creative solutions, which would not be amiss.

It would have been helpful if we'd had some coordination. By the time we got out looking for snow shovels, salt and sand, none was to be had in our local neighbourhood stores. People like me shoveling snow with garden spades would have been happy for a place to borrow a proper snow shovel and maybe someone with a snow blower would rent it out if we knew how to get in touch. It's true our neighbours across the street were generous with their snow shovel, but they were often using it themselves.

In a related story, I heard that the Bus Riders Union is pointing out that there are Translink buses trying to drive in the snow with bald summer tires and drivers are frightened about it. Supposedly nobody makes proper winter tires for the buses?

Here's that release - any aunties or uncles with ideas for the next storm should contact Ellen Woodsworth's office, I guess:

Immediate Release: January 6, 2009

Councilor Woodsworth calls for creative solutions to Vancouver snow

Councilor Woodsworth met with city staff today to explore ways that the city can better deal with snow on Vancouver sidewalks.

According to Woodsworth, "we need to do more to alleviate the hardships faced by seniors, people with disabilities, working people who can't get to work because sidewalks are blocked by snow and ice, transit users, homeless, and all the others who have suffered during the harsh weather. Many have even been housebound."

While this year's winter has been an anomaly - and she acknowledges the work of city staff and residents - Woodsworth believes it's important for Vancouver to have more plans in place.

At the next council meeting, she will ask staff to explore the possibility of working with community centres and/or local non-profit agencies about the possibility of partnering on programs that would allow them to coordinate the dispersal of shovels, salt, etc. to central locations, and mobilize volunteers, or hire staff to clear sidewalks for those with limited mobility during snow emergencies. This could be accomplished by establishing and publicizing a "snow helpline " coordinated through a non-profit or community centre.

She will also be calling for the city to distribute a pamphlet to all residents - in multiple languages - acknowledging what they have endured, explaining existing by-laws and legal liability, the responsibilities of business and residential property owners, and encouraging residents to be good neighbours and remove snow and ice from the sidewalks adjacent to their property in future snow or ice events.

-- 30 --

Media Contact
Rachel Marcuse
COPE Executive Director

Rachel Marcuse
Executive Director
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE)
604-255-0400 (office)
604-312-9057 (cell)
Help create a Vancouver for everyone.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hideous Garbage Disaster and Dogs

I saw a private garbage truck today - one of those big ones that lifts up the dumpster and mechanically dumps it into a truck. And I thought, "I wonder if there is anybody on that truck who will get out and pick up all the boxes and bags and debris from broken bags and nasty items that have been piled up for more than two weeks all around those dumpsters."

Well, as it turned out the garbage truck was just turning around in the laneway. They never even went in and dumped the dumpster. All the dumpsters are from different companies anyway, and most of them don't have their trucks out at all.

Neither does the city. We have not had garbage or recycling pickup on our street since before the first big snow fall. Our cans are full, and our houses and porches are now also filling up with bags and boxes of garbage and recycling both.

You might think we'd be glad that the snow and ice keep the garbage from smelling. But that isn't really the case. We humans may not be able to smell it, but other animals can. Tonight I saw raccoon tracks in a shallow patch of snow around one overflowing dumpster. I've also seen dogs stick their heads down under the snow to sniff, and then wrestle to the surface and wolf down frozen whole slices of white bread some kind-hearted people thought they were leaving for the birds.

Under ordinary conditions, we'd just walk the dogs on leashes past the temptations, or go a different direction where we don't get close to the mess they love. But on slippery snow and ice, a dog on a leash can easily pull a person down - it's not safe.

When the snow was new, there were no cars moving, and we turned the dogs loose and walked with them through beautifuly white yards, lanes, and parks. It was lovely, and all the dogs and their people were out being amiable. But now, cars are driving through the ruts in the side-street slush; the snow over walking places is terribly uneven, ranging from crunchy to hard to slurpy to slick. The all-but-invisible "black ice" is slicker than greased glass. I walk baby steps while the dogs have the stability of four legs. I call them to come, but KFC leavings are stronger than their master's voice. When I catch up, we have contests of wills among the garbage heaps and have to go home early, with me hoarse from yelling, them reluctant to leave their plunder, and all of us in a bad mood.

One man we met suggested hitching the dogs to a sled. If we ever get the car dug out, I'll shop for one. A sled ride from the house to the dumpster might be fun.