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Sooke & beyond
Mar.11. Over 159 law professors have published an open letter asking for major revisions to the Fair Elections Act, saying that the bill is currently in a process of being pushed through, and that Elections Canada would have its powers hampered by the new legislation if it passes in the House of Commons. The letter was published in The National Post and LeDevoir. The Harper Conservatives have a majority of seats in the House, so unless there is strong push-back, the legislation is likely to pass in its present format. The group of law professors -- represented today on CBC's Power & Politics news show by law professor Yasmin Dawood (in photo, left) of the University of Toronto -- said that the bill includes the "expansion of influence of money in politics" and that there is "partisan bias". She continued to say that the bill "violates these standards (of democratic process) in all kinds of ways" and that the bill would "significantly undermine democratic institutions in Canada and tarnish Canada's reputation around the world". See local MP Randall Garrison's comments on this topic in the March 7th edition of Sooke Voice News, page 1. Garrison says that "Harper doesn't want people to vote" and that the Fair Elections Act (which the NDP opposition is calling the 'Unfair Elections Act') would prevent Elections Canada from doing a 'get out and vote' campaign. Apparently voter ID cards would not be issued under the new legislation. Law professors from the University of Victoria who are among the signatories of the petition are Penny Bryden, Rita Dhamoon, Avigail Eisenberg, Matthew James, Rebecca Johnson, Colin Macleod, and Jeremy Webber (Dean).
Mar.11. Last night a restaurant gift card was gifted to Sooke RCMP Detachment Commander S/Sgt Steve Wright by District of Sooke Acting Mayor Kerrie Reay, as a gesture of thanks upon Wright's upcoming relocation to the Westshore detachment, during the Committee of the Whole meeting in council chambers. Wright's last day on the job after 4.5 years heading up the Sooke RCMP Detachment is March 21; his incoming replacement S/Sgt Jeff McArthur starts on March 17, for a bit of functional overlap. [Photo Copyright 2014 Sooke Voice News]
ELECTION TREND WATCH ~ posts on various community leaders and trends, leading up to the Nov2014 municipal election in Sooke. This week, SVN notes a political trend with Councillor Herb Haldane, who at the District of Sooke Council table consistently makes a point in favour of "the little guy" -- the workers and average folk (including small businesses) who are struggling to make ends meet in this post-crash economy. Haldane repeatedly notes the lack of construction and 'regular' jobs in Sooke, and recently (at the Mar 3 Finance & Administration Committee meeting) floated the question of whether it's fair to charge 10% penalty interest to people who pay their property taxes late (a cash cow that the District of Sooke relies upon, and which in 2013 netted the District about $55,000 more than even budgeted for).
ELECTION TREND WATCH. Mar.11. As the municipal election approaches in Sooke (Nov.2014), Sooke Voice News will offer news backgrounder insights on current community leaders who may run, and later this year provide election coverage and news analysis on candidates who ultimately throw their hat in to the ring for the election itself. Why does it matter? These people make decisions that affect how things play out in Sooke.
Mar.10. Tonight a presentation on policing priorities for Sooke will be presented by Sooke RCMP Detachment Commander S/Sgt Steve Wright at 6 pm in council chambers. That will be followed by the Regular Council meeting at 7 pm. www.sooke.ca
Mar.9. A bright sunny dry Sunday in Sooke after several days of what seemed like non-stop rain.
Mar.9. Approaching Sooke from the east late at night, there was an eerie 'lit cloud' effect in the sky last night. The effect was caused by bright overhead lights for the visibility of BC Hydro crews to remove contaminated soil from below the Evergreen Shopping Centre site where one of the older buildings burned down on July 31, 2013 (and was later fully demolished).
Mar.9. Last night something new was attempted at the Prestige Hotel ... The Mix Restaurant combined forces with the Sooke Fine Arts Show and the Sooke Food Bank to put on a combo paid dinner and public art show by donation. Just as wine was paired to the food at dinner, food was paired to the 93 pieces of art in the ballroom. An extraordinary amount of effort went into creating custom food pieces to reflect aspects of the art pieces, but much of the food went wasted (having been sitting without refrigeration for hours on open tables). Donations for the Sooke Food Bank were taken at the door. It was an odd juxtaposition of wasting exotic menu items as a fundraiser to feed the needy. The event was good exposure for many artists, whose works were professionally displayed. About 150 people viewed the art.
Mar.8. Today is International Women's Day. See editorial about misogyny on pg.2 in the March 7th edition of Sooke Voice News.
Mar.7. The March 7th edition of Sooke Voice News print edition (PDF) is now online. Front page story about how the District of Sooke is grappling with their option for a set of sport fields (soccer and slo-pitch) at Sunriver Estates. Editorial about the crisis in Ukraine. Editorial about International Women's Day and the need to continue working against misogyny. Event report on the March 1st official opening of the Juan de Fuca Services Building in Otter Point.
Mar.7. Pro-D Day in Sooke school district... students not in school, teachers doing professional development. Activities available at SEAPARC Leisure Complex. Creates a long weekend for families, with spring break closing in fast (Mar.15-23).
Mar.6. [Photos from left: BC Education Minister Peter Fassbender, BCTF President Jim Iker] Tonight it was announced that BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) members have voted 89% in favour of strike action, should negotiations with the BC Government fail. According to Global BC News, a leaked memo outlines three phases to job action: 1) no administrative meetings; 2) rotating strikes across BC with districts taking turns at walking out; 3) full scale walkout across the province. Meanwhile, BCTF president Jim Iker said to TV media this evening that the BCTF does not want a strike. Teachers have been voting over the past three days in BC. BC Minister of Education Peter Fassbender said in a news release this evening: "A strike vote does create additional uncertainty for students, parents, support workers and teachers. That's precisely why we need long term stability in our schools and why we need to pursue a long-term agreement at the bargaining table." "I hope the union can focus on tabling their wage demands so we can get on with meaningful bargaining," Fassbender said. He said the government has tabled a comprehensive initial position including a 6.5% wage increase in the first six years. Class size and composition are on the bargaining table, "and that's where the discussions need to occur". "We will continue to seek a long-term agreement that's fair for teachers, affordable for taxpayers, and that puts the interests of students first," the education minister said.
Mar.6. "Do you think the crisis in Ukraine could lead to war?" This question was asked on today's episode of Power and Politics on CBC TV. The quick 'Ballot Box' raw poll on the CBC website saw a response of about 160 viewers (by 2:35 pm Pacific Time), of which 54% said YES and 42% said NO, with a few remaining undecided. By 5:15 pm, that tally online changed to 61% saying YES, 35% saying NO, and 4% undecided. Ukraine will be holding a referendum on March 16, asking if their Crimea region should join Russia.
Mar.6. Sooke Lake Reservoir has reached full storage capacity, it was stated by the Capital Regional District (CRD) today. Full capacity was reached "much later than in typical years", said Ted Robbins General Manager, Integrated Waters Services, CRD. October, November and December 2013 were the driest months on record, leaving the Sooke Lake Reservoir level at only 75% of full storage capacity in mid-January; that had CRD concerned about water supply for 2015. The usual Level One water use restrictions will still come into effect on May 1, as an annual measure that CRD has implemented for many years. [CRD file photo]
Mar.6. Parent-teacher interview participation by parents was up this year, likely due to the online booking system, says Edward Milne community school principal Pat Swinburnson. He also says that the teachers meeting with parents in the open commons area appears to be successful. In the main school lobby there was a table of school supplies available free to families if needed; backpacks of supplies had been donated to the school (Gr.9-12) by Telus. Also in the lobby were about 150 items that ended up in the school's Lost and Found last semester (September to January), there for the claiming by parents or students. [Photos by Sooke Voice News, March 6, 2014]
Mar.5. Two things in the world of Sooke's local Edward Milne high school for tonight ... one is the grad fashion show (tickets $8 at Shoppers Drug Mart, at the school office today, or at the door for the 7 pm show), and the other is the 8 pm deadline tonight for EMCS parents to sign up online for Parent-Teacher interviews being held Mar.6 at the school -- parents are to use the online appointment booking form at http://emcs.schoolappointments.com to set up meeetings.
Mar.4. About 50 people -- many of them local to Sunriver Estates -- came out to a public information meeting hosted by the District of Sooke at the Sunriver sales office tonight from 7 to 9 pm. It was all about development of a set of sports playing fields (one for soccer, one for slo-pitch) that needs to happen before year-end, or the District loses access to a deal for swapping of some ALR land (that would be swapped with some Sunriver land for use as the playing field and a future elementary school site). The initial driving force for the entire discussion was from residents of Sunriver (as far back as 2007) who did not want school-related traffic congestion on Sunriver Way (the main road through Sunriver Estates) and instead wanted the school to front onto Phillips Road so as to ease would-be traffic congestion that a school would produce. The momentum being put into play by the District of Sooke now (with this information meeting and another on Tuesday, March 25 at Sooke Community Hall) is for the community to get a multi-demographic playing field out of the opportunity (sport field suitable for youth but also useable by the community at large), while satisfying the request to relocate the future school site to Phillips which is a main road outside of Sunriver that could better handle the busses and parent-driver traffic. A spokesperson for Sunriver, Phil Buchanan, said after the meeting that essentially the current 3 hectares would end up being 6 hectares if the land-swap is done, which is to the benefit of the municipality, the community and eventually a school that would be built within the Sunriver Estates area. Sooke School District 62 (SD62) is seemingly in no hurry to build an elementary school in the Sunriver area, based on comments by SD 62 Superintendent Jim Cambridge; they need to wait for the student population to increase in Sooke (which was expected in 2007, but which the economic downturn squelched by 2008 with fewer homes being built/purchased in that subdivision). The biggest question of all is how motivated District of Sooke Mayor and Council are to sort out a resolution of this deal (involving District of Sooke, Sunriver Estates, and Sooke School District 62, as well as the Agricultural Land Commission) by the 'midnight' (Dec.31, 2014) deadline, remembering that municipal election campaigns gear up as early as September-October for the Nov.15th municipal elections. It might also motivate Council to know that Sunriver will provide $150,000 toward development of the playing fields, if the current arrangement can be executed. Attending the meeting from the District of Sooke tonight were Senior Planner Gerard LeBlanc (who gave the 1-hour presentation to the assembled crowd; see photo at top), Councillor Kerrie Reay as acting mayor, and Councillors Rick Kasper, Kevin Pearson, and Maja Tait. Both Reay and Tait live in Sunriver. Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks (who also chairs the SEAPARC board) was there for the duration, chatting with various members of the public (in photo above) and expressing an interest in the broader impact that sport and recreational activity will have for the community. The new manager of SEAPARC Leisure Complex, Steve Knoke, was also in attendance.
Mar.4. The Grad Fashion Show at Edward
Milne high school is tomorrow night Wednesday, March 5, one
night only!!! Everyone welcome.
This is an annual event by graduating class for an evening of
fashion and fun.
Tickets are $8 at Shoppers Drug Mart in Sooke and at EMCS during
school hours, and before the Fashion Show’s 7pm start time in the school
Mar.4. Taking your scrap metal to be recycled? The two large bins in the parking lot at Edward Milne Community School look ominously blank. But there's a small door you can open, to then put your metal items inside. If the items are too large for lifting, they can be left beside the bins. The fundraiser is being organized by the Tech/TASK program at the school. The bins will be in the parking lot now through Sunday, March 10.
Mar.4. A tree fell across the road in 2800-block Sooke River Road around noon today. "The rain has softened the ground enough that the tree fell over," says Sooke Fire Rescue Chief Steve Sorensen. The road was closed at noon due to hydro lines across the road. BC Hydro crew arrived around 1:30 pm to work on the situation.
Mar.4. Tonight there will be a public information meeting at the Sunriver Estates sales office regarding development of a sports playing field. The meeting starts at 7 pm. There will also be information on the playing fields at the District of Sooke's upcoming public open house on Mar.24 at Sooke Community Hall.
Mar.4. MONEY TALK. Was it intended all along, or have Sooke taxpayers caught a true lucky break? Last night at the District of Sooke Finance & Administration Committee (F&A) meeting, it was revealed that some double-billing for animal control services for the past couple of years had been discovered (i.e. CRD levy was to cover animal control and yet the District of Sooke was also collecting funds for that purpose). As well, F&A Chair Rick Kasper essentially challenged a fundamental plank of the 2014 budget and 2014-2018 Financial Plan, saying it's not the right time (in terms of current overall economic realities) to collect a tax increase from Sooke property owners when the additional funds were intended to be held in capital reserves. In other words, it's not the right time for the District to be lining its pockets for a rainy day when (as Councillor Herb Haldane elaborated) taxpayers are having to deal with other intense cost increases this year for electricity, medical, and insurance. And is it right to charge a 10% penalty for people who pay their property taxes late? In 2013 the tax penalties collected by the District of Sooke were an easy cash cow -- the collection amounted to $157,386 (which was $55,386 above budget), said District of Sooke Finance Director Michael Dillabaugh. Councillor Herb Haldane said that in tough economic times, people may in fact delay tax payments (that are due the first business day in July each year) because they're needing money for other critical life expenses in these tough economic times. Could it be there is a tonality shift at the District of Sooke from running the place like an accounting spreadsheet and instead starting to look at the economic realities that people face nowadays, and what role the municipality can play in easing that pain? Discussion about whether or not there should be a paid staff position for bylaw enforcement (brought up and bantered about by non-elected members of the Finance Committee last night) was chastised during the public input session by Derek Lewers later in the evening who said such matters should be discussed in-camera, not in a public forum. The F&A committee also reviewed the in's and out's of having a commercial quality washing machine for cleaning the firefighters' turnout gear. Sure, it's an expense, but do we want firefighters (most of them volunteers, often putting their lives in harm's way) wearing contaminated gear and/or be put in a situation where not enough gear is available because of delays by using the current residential-quality washing machine that can handle only one garment at a time? Sooke Fire Rescue Chief Steve Sorensen was open to sharing a more costly commercial machine with other fire departments who would likely be asked to pay a user-fee. Councillor Kerrie Reay made it clear that she supports the purchase of a commercial washing machine for use by the Sooke Fire Rescue Service.
Mar.3. The District of Sooke Finance & Administration Committee meeting tonight at 7 pm (webcasting at www.sooke.ca ) will handle two reports requiring action-- The Sooke Fire Rescue Dept draft policy revisions, and Sooke Canada Day Society (from Sooke Lions) as well as many other reports, including the cost of traffic control pre-emption systems (including GPS) and the Bylaw Enforcement 2013 Annual Report.
Mar.3. Slow but steady market correction? The benchmark price for a single family home in Sooke in February 2014 was $346,700, up slightly from last month's $344,400, as released today by the Greater Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB). A year ago the benchmark price for Sooke was $354,600. Three years ago prices were higher in Sooke ... $370,500 in Feb.2011. The benchmark house price for Greater Victoria last month was $483,400. Compare that to three years ago... the overall area showed a benchmark price of $519,000, according to VREB stats.
Mar.2. On in Sooke today, Sunday: The Sooke Transition Town organization will hold their monthly discussion meeting at the Reading Roof Cafe today, Sun. Mar. 2 from 2 to 4pm. The Journey Middle School bank is collecting scrap metal at Saseenos Elementary School.
Sat. Mar.1. About 80 people showed up for the official opening of the new Juan de Fuca Services Building in Otter Point today -- a vibrant mix of general public, community-involved leaders, elected politicians, and CRD staff. Live bluegrass music set an upbeat tone to celebrate the building that will be paid off and owned in 15 years, providing a cost-saving to taxpayers in the medium-to-long term. Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks thanked a long list of people for helping to get the 4,500 sq f t building constructed in one year "on time and on budget" ... a hard push but it kept the momentum going. "We started out to build our own office and ended building so much more," he said to the crowd standing out in the cold. CRD Board Chair Alistair Bryon said the building is an economic treasure for the community as well as a long-term investment benefitting the environment. He noted "innovative green and grand technologies" including solar panels and rain collection from the roof. Inside the toasty-warm premises (that boasts an auxiliary generator system) there were tours of the well laid out one-level offices. People gathered in the large meeting room that is suitable for large group activities. The cost of the project was $1.75 million, with $1.5 million borrowed from the CRD at favourable interest rates. The remainder of funding came from Juan de Fuca's portion of the Gas Tax Community Works fund. The project cost included $400,000 for the land (3/4-acre or .3 hectares) and $200,000 for legal/building plans. About $100,000 will be spent on furnishings, fixtures and other anticipated future enhancements. Construction was done in 2013 by Verity Construction; staff moved into the completed building in December 2013. Group VIP photo (from left): District of Sooke Councillor Kerrie Reay; Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks; District of Sooke Councillor Rick Kasper; District of Sooke Councillor Kevin Pearson; District of Sooke Councillor, Herb Haldane; MLA John Horgan; in background T'Souke Nation Chief Gordon Planes.
Sat. Mar.1. CRD will show off their new Juan de Fuca Services Building with a grand opening at 12 noon today (to 2pm) including an official ribbon cutting, bluegrass music, and refreshments. The new building is in the Sooke Business Park at #3-7450 Butler Road, off Otter Point Road. Everyone welcome.
Feb.28. The Feb.28th edition of Sooke Voice News is now online. Front page news includes a report on the 2014 AGM of the Sooke Region Tourism Association, and the fallout of a scheduled power outage that went awry for several Sooke town centre businesses this week. Page 3 story on Sooke RCMP Detachment Commander S/Sgt Steve Wright as he prepares for job relocation to the Westshore detachment, and his exciting venture to ride with the Tour de Rock this September.
Feb.27. Last night about 30 people showed up for the 2014 AGM of the Sooke Region Tourism Association held at Sooke Harbour House. Most of the attendees are influential players in the various areas of the local economy that impact decision-making about tourism, including some District of Sooke councillors, president of the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce, director of the Sooke Region Museum (Info Center), chair of the Arts & Beautification Mayor's Advisory Panel, and others. When it came time to review the budget, most of the 'Marketing- other' expense category was spent on advertising in far-away locations (which in 2013 was mostly Washington State and Oregon). SRTA president John Heerema (of Adrenaline) said that marketing campaigns are customized to particular geographical regions and demographics that are thought to be receptive to specific messages about the Sooke region. A large chunk ($23,000 or almost 49%) of the 2013 income of $47,567.10 came from a service contract with the District of Sooke, with almost as much ($18,709.53 or almost 40%) from the Tourism Association of Vancouver Island as 'matching funds' (i.e. dependent on SRTA having received funds from the District of Sooke). Membership dues at $150 per member raised $5,850 or 12.3% of revenues for the organization last year. The financial statement shows an oeprating overall loss of $5,161.30 for 2013 but the organization has over $11,000 in the bank. Expenditures planned for 2014 focus mostly on a contract for local photography and video; photos are thought by SRTA to be the key ingredient of print and online marketing campaigns including on YouTube. The evening's guest speaker was the new CEO of Tourism Victoria, Paul Nursey, who touted tourism as having a strong career-opportunity aspect. He said that 2013 was "one good year" since the economic crash of 2008, and emphasized that competition in tourism should not be in-fighting among locals but rather to compete against all the other global factors that influence the decisions of where tourists will choose their next destination vacation. Nursey also emphasized the importance of "that first visit" -- a good first impression on visitors means a strong percentage of may return. Delicious hor-d'oeuvres by Sooke Harbour House chefs were served after the formal meeting. Frederique Philip of Sooke Harbour House was credited by SRTA for putting Sooke on the map (especially for Americans) long before SRTA got its act together. File story by Mary Brooke of Sooke Voice News
Feb.26. Looks like a few businesses at the corner of Murray Road and Otter Point Road were missed in the 'assured announcement letter' distribution regarding a scheduled power outage for this morning in Sooke. Businesses that suddenly lost power around 11 am this morning include Cathy's Corner Cafe, the x-ray lab, Thrift Store, and Wiskers & Waggs. The revenue loss for small businesses, and the value of people's time and health for people making appointments at the xray lab, were apparently not taken into account -- the unexpected power shut off is costly. Possible damage to equipment has also been reported. The electrical work is a completion of what needed to be done for the proper functioning of the new Sooke Car Wash and Sooke Laundry at the corner of Murray Road and Logan Lane. The developer of the car wash and laundromat businesses (JCB Holdings) paid BC Hydro for a portion of the required work, according to both BC Hydro and Doug Wittich who acts on behalf of JCB Holdings. In the long-run, one benefit is now 3-phase service to electrical customers on the affected streets: Murray Road, Lincroft Road, Goodmere Road, and Horne Road. When it comes right down to it, for local small business this is one of the prices to pay for a town in growth mode. Loss of some business today will likely be overshadowed by an increase in business due to proximity to an upcoming large business enterprise.
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