The Week – February 3

By the time this paper is out, so will the official word on how the recall turned out for Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong. But with only a couple days left on the trail, it looks like recall campaigners are doing a quick switch in tactics. The new message: it’s not winning or losing that counts, it’s how many signatures you could get to play the game.

The results are (almost) in

By the time this paper is out, so will the official word on how the recall turned out for Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong. But with only a couple days left on the trail, it looks like recall campaigners are doing a quick switch in tactics. The new message: it’s not winning or losing that counts, it’s how many signatures you could get to play the game.

While the campaign stopped releasing signature numbers weeks ago — in what some called an effort to delay news of a bad outcome — organizer Michael Hayes says the focus baited a numbers-hungry audience that started to lose sight of what the real message is all about. The recallers will not be releasing any final numbers until Friday.

“From the onset we knew we had significant hurdles in this campaign. [Recalling] is a legislation designed to fail—it’s created by and for politicians. But our primary goal has always been to collect as many signatures as we could, and we still have a strong message to deliver,” says Hayes.

Hayes adds a successful recall campaign, which would have seen the group collect 15,368 votes, or 40 per cent of the population that voted Chong in during the 2009 election, would have sent the strongest message. Failing that, however, he sees the numbers as significant all the same. After all, trying to wrangle almost 7,000 voters who have moved from Oak Bay can prove to be a bit inconvenient.

“We’re not going to give up until the bitter end,” Hayes says. “With all the voters who have come and spoken, our main statement to the government is still: you can’t ignore this message.”

Rail lovers unite

While it’s certainly been out of the news for a while, the Blue Bridge is still offering aftershocks of debate — this time in the form of how rail will finally shape up for the new plan.

This Friday, Feb. 4, at 8 a.m., the City will debate and decide once and for all whether or not to include rail in the bridge’s current plan. The public is welcome to attend the meeting, though there will be no more input taken.

“We’ve received over 100 emails from bridge advocate and independent community members urging us to include rail in the plan, but . . . it’s budget time, and council and the City is trying to be as deeply prudent as possible,” says City counsellor Philippe Lucas.

While the City did apply for additional funding through a gas tax application that could go towards making up the $12 million it would take to add rail onto the current plan, it will be months before results on the application are in.

“It is very frustrating to have this decision made before all the facts are in. It doesn’t make sense to build a 100-year bridge without taking the time to make a 100-year plan,” says Lucas. “We know that rail is important to our region, and it may take a leap of faith for Council to consider this an important enough issue to invest in ourselves.”

While the City may make the decision this Friday, Lucas says unexpected funding could change the course of events. He encourages people to keep writing letters to the surrounding municipalities, MLAs and province urging the importance and assistance with funding.

“If some miracle funding fell out of the sky and into our laps in the next few weeks, I know that would go a long way in changing council’s mind, should the rail option not go through.”

CRTC versus Victoria

Speaking of the City, kudos to City counsellor Philippe Lucas again for some progressive motions slated to hit the council meeting this Thursday. Lucas has asked the City of Victoria to add its voice, officially, to opposition around the usage-based internet billing recently approved by the CRTC by sending a City-signed letter to the federal government.

“The CRTC’s decision to bill base on usage will affect the democracy of the internet, and I think it’s important that Victoria—like Vancouver, and city’s all around the province—take an official stance against the decision.”

Lucas says B.C. has some of the highest numbers of internet usage in Canada, but mostly he’s concerned about the affect usage-based billing could have on budding innovation the province has been trying so hard to foster.

“We’ve been told only about 10 per cent of internet users will be affected by the change, but in another few years that could turn to 40 or 50 per cent. This will have an affect on low-income families who will have to choose whether or not they can afford to Skype with a loved one, and it will affect the environment — people who saved gas by legally downloading movies may be tempted to go to the video store instead.”

Lucas adds, for an infrastructure Canadian taxpayers originally funded, it seems off to allow companies like Shaw to set the bar now. Time to get those pens, or mouses, out.

A break for parents

Young parents in Victoria may struggle a little less in the coming months, thanks to a $150 increase in the monthly subsidy rate to B.C.’s Young Parent Programs, bringing the rate from $850 to $1,000 per child, effective March 1. The increase, announced this week, will assist young adults who have not yet graduated to complete their high school education. Comforting that some funds wind up in the right place.

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