The Week — June 16

Light Rail Transit stalls, World Naked Bike Ride makes Victoria blush, NEED2 still in crisis, charity meets dad

Hundreds of cyclists turned out — in the nude — last week for the Victoria World Naked Bike Ride to make a statement about the vulnerability of those who choose to cycle.

Light Rail Transit stalls already?

While the zero-emissions of hundreds of naked cyclists graced the streets of Victoria this past week in the Victoria World Naked Bike Ride, another head-turning commentary had the city taking note.

The Downtown Victoria Business Association came out as not quite supporting the newly proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) system — at least, not just yet. While the City of Victoria has been gunning for LRT as the answer to end all transit questions, the DVBA has some concerns, especially regarding the five-to-one tax increase ratio that businesses would see over residents.

“There are really too many wild cards out there right now to take a definitive stance,” says Ken Kelly, general manager of the DVBA. “We’re very supportive of strengthening the connectivity between downtown and the West Shore. There are questions we have, however, regarding how we will manage cost, existing traffic patterns and [maintaining] the look of downtown.”

While hesitation has been circling around the $950 million price tag, the city insists that our direct portion would only be a fraction of that cost — federal and provincial budgets are expected to foot most of the tab, leaving us with a reported $250 million to cover.

“I think what’s really important for people to realize is that doing ‘business as usual’ is not working for our city any more — the question really is, can we afford not to do this?” says Mayor Dean Fortin. “There is a cost to doing nothing, whether it’s adding pollution to the environment, extending transit times with congestion, or having a transit system which has to keep adding on buses to stay reliable.”

Fortin says a committee has been struck to work with businesses to make sure all concerns are addressed. Meanwhile, he says some of the changes people are worried about could be just what the city is hoping for.

“In the end, is it going to change Victoria? The answer is, hopefully,” says Fortin. “Our commuter rate is the envy of other cities, and it’s going to be an excellent way to get more people riding transit … This is an evolution, not a revolution.”

While Kelly acknowledges that LRT is an all-or-nothing decision, he hopes that future clarity will allow all parties to throw in even stronger support for the change.

“One thing we haven’t heard a lot about is, are there any alternatives to how this is phased in?” he says. “We need to address how this will be introduced, quickly and effectively … it’s still early days, [but] we still need to see some answers on these things.”

NEED2 still in crisis

Victoria citizens aren’t the only ones who need a hand when it comes to suicide prevention.

The NEED2 Suicide Prevention Education and Support was slated for closure on June 30 due to a loss of funding. Thanks to the community and private donors, however, the centre was able to pull together half of its annual $300,000 budget and keep the doors open for another  six months — but the centre isn’t out of trouble’s woods yet.

“Things are looking better, but not yet OK,” executive director Jane Arnott told media.

NEED2, an annexed version of the original NEED Crisis Line, provided a comprehensive suicide prevention program in schools, but last year the Ministry of Children and Family Development pulled NEED2’s $43,000 allowance to prioritize funding to other services, like those for aboriginal children. The agency has received funds from private donors, the United Way, municipal governments and B.C. Gaming, but can’t commit to staying open past December.

Charity, meet my Father

Anyone looking for an actively pleasing way to spend some time with dad and introduce him to one of the multitude of cancer-research charities in town this week, look no further than your own city streets.

Join in the UrbaCity Challenge on Sunday to raise funds for the BC Cancer Foundation, as teams of two surge through the downtown core in an Amazing-Race-style adventure, competing using directional clues at numerous challenge stations throughout Victoria. Register early, or just find out how to watch at urbacitychallenge.ca.

If you’re feeling really skippy, you could always cheer on pops in the Father’s Day Walk/Run in support of the Prostate Centre. Check out theprostatecentre.org for more information.

Even if you don’t get that chance to head out to the races, here’s a father’s day wish for all the great dads in the world — and a thank you. M

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