Author Archives: Zoe Blunt

Activist Zoe Blunt Defends Canada’s Forests and Urges Us to Join In

Interview by Mickey Z, Planet Green

A self-described “journalism school dropout living in Victoria, British Columbia,” Zoe Blunt lives the eco-activist life and writes about it. For example:

Zoe Blunt. Photo by Tony Bounsall

“I’m standing at the base of the tree leaning back on my harness and peering at the platform sixty feet above. Ingmar is encouraging me to get up there. The press conference is supposed to start in forty-five minutes and we need to get into position. Ingmar’s fully informed about my slightly spastic condition and I can tell he’s not sure if I can still do this. I give him a thumbs up and start up the rope. By the time the camera crews arrive, we’re both up on the platform with our feet dangling down.”

Zoe likes to say she’s no action hero, but I say we could use a few million just like her. That’s why I interviewed her about old-growth forests, tree-spiking, direct action, and more.
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“You’re not crazy and it’s not your fault”

Derrick Jensen on coming to grips with this destructive culture

Deep ecology author Derrick Jensen won fame and notoriety with heavy works of non-fiction like Endgame, which compares western civilization to an abusive family where violence is a constant threat. He argues that we must bring down this culture by any means necessary. Since then, Jensen has published a searing exposé about zoos and captive animals with Karen Tweedy-Holmes called Thought to Exist in the Wild; Resistance to Empire, a collection of incendiary interviews with other activists; and What We Leave Behind, co-authored with Aric McBay – a heartbreaking polemic on the concepts of waste, life, and death.

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Stump broke

You ought to be taken out to the back forty and stump broke,” reads the message from a guy calling himself “Bronco.”*

The discussion was about a resort that went bankrupt, leaving hundreds of millions in debts. It wasn’t my fault – I just published information about it. Of course, it’s not the kind of information that the developers want the public to see.

Stump broke. I look it up. It means to tie an animal to a stump and rape it.

Turns out Stinger knows him by his business name. Bronco Excavating.* I find the number, a rural address in Saanich. I got a recording – a middle-aged woman’s voice, a cell phone number. The same woman answers the cell phone.

“I’m trying to reach Don Kringsborn*, please,” I say
“Who is this?”
“Zoe Blunt. I’m calling for Don Kringsborn, if he’s available.” I’m very polite.
“Where are you calling from? What do you want?” She’s knows my name and she’s upset.
I’ve blocked my number. “I’m calling from my home. Is it possible to speak to Don?”
“Not unless you give me more information!”
“How about if you give him a message. I need to know if I have the correct definition of ‘stump broke.'”
“Stump broke? Stump broke?” Her voice rises.
“Yes, I’m looking for the definition of ‘stump broke.'” I repeat.
“We’re not even in the country right now!” the woman exclaims, apropos of nothing.
“Tell him he can reach me on my cell phone. Thank you.” I hang up.

I find the postcard, a colour photo of an unfinished construction project that the resort was building until it ran out of money. “Greetings from Langford Bridge to Nowhere!” the card reads. I address it to Don Kringsborn at his Saanich address and inscribe it: “To my biggest fan! Love, Zoe.”

*Names and pseudonyms have been changed.

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Dear Auntie Civ: Why do environmentalists eat meat?

Auntie Civ

Ask Auntie Civ, the world's first anti-civilization advice columnist

Dear Auntie Civ:

Thanksgiving is here, which prompts me to ask about a matter that’s been bothering me for quite some time, namely, why are environmentalists and the social justice crowd not on board with vegetarianism?

To be fair, I’m not talking about people with allergies or sensitivities, whose eating options are narrowed for reasons not of their choosing. Instead, I’m recalling the countless environmental meetings where meat and dairy products are served without question, often at the expense of animal-free offerings.

As early as 1971, we had books like the Diet for a Small Planet, exposing the degradation and social injustice of mass meat consumption. There have been hundreds of books and documentaries highlighting the health, environmental, and social equity benefits of animal-free eating.

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Victoria city council candidate is a sex offender

Pedro Jose Mora

Pedro Mora served time for sexually assaulting a minor

This fall, Victoria residents have a unique opportunity to decide if a convicted sex offender should represent them on city council.

In a refreshingly-honest statement for an aspiring politician, Mora has confirmed he sexually assaulted a fifteen-year-old girl in Burnaby.

By his own account, Mora pleaded guilty and served 40 days in a “rehabilitation centre” in the Lower Mainland. However, he attempted to portray the offense as a minor one.

“I never had sexual intercourse with (the fifteen-year-old),” Mora said by email. “I never sexually touched the other girls” who complained to the police, he added.

Mora announced September 18 that he is seeking nominations for the city council seat vacated by Sonya Chandler. Acting on a tip, Victoria Indymedia published a summary of court records available online. The records showed that Pedro Jose Mora (born 1944) was ordered to stand trial on five charges of sexual assault in 1999.

After serving his sentence, Mora applied to have his criminal conviction sealed from public view.

“I have never denied the facts of my criminal record to any one who is genuinely concerned about the safety of women and children,” Mora said this week. He complained that the Indymedia story suggesting he is a child molester is “cruel and undo harassment” and that the publishers could face court action for  “liable.”

Missing from Mora’s statement is any indication of remorse for his actions or compassion for his victim. Instead, he lectured the reporter on the need for “identifying properly the real enemy which we both are fighting against, instead of tripping each other with unnecessary fear and hatred.”

However, social justice advocates who are “genuinely concerned about the safety of women and children” might include as “real enemies” those who participate in the system of male domination that rapes and murders thousands of women and girls each year.

Mora is a director of Vancouver Community Network and NowPolling.ca, two non-profit groups. He runs a website at Pasifik.ca and shoots video with Jack Etkin for Shaw TV community programs.

Mora previously ran for mayor of Vancouver in 2005 on a platform of “perpetual elections,” receiving 443 votes out of a total of 130,011. He now lives with his partner in Victoria’s North Park neighbourhood.

How groups can protect members from sexual abuse

Child abuse and sexual harassment are widespread, damaging, and under-reported in Canada. Non-profit groups and charitable societies are obligated to address the problem as a human rights issue, just as other institutions do. These tips can help.

  • Groups should create and implement guidelines to protect members, including safe-space policies, human rights policies, and sexual harassment policies. These will clarify the values of the society and put potential offenders on notice.
  • Directors, staff, and members should be be fully informed about these policies. A process for complaints should be clearly spelled out.
  • If a complaint is received, it must be given the highest priority. The group should bring in an independent investigator to initiate the process of interviewing complainants, witnesses, and the alleged perpetrators.
  • Followup is crucial. Once a complaint is validated, the society must take steps to protect and support the victim. This typically involves removing the offender and may include calling the police. Retaliation and threats to the victim and the group are common. Directors should consult with the group’s legal counsel for advice.
  • Be aware of legal liability issues. If directors ignore a problem, the group may be held partially responsible for subsequent abuse.

Have you been molested or raped by a candidate for public office? Contact the author for a private, confidential discussion: zoeblunt (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Let Them Eat Condos

Bilston Creek Estates

June 2009

Langford’s farmers, food lovers, and political decision-makers are struggling with the dilemma of farmland preservationAlong Bilston Creek, fat mallards flap and quack over a willow thicket and red-winged blackbirds perch on cattails to sing their spring songs. Nearby fields are dotted with blackberries, horse paddocks, and hay bales. But public notices on Happy Valley Road warn that new housing developments are on the horizon, and these farmlands and wetlands are getting squeezed by creeping urbanization. For years, Langford’s fastgrowth policies have put the city squarely at odds with local food and farming advocates.

The current development applications may also violate provincial rules and Langford’s own land-use guidelines.

Critics of growth-at-any-cost are responding by forging their own vision for the future of farmland and appealing for community support to make it a reality. According to Ian McKenzie, owner of a small farm in Happy Valley, the strategy seeks to promote positive solutions, rather than more head-butting with Mayor Stew Young and Langford city council.

Home-grown solutions are needed. Vancouver Islanders are snapping up more local produce than ever before. Cheryl McLachlan, an avid local food consumer and Langford council-watcher, says demand at farmers’ markets is outstripping supply. “The joke is, at some of the weekly markets, you have to get there before 11:30 or there’s no food left.”

This spring and summer, local residents are flocking to events like Defending Our Backyard, a celebration of local food on May 31 at Fort Rodd Hill. The Island Chefs Collaborative expects over a thousand people to attend. Up in the Cowichan Valley, wine-tasting tours are a going concern. Across the South Island, restaurants compete for bragging rights about the advantages of their local, organic ingredients: superior flavour, freshness, and nutrition content. The popular Hundred Mile Diet has gained a huge following from books, blogs, and news stories in the past year. Grocery stores proudly market “BC Grown” and “Locally Grown” produce.

A harsh reality confronts this cornucopia, however: Vancouver Island grows only about five percent of its food. In the event of a crisis, the supermarkets and grocery stores would run out of many basic supplies in ten days or less. Farmer McKenzie notes, “At the moment, we depend on the transportation system and the economic system to get our food from outside our area. If Vancouver Island were hit by a tsunami—if, all of sudden, the ferry terminals were knocked out—it would take a month to repair the docks. So at some point, we’re going to have to accept we have to produce more of our food ourselves.”

Langford is taking steps to address the issue, at least on paper. Food security gets high priority in Langford’s new Official Community Plan. The guiding document for planning and development is peppered with sweeping statements promoting local food production and sustainability.

“Grow food everywhere,” the plan exhorts.

Easier said than done. Rhetoric aside, Langford politics have taken root in the farmlands like tenacious weeds. Most of Langford’s agricultural land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), a provincial program designed to protect local food production. Overseeing the ALR is the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), which considers applications to designate or remove properties from the ALR. The agency’s mandate for preservation means the rules for removal are strict. A successful application typically demonstrates a “net benefit” to farmland overall—a tough criterion to meet. With only 292 acres remaining in the reserve in Langford, and much of the arable land already lost to development, the municipality must find creative ways to pair removal applications with plans to intensify agriculture in other areas.

McKenzie has some ideas on how to do this. “We’re looking at more intelligent use of farmland, including parcels that are part agricultural and part other use,” he says. Rocky or sandy areas can be used to build housing for farm workers, while the remainder can be worked with the latest high-intensity farming methods. Marginal soils can be remediated. “That will fulfill the ALC requirement for net benefit,” McKenzie says.

Applying to remove land from the ALR without proposing tangible benefits to farmland, McKenzie says, “defeats the whole purpose of having local food production and food security.” And those applications are not likely to be approved by the province, according to other observers.

3616 Happy Valley

At times, Langford’s land-use strategies have clashed with the provincial agricultural commission’s requirements. In 2006, the city touched off a storm when it sent a letter to every landowner with property in the ALR, advising them that the city would help them apply for removal. That letter was followed by heavy backpedaling and a second letter clarifying that there would be no “blanket removals” of ALR land. Rob Buchan, Langford’s clerk-administrator at the time, stated that the offer was merely part of a process to create a neighbourhood plan for South Langford. He told the Times Colonist that the city would consider “supporting the removal from the ALR of those lands that are not useful for farming.” As for the future of the process, “It’s very much going to be driven by what the residents have to say,” Buchan said. Cheryl McLachlan supports that notion. “Langford is a growing community, therefore it has to do more due diligence to protect the ALR land that’s left.”

So far, efforts to achieve due diligence and citizen guidance have fallen on rocky ground. Residents were cheered when Langford city council appointed an advisory committee earlier this year to assist with land-use planning and accountability. The Agricultural Advisory Committee had to hit the ground running—currently, 11 landowners are applying to remove their lands from the ALR. In announcing the inaugural meeting of the committee in January 2009, Mayor Young promised, “It’s not going to be an easy process, but it’s going to be a fair one.”

Mayor Young may be half right. McLachlan attends most of the city’s committee meetings, and she and others are raising concerns about the advisory process. Citizens’ letters to the committee were rebuffed by city planner Matthew Baldwin, who politely but firmly told residents to write to the provincial Agricultural Land Commission instead, since “the decision whether or not land is removed from the ALR rests solely with the ALC, and not with Council for the City of Langford.”

Debra Harper, a local food advocate and Langford resident, was so irked by her exchange with Baldwin that she posted his “rejection letter” on her website. Baldwin later admitted that city council does, in fact, decide whether to forward applications to the province, and it can effectively veto the proposals, but he has failed to address citizens’ grievances about the way he handled the situation. Among the letters were submissions from local farmers with information about farming techniques, local soils and drainage conditions that could have helped guide the committee, which does not include any local food producers, McLachlan says.

Adding insult to injury, at least eight of those letters were also missing from the package given to city council for its final consideration of the ALR applications on April 20, 2009.

Another surprise awaited attendees at the April city council meeting. Reading the agenda, they noticed that one of the advisory committee members had the same last name and first initial as a landowner applying for removal of his land from the ALR. When questioned, Mayor Young confirmed that Mr Thomas Atherton of Happy Valley Road had, in fact, voted to bring his own application to council.

Turning farmland into housing developments typically brings a windfall profit to the landowner, and those responsible for advising governments on land-use decisions are expected to be impartial, with at least an arm’s-length distance between applicants and deciders. Langford’s terms of reference for the committee state emphatically that “no member of the Agricultural Advisory Committee shall have an active application before the committee.”

Even after McLachlan raised the point about this potential conflict, Mayor Young and Langford city council voted unanimously to forward seven applications—including Atherton’s—to the province for removal from the ALR. The final decision now rests with the Agricultural Land Commission.

Meanwhile, McKenzie is preparing a presentation for Langford council on the community’s vision for the future of farmland in Happy Valley.

“We want our kids to have food on the table and not to have to struggle for it,” McKenzie says. “We want our kids to have jobs, and that means a whole range of jobs, not just professional jobs, not just construction or manufacturing.”

Agricultural work is a big part of lots of people’s lives, he says. “We’d like to see urban planning that takes into account the importance of farming—the necessity of growing food. ”

McKenzie is hopeful Langford’s rhetoric will someday match up with its actions. “I think they’re sort of grudgingly admitting they have to have some sort of a plan for agriculture, but I think at the moment they don’t give it the same importance as other types of land development,” he says.

As you sow, so shall you reap. Chris Johnson, a local food advocate in Victoria, says disappearing agricultural land is an urgent problem. “At the rate things are going,” he says, “I hope our children can figure out how to eat carpet and plasterboard.”

Rezoning notice in Happy Valley

Zoe Blunt lives in Langford and loves local food.

Photos by Pete Rockwell.

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Auntie Civ: How to bring it down and why

old-woman-big

Meet Auntie Civ, the world’s first anti-civilization advice columnist!
April 18, 2009

Hi kids, it’s your Auntie Civ here. I want to say you all deserve a huge shout-out for your amazing efforts! It’s hard work, challenging the stifling conventions of this destructive society, not to mention preparing for the collapse of civilization (and even helping it along a bit!) I’m moved by the passion and resourcefulness and dedication of the happy bands of ruffians diving in dumpsters, hopping trains, and living in the woods. The sheer exuberance of these semi-feral young people puts a song in my cynical old heart.

Now, I can’t hop trains anymore because of the arthritis, but I can help in other ways. I’ve learned a few things over the decades and I’d like others to benefit from my experience. There’s a lot at stake, and I know the struggle can be overwhelming for even the bravest soul. Please, get it off your chest. Ask Auntie Civ anything — whether it’s free advice, anti-civilization insights, or funny stories from the bad old days, I’ll reply to everyone and post the best questions and answers here.

But first, a little note about common sense: don’t send Auntie Civ any details about actions you may be thinking of doing, or details about actions you already did, or theories about who might be doing what. (Here’s a nice little essay about security culture – very educational!) Also, my opinions are my own (unless I’m quoting an expert) and I expect those who disagree to follow the time-honored tradition of flaming my fat ass. So bring it on, you young whippersnappers!

Love, Auntie Civ
XOXOXO

(Disclaimer: Advice given is for entertainment purposes only. Void where prohibited by law.)

Dear Auntie Civ,

How do you propose to bring down ‘civilization as we know it?’

Remarcus

Dear Remarcus,

Great question! It reminds me of a joke that’s been around since the Roman Empire. A soldier brags that he’s going to kill an elephant and eat the whole thing — by himself. The other soldiers scoff at him. “How can you eat an elephant?” one asks. “Simple,” says the first soldier. “One bite at a time.”

Rome didn’t fall in a day, and none of us can bring down civilization all at once. What we can do is help it along a bit by greasing the skids, fighting to preserve those parts of Mother Nature that are still intact, and monkeywrenching the forces of destruction.

I can hear you asking, “But how do you do that?” Well, here’s some examples.

  • Challenge timber sales
  • Blockade logging roads
  • Stop local governments from adopting development plans
  • Support First Nations land claims
  • Sabotage the careers of pro-development politicians
  • Take the bastards to court
  • Tear down flagging tape
  • Uproot survey stakes
  • Shoot out electrical transformers
  • Cut fibre-optic cables
  • Destroy earth-wrecking machines
  • Hack the computer systems of earth-wrecking companies

Years ago, when I ran around with a posse, we made a conscious decision that we were on side with anything that slowed down the destruction, or stopped it even for a minute, or cost the company money, or exposed it to public embarrassment and drove down its market share. As long as no one got hurt. And you know what? We won. It was like a death from a thousand cuts, and you better believe when Goliath hit the ground, the shock wave reached all the way to Ottawa.

Dear Auntie Civ,

Is it possible for the Earth to feed 6 billion people without civilization? I’m worried that if we all go live in the woods at once and use hunting or slash and burn farming to feed ourselves we’ll destroy nature.

Bacchus

Dear Bacchus,

It isn’t possible to feed 6 billion people right now, with civilization. That’s why millions of people are starving. That’s why more and more desperate, hungry people are resorting to slash-and-burn farming and destroying nature to feed themselves. Much of the best farmland has already been ruined by agricultural chemicals or paved over for subdivisions. Much of what’s left will be devastated by climate change and drought. This is happening now, because of civilization.

You see, we’ve exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet. It’s horrifying to contemplate a future in which hundreds of millions more will die for lack of food, clean water, medicine, transportation, heat, air conditioning, and so on. I’ve thought about it a great deal, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the fight to defend and restore the land and water is the only sane response to the crisis we face.

All my love,

Auntie Civ
XOXOXO

Send your questions to auntieciv (at) gmail.com.

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“Racist” Developer May Get the Torch

frankenstein mob

Halloween Uprising on Vancouver Island?

April 14, 2009

Victoria, BC – A local blog is reporting rumours that the controversial Bear Mountain Resort may host part of the 2010 Olympic Torch relay on Halloween.

WTF Langford? cites “insider gossip” as the source of this news, noting that municipalities recently sent their proposals for Torch venues to the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC). An announcement is expected later this week, the blog says.

Conflict has dogged Bear Mountain Resort for over two years, with native protests and a ten-month-long treesit that blocked the route of a highway to the resort.

Last week, WTF Langford? named Bear Mountain owner Len Barrie Vancouver Island’s Most Racist Developer for desecrating native graves, blowing up SPAET Cave and willfully destroying a million-year-old geological formation.

The web site spells out a cozy relationship between Barrie and the BC Liberal Party, which is well-known for forging sleazy deals with developers. That relationship was consummated last year with a $10,000-a-plate Liberal fundraising dinner at Barrie’s sprawling estate at Bear Mountain.

If VANOC awards Bear Mountain “the endorsement of the world’s largest sporting event and a million-dollar-marketing advantage,” there will be consequences, the blog warns. However, the authors predict, “this little s#$%storm is not going to materialize. Why? Let’s just say we know people. People with morals and the power to use them.”

Read the whole post here.

Your comments are welcome!

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Why I Won’t Run for the Green Party

cand

March 31, 2009

Clarification: I’m flattered the Greens would consider me as a candidate, and I respect the group — especially Jane Sterk, the provincial leader — but there’s no way I would put my name in as a candidate for any political party. For one thing, I wouldn’t survive the vetting process. As I mention below, a few minutes’ research would get me dumped off any self-respecting party’s slate. Also, I make a lousy servant. I suck at toeing the party line. I’m insubordinate, undisciplined, and disrespectful. And those are my good qualities.

Thank you, we now return to our regularly scheduled mockery.

Strange times! On a Sunday morning in February, out of nowhere, I get a note from the leader of the Green Party of British Columbia asking if I would consider running as a candidate for the Legislative Assembly in May.

Jane Sterk, Green Party of BC

When I stopped laughing, I called a few friends. One said the Greens seem to be flailing. “Not that you wouldn’t make a fine candidate, “ he added.

Sorry, but if they’re asking me, they must be desperate. I can see the headlines now. “Anarchist eco-terrorist riot-inciting cheerleader for the collapse of civilization is the Green Party candidate for southern Vancouver Island.” I guess Jane didn’t Google me or check out this blog before she sent me the message.

But never mind the embarrassment I could inflict on the Greens by accepting their invitation. This riding is held by a strong ally, John Horgan of the New Democratic Party, one of maybe two politicians in this province who I actually respect.

His challenger, Jody Twa, is an evil reptile backed by Stew Young, the mayor of Langford. Like Young, Twa apparently never met a developer he didn’t like, and he has an ego the size of Mt. Washington.

Evil clone Twa, backed by big money and the Liberal machine, has a fighting chance to beat Horgan and take over the riding. That could pave the way for an explosion of cancerous growth eating through the forests and hills around Goldstream Provincial Park. (Like we don’t have enough of that already.)

Worse, a strong Green candidate could split the enviro vote and hand the pro-development side an easy romp to victory. Personally, I would rather cut my fingers off with a dull knife than help elect Jody Twa.

So I called Jane with a proposal of my own. “I wonder if the Green Party would consider not running a candidate in this riding,” I said.

“We’re running candidates in every riding,” she snapped back.

“Why?”

I don’t remember her answer. It doesn’t matter.

So far, the Greens haven’t announced who’s taking on Twa and Horgan. With less than six weeks before the election, I’m thinking maybe they’ll just do the right thing and let it go. Jeezus.

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Please don’t call it the Bear Mtn Bailout

Mosaic
Bear Mountain resort, near Victoria, BC. Photo mosaic by Pete Rockwell.

March 18, 2009

The public hearing on March 16 was much more civil than other meetings I’ve seen at Langford City Hall, but I still had to lean over the podium and grab the microphone to be heard over all the people shouting at me – not just the audience, but also the chair of the hearing, deputy mayor Denise Blackwell. It’s not easy to deliver a simple five-minute presentation to Langford Council when the pro-development crowd doesn’t agree with you.

I made some enemies that night when I suggested to Blackwell that the best thing she could do to restore Langford Council’s integrity was resign. I added that Mayor Stew Young and Chief Planner Matthew Baldwin should also resign in response to increasing concerns about biased decision-making around Skirt Mountain.

It was the second public hearing for this development proposal. Skirt Mountain – known for thousands of years as Spaet Mountain, and more recently as the home of Bear Mountain Resort – is a bluffy knob rising 340 meters from a fault line next to Goldstream Provincial Park, fifteen kilometers west of Victoria, BC.

Thanks to Len Barrie, the former NHL player turned real estate developer, Skirt Mountain has been “terraformed by mountaintop removal,” according to local environmentalist Ingmar Lee. In April 2007, Lee set up a tree-sit camp to stop construction of the Spencer Road Interchange and protect the remaining garry oaks and arbutus bluffs on the mountainside below Bear Mountain Resort. I helped kick off the tree sit by spending a wet and stormy week camped on a platform high up in the limbs of a big old red cedar.

That cedar and all its neighbours are gone now. Last February, a contingent of more than sixty RCMP special forces arrested the tree sitters and closed the area for three days while machines clearcut the site. Soon after, the city borrowed $10 million from TD Bank on behalf of the developers, and construction on the new interchange lurched forward.

Today the interchange is almost complete, but it leads nowhere. A muddy, impassable track marks the future road up Skirt Mountain to Len Barrie’s house, the golf course, and all the unsold condos at Bear Mountain Resort.

That’s about to change, if the South Skirt Mountain Village developers get their way. They’re planning a mini-city on that rugged slope, with towers six stories high and higher and 2800 condos with a total value of $1.7 billion. Apparently the condos will sell for about $607,000 each. (I did the math.)

It’s bad news for garry oaks, songbirds, owls, woodpeckers, and eagles. Anyone who enjoys fresh air and fresh water or opposes urban sprawl has a stake in this project as well.

Predictably, Langford’s mayor and council are cheerleading the development. In February, local news broadcasts showed Mayor Young enthusing over the construction boom the project would create, followed by footage of Young at the public hearing berating a retired schoolteacher who lives on Florence Lake, next to Skirt Mountain. Local residents’ complaints centred around concerns about damage to the watershed at Florence Lake and loss of wildlife habitat. Their testimony was interrupted by Young’s frequent diatribes against “you people” making “the same complaints time after time.”

Joni Olsen, a band councillor for the Tsartlip First Nation, attended the February hearing to tell Langford Council that the graves of her ancestors are on Skirt Mountain and that development would destroy “this beautiful place.” The city and Bear Mountain Resort have already demolished two culturally-significant caves in the area.

“That’s 8,000 years of history that you guys are going to build on. That’s appalling,” Olsen said. Young let the remarks pass without comment.

The mayor’s bad behaviour is nothing new to city council observers. But the following month brought an unwelcome surprise. On March 12, Langford council voted to apply for federal stimulus money for the road from the interchange to Bear Mountain Resort. Naturally, I wanted to ask them if this was a bailout for Len Barrie.

But as soon as I brought up the subject at the public hearing on March 16, Denise Blackwell shut me down, insisting that I could not speak about the bailout or about Bear Mountain. She said the three projects – Bear Mountain, South Skirt Mountain and the Spencer Road interchange – are not connected. In fact, they are strung together like beads on a string by that muddy track of a road.

The developers of Bear Mountain Resort and South Skirt Mountain are partners in a user-pay Local Service agreement for the Spencer Road Interchange. Remember, back in 2008 Langford Council said the deal would fund the new interchange and taxpayers would pay nothing. Now Langford will try to force taxpayers to fork over millions of dollars for the project.

South Skirt Mountain has its own user-pay agreement. Staff reports say the developers will build the new subdivision’s roads and the interchange as part of a $28 million contribution to the city’s services and amenities. None of this jibes with Langord’s $24.5 million taxpayer-funded grant application. Furthermore, the Community Charter expressly forbids local governments from giving out grants to private companies.

I realize that Langford Council and the developers have compelling reasons for making this project a top priority, regardless of the cost to everyone else. They would be the first to tell us that the interchange and the parkway are crucial for Langford’s future, and taxpayers should be grateful for the opportunity to pay for them. Imagine the alternative – if the developers can’t afford to build the road, the interchange to nowhere would look pretty stupid, wouldn’t it?

But please, don’t call it the Bear Mountain bailout. Denise Blackwell will thank you to stop that kind of talk right now.

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