Check Live Camera
November 25, 2015, 2:12 pm Advertisments

The Naked Truth



Don Pitcairn

A dressed-up lie when exposed and stripped to bare facts will reveal the naked truth.



The content and expressions of The Naked Truth are the sole responsibility of the author Don Pitcairn.


November 23, 20156

Gagging on Tainted Water


It would have been fun to be a fly on the wall in the hallowed halls of White Rock City Hall last week when rumors began to fly that people living in the city were in possession of the 68 page long Asset Purchase Agreement containing the details of the sale of the White Rock water system by the city from EPCOR. There had to be fiery talks about a mole, a leak (too funny), a breach of trust or possible break-in and it would surprise me if consideration wasn't given to contacting the jackbooted White Rock RCMP to start an investigation. In the end it turned out that the redacted document was legally obtained from the office of the BC Comptroller of Water Rights under the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations through a Freedom of Information request by a resident concerned with the secrecy shrouding this pending sale.

When the boneheads on Buena Vista realized that the cat was out of the bag and the agreement being passed around the Rock faster than a doobie at a Greatful Dead concert, the same redacted (blacked out) copy of the agreement they refused to release under FOI was then quickly posted on the city website. You can peruse it in your leisure or even in your underwear at the following link:

I must warn you there is enough legaleze there to make even stale dry toast seem wonderfully moist and buttery but it is worthy of a look considering it is the framework of what should eventually become the most expensive purchase in White Rock's history. The price tag would be even higher still had City of White Rock/EPCOR not seen fit to separate a 2.67 acre chunk of development property located at 1454 Oxford St. that is now valued at an estimated $12 million and ear-marked for twin twenty story towers. The biggest issue and monumental stumbling block is that the final sale price for White Rock's water system, estimated this summer at $23 million, has still not been hammered out and it looks as if binding arbitration might be needed to finally bring the two sides together.

Rather amazingly in an agreement between EPCOR (which is owned by the City of Edmonton) and the City of White Rock is that they installed a long-term gag order into the contract. It states "Between the execution of this Agreement and the Closing and for a period of three (3) years after the Closing Date, the parties will continue to abide by the terms of the Confidentiality Agreement." For those who keep their old calendars as a memento, you might realize that we have just passed the one year anniversary since the last civic election that was held on Nov 14, 2014. Even with the recent electoral change that saw the terms of Mayor and Council extended from three years to four, it means that if the agreement were finalized tomorrow the confidentiality agreement will still be in place until after the next election scheduled in Nov., 2018. Talk about building in a great duck and cover tactic to avoid being taken to task about details in this epic purchase from EPCOR until either being returned to power or given the bum's rush out of the doors at city hall. So much for open and transparent government, which puts the moron in oxymoron better than military intelligence or giant shrimp I should add.

As if this wasn't enough secrecy, they installed a further gag order on who could make public announcements about the water sale agreement. The Public Notice section of the agreement states as follows:
Subject to paragraph C below, neither party will issue nor permit any of its affiliates to issue any press release, public announcement or other public statement, including without limitation through social media, relating to the purchase and sale of the Assets or the other transactions contemplated hereby, unless such is in accordance with paragraph C below and in the case of press releases, also unless with the prior written approval of the other party acting reasonably.
It goes on to list those who can actually talk about the agreement, that being the Director of Municipal Operations and Media Relations at EPCOR plus White Rock's Mayor Baldwin, City Manager Dan Bottrill, and Communications Officer Shannon Levesque. Tightening the straps on the gag-ball even further, it goes on to state that "the parties will respond to media inquiries, but no proactive media contact will occur without he prior written approval of both parties." When the White Rock water purchase is actually finalized it will be interesting to see how they can keep councilors who did not sign or even see this document before it became public from making their positions known. Little Johnny..., can you spell "censure"?

The muzzling contained in this agreement makes me gag worse than drinking a tall glass of pigeon-poop tainted, E. coli contaminated, non-chlorinated well water with high levels of manganese and arsenic. In case you missed the reference, that was a pretty valid description of White Rock's tap water during the 2010 boil water advisory. It now looks as if the City of White Rock dropped the ball by not expropriating their water system last summer as they had threatened instead of trying to negotiate a deal to take over the taps. They should have taken note of how Surrey quickly took over the Riverside Golf Course in a quick four months, giving the previous owners a pittance for their land and kicking them out on short notice. My guess it that when the blacked out portions of this document are eventually revealed, showing the cursed devil in the details, this deal will leave a bad taste in the mouths of White Rock residents a lot worse than a little bird crap.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


November 16, 2015

Terror in Our Backyard

This week's mass shootings and bombings involving a group of eight terrorists, multiple locations across Paris and a death toll of 129 souls with 350 wounded (99 critically) should serve as a wake-up call that the thugs who run ISIS want to instill terror far and wide. Even al-Qaeda does not have the lack of moral fibre to knowingly target civilians, women and children. That was not the case at the Bataclan theatre where it has been reported that several gunmen systematically shot the people sitting in wheelchairs in the disabled section of the building along with mowing down anyone else they could find. All of the attackers across the city wore and detonated identical suicide bomb vests packed with nails, except for the one who was shot dead by police before he could trigger the device. It shows the depths of depravity and blind faith to a twisted ideology when the terrorists involved in this diabolical plot agreed to this suicide mission that they knew would be a blood-bath for innocents.

All of this gory carnage has put Canada's newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau between a rock and a hard place when now making decisions related to combating ISIS. While it was a key Liberal party plank to pull the CF-18 fighter jets and other associated aircraft out of Iraq and Syria immediately, this promise may be hard to deliver on considering the recent violence in Paris. Meeting with other world leaders now at the G20 Conference in Turkey, it will be difficult for him to pull the plug early on Operation Impact as the Canadian Forces mission is known that is set to expire in March of 2016. As of Remembrance Day, the Department of National Defense listed 1109 combat missions by CF-18 Hornet fighters that dropped their laser guided bombs about two third of the time, 302 flights for a C-150 Polaris tanker that helped to fuel coalition aircraft and two Auroras that flew 320 reconnaissance and surveillance missions on ISIS positions and movements. Don't expect the 600 troops supporting this mission that has operated out of Kuwait since Oct. of 2014 to be packing their bags and coming home anytime soon.

It is also likely that Bill C-51 which gave secret police powers to Canadian spy agencies to run roughshod over civil rights might not get quite the dumbing down that was promised by the Trudeau Liberals. While this piece of dictatorial legislation was proposed and passed by the Harper Conservatives before they were deposed, it was supported with reservations by the Liberal MP's in the House of Commons who voted for it. Here are the reported changes that Trudeau's cabinet were considering before the Paris massacre:
Reversing C-51's provisions that allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and other spy agencies to break Canadian law and Charter rights
Establish an all-party parliamentary committee to review the activities of CSIS, Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) and other spy agencies
Requiring the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada's version of America's NSA, to obtain warrants before engaging in the surveillance of Canadians.
Narrowing the definition of "terrorist propaganda" to help mitigate C-51's threat to free expression and artistic interpretation
A full review of C-51 after three years including consultations with average Canadians
If there is a softening of the desire to enact these alterations, expect the numbers to continue to increase on the "Kill Bill C-51" online petition ( that now sits at over 303,000 and counting.

If you think that we are immune from becoming a target by an ISIS terror cell or lone wolf operative, give your head a quiet shake. The deadly shooting at the Ottawa War Memorial last year and subsequent attack on Parliament hill show how one deranged lunatic with a gun is hard to stop. The same can be said for the attack only two days earlier in Quebec where another radicalized Muslim convert decided to use his car as a weapon to strike two Canadian Forces members at a nearby base, killing one of them. In the two weeks before the recent Paris atrocity, an Islamic State affiliate took responsibility for bombing an Egyptian passenger plane flying mainly Russian tourists home in a crash that killed all 224 on board, two suicide bombers reportedly dispatched by Islamic State killed 43 people in Beirut, and in Turkey (remember the G20 meeting?) two suicide attacks claimed by the group killed dozens more. With our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society in the Lower Mainland and the plethora of illegal weapons easily available as shown by the constant Surrey shootings, the odds are not good that some extremist Islamic radical here might want to go out guns-a-blazing.

What most people don't know is that only a week before the car attack on the Quebec soldiers and the War Memorial shooting/Parliament Hill storming in Ottawa last November, Canada's domestic terrorism threat level was quietly elevated from "low-unlikely" to "medium-could occur" shortly after Operation Impact was launched. If you don't think that the terrorist threat here is being taken seriously by those responsible for your safety, then you should have attended the recent Remembrance Day ceremonies held in White Rock. It was last November when the RCMP were first ordered to carry their sidearms and handcuffs to Remembrance Day ceremonies including while wearing the ceremonial red serge uniform.

This year several RCMP officers were assigned as a security detail at the White Rock City Hall cenotaph armed with their new semi-automatic Colt C-8 carbine rifles. For those not familiar with firearms, these are a shortened version of the AR-15 assault rifle utilizing the same .223 calibre bullets in a 30 round magazine. That is a radical change in their policing policy and an ominous sign they feared this sacred event could possibly be targeted. These days, even something as sick as this should come as no surprise.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



November 09, 2015

Surrey Rice Makes Sake Nice

When people hear about Colebrook Road in Surrey, they generally get dark thoughts because of its long history as a scene for crimes ranging from a dumping place for stolen cars and marijuana grow-ops to sexual assaults and murder. It was on Colebrook Road two years ago that the bodies of five homicide victims were found, totaling 20% of all of the record number of 25 murders that happened in Surrey during the bloody year of 2013. I frequent Colebrook Road, not because I'm ambulance chasing or doing anything nefarious, but find it a great shortcut up into Panorama Ridge. This spring when much of Colebrook Road was realigned to the north side of the tracks, I noticed one of the farm fields beside a well-known heritage home near 133B St. had been flooded and there were small tufts of thin green foliage sticking out of the water. While I had never seen one before with my own eyes, it was obvious that I was looking at a rice paddy.

Rice growing is nothing new to the Lower Mainland with sakemaster Mr. Masa Shiroi starting to grow the original crops of rice in BC nine years ago utilizing specialized farming equipment brought here from Japan. Most of his current production is centred in Abbotsford where he has been harvesting rice since 2011. Rice fields are normally flooded to drown weeds, soggy conditions that the rice plants thrive in. The water also keeps tender young seedlings warm in spring and keeps the plants from sending out too many shoots. The Colebrook Road property that Shiroi leased has a high water table year round and was easily diked and flooded with water to keep it wet. The rice that is harvested from what are the most northern rice fields in the world is used to produce high quality Sake for the local market plus supply locally grown Northern Lite BC Rice for cooking. Riding the BC food trend that has seen craft beer production skyrocket and the local food movement blossom, Mr. Shiroi's Sake is seen as a trend-setting product as it is the only rice wine made with home grown rice that is fermented and bottled in Canada.

Granville Island in Vancouver is home to Artisan SakeMaker that creates award winning hand made small batch Sake on a year round basis. Shiroki ferments rice that is grown without herbicides, pesticides or any chemicals, blending the resulting liquid with water to correct the alcohol content to 15-18% and leaving the finished product unfiltered for enhanced flavour. His brand name is "Osake" with O in Japanese expressing honour and respect and he currently produces a total of seven different Sakes bearing this name. Masa's other series is the trademark "Fraser Valley Junmai Sake" which is his premium 100% Canadian Sake made with locally grown rice that starting next year will also include the crop from Surrey. Last year over 5,000 bottles of the Fraser Valley Sake were produced from only three acres of Abbotsford rice fields and the Colebrook Road field will add another twelve acres to that amount with a further ten acre expansion planned for 2016. As if this weren't enough Masa also makes North America's first "Traditional Method Sparkling Sake" that can be used in place of champagne.

It should come as no surprise that with an ever growing Asian population and Vancouver's position as Canada's main trading port to the Pacific Rim that Sake here is big business. The Sake Association of BC ( was created in 2013 representing nine Sake importers and producers doing business in BC. with Mr. Shiori as its president. It was formally established on Oct. 1st to coincide with the official Sake Day in Japan. Their goal is "to raise the status of Sake to a beverage that will be a part of daily life for the people of Canada, and to spread Sake culture deep and wide throughout British Columbia." This year the SABC held the 14th Annual Tonari Gumi Premium Sake Tasting Night at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel in Vancouver presenting Sake for 13 different suppliers based in both japan and North America. In 2015, Vancouver and Yokohama plus Burnaby and Kurshiro both celebrated their 50-year Golden Jubilee as sister cities with a Sake barrel opening and tasting provided by the SABC as an integral part of the ceremonies between these Japanese and Canadian cities.

If you have not yet tried premium Sake, it has an expanse of taste and complexity rivaling the best craft beer, the finest wine or the richest spirit in the world. It is exquisite especially when paired with oysters on the half-shell or fresh sushi. I will never forget the Asian couple I met at the Clear Creek hot springs near Harrison Lake who brought with them the Japanese onsen experience. They arrived at this wilderness setting, changed into silk robes and chose one of the vacant round cedar tubs, placing a bottle of Sake in the very hot inflow water. Before bathing, they went to a nearby cast iron bath tub, disrobed and washed head to toe with soap as is customary in Japan. Entering the cedar tub for their soak, they sipped on their now warm Sake while nibbling on sushi they had brought with them in a cooler for lunch. It sure beat the hell out of the Molson Canadian and campfire smokies that we were having! Needless to say, we took notice and now do our best to follow their tried and true formula when we go in search of magma heated mineral water.

For more information about Masa Shiroi and Artisan Sakemaker, visit and like their "Artisan SakeMaker & CMC Sake + Wine Merchants" Facebook page. You can find their website at The Alcohol Professor blog has a great in-depth article about Mr. Shiroi available at the link With an ever increasing Asian population here in the Semi-pen, a plethora of great Japanese restaurants and many people looking for different culinary experiences, it would be wonderful if Sake from Artisan SakeMaker was available here. Besides the store at Granville Island and Nature's Pickin's in Abbotsford they do sell their products at farmers markets in Vancouver. I've put them in touch with the White Rock Farmers Market who are now operating indoors at the Elks Hall on George St. until mid December. Hopefully Artisan Sakemaker will attend as I now have a bottle of their Fraser Valley Junmai Sake brewed with nice Surrey rice on my Christmas list.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


Q. What is the size of the field on Colebrook road, either in acres or hectares?
A. 12 acres divided in three parts
Q. How much production in kg. or tons do you expect to yield from the Surrey field?
A. 10 tons
Q. What was the total rice harvest that you produced from the Lower Mainland in 2014?
A. 3 tons
Q. Are there other fields now in production in the Lower Mainland other than in Abbotsford?
A. Surrey field is the only one
Q. Are you planing on growing more rice next year at Colebrook Road or other Surrey locations?
A. We plan to expand the acreage at Colebrook location by another 10 acres
Q. How many bottles of sake do you expect to brew out of the 2015 harvest?
A. We expect 5 tons of Sake Rice (50% of total harvest) to go into Sake making and the other 5 tons of Table Rice will be marketed through farmers markets, limited grocery stores and our own retail store on Granville Island as well as restaurants with local ingredient focus.
Q. Is there anywhere (in Surrey) locally that people can purchase your rice or sake?
A. No, it is available only at two places at the moment; our Granville Island store and at Nature's Pickin's in Abbotsford where the rice field is located.





November 02, 2015

Sitting Ducks

They say that bad things always come in threes and it certainly looks that when when it involves bus shelter crashes in Surrey. On Wednesday a woman was lucky not to be seriously injured or killed when a Ford F150 truck driven by a 17 year-old male crashed into a bus shelter that she was
waiting in at 60 Ave. and 152 St. Fortunately she was not struck by the out of control vehicle but did get launched through the broken glass at the rear of the shelter receiving minor injuries. Earlier this month on Oct. 8th a Corvette sports car driving on the King George Blvd. lost control near 96 Ave. knocking down a fire hydrant before plowing into a bus shelter seriously injuring a person waiting there. Only a day before that accident, an out-of-control Jeep driven by a 17 year-old girl jumped the curb on Fraser Hwy. near 156 St. and ran over 22 year-old Evan Archibald who was seriously injured and died later in hospital. Take a second to Google search "Surrey bus stop crash" and hit the image tab to check out the many pictures of the carnage.

That is all from the police files for this month but this problem has been ongoing in Surrey and other municipalities in the Lower Mainland for years. There was another bus shelter crash here on June 30 with a Toyota Tacoma truck involved in an accident at the intersection of 88 Ave. and 148 St. that slammed into a bus stop where 35 year-old Karen Lamy was sitting. She lost both of her legs in the crash and suffered serious internal injuries which resulted in her being placed into a medically induced coma. A year earlier on June 30, 2014, another pickup truck was involved in a crash at the intersection of 88 Ave. and 148 St. and then barreled into a bus stop bench where two women were sitting, slightly hurting one of them but leaving the other with critical injuries that lead to her having both legs amputated. Digging into the archives a little further back there was the crash on Sept 17, 2009 in Newton on 72 Ave. near 128 St. where a black Corvette being driven dangerously spun out of control and slammed into a bus stop bench where 83 year-old Pritnam Benning was sitting. The force of the impact severed his legs and he died five days later in hospital without regaining consciousness leading to criminal charges against the driver of the Corvette.

There are countless others from across Metro Vancouver including the Feb. 2015 crash on Canada way near Beta Ave. in Burnaby where 22 year-old college student Shiloh Johnson was killed in a bus shelter crash after being hit by a car that had previously collided with another vehicle. You can even see a video of a Vancouver accident involving a BMW M5 into a bus shelter taken from a rear-mounted dash cam that is online on YouTube at which has already been viewed over 130,000 times. The gentleman turns left, steps on the gas pedal too hard on wet streets and swerves out of control directly into the shelter that fortunately was unoccupied. The biggest issue with the main bus shelters is that they are usually placed just past an intersection and not before it, greatly increasing the odds of a vehicle ending up driving into the bus stop. The shelters or benches are positioned in this dangerous locations so that buses traveling in three different directions can turn and stop there. Unfortunately cars turning and accelerating can lose control swerving into these spots or vehicles involved in crashes at the intersection often smash into them. Simple physics and traffic flow ensure that there are many more crashes into these sides of the roads than the straightaway before an intersection.

While it is only the horrific accidents and those involving death or serious injury that make the news, bus shelters and bus stop benches get mowed down with great regularity. Besides the many traffic and news reports about them being hit, I have seen plenty of these while driving that have been seriously damaged by collisions. I even saw a bench at 1148 St. and 24 Ave. get bowled over by a car that had been in a collision with a BC Transit bus, driving onto the scene just as the people were climbing out of their car that was parked on the bench that fortunately no one had been sitting on it. I also got to meet the man driving a very expensive Audi R8 last year who had failed to negotiate the left turn off of Crescent Road and veered into the ditch on the KGB hitting a light standard just metres from the busy bus shelter at that corner. Knowing from years of work and driving experience that vehicles present the greatest danger to my life and limb, you will never find me sitting at a bus shelter or bench when waiting for a bus. I stand past the bus shelters regardless of the weather, utilizing them as a barrier to oncoming traffic. If there is only a bench, I will stand behind the nearest large tree or utility pole so that I have protection from passing vehicles that have an average weight of 4,000 pounds and are usually going much faster than the posted speed limit.

Moving all of the very expensive bus shelters to the side of the road before intersections would be extremely costly and would greatly reduce the efficiency of the public transit system. Fortunately there is a very easy way to make bus shelters much safer and protect the occupants who gather there in droves waiting for their bus. Simply install thick steel pipes called bollard bollards deep into the ground and filled with concrete between the bus shelter and passing traffic.. These can be painted bright yellow for visibility and circled with reflective tape, alerting drivers to the presence of bus stops especially at night. You can usually find versions of these at every gas station where they are often used to protect the pumps from getting hit by cars and catching fire. BC Hydro uses them around ground level hydro boxes to protect the electrical equipment inside and to keep drivers from getting electrocuted. Many businesses use these strong protective devices to secure their businesses from thefts where criminals use stolen cars to ram their store fronts. Any BC liquor store will have them and locally the Best Buy at Grandview and the Schill Insurance in Ocean Park are examples of where they are used to guard stores. If these bollards can be used to protect equipment and inventory, does it not make sense to use them to protect people too? Better for a car to take the hit rather than the people trapped with no where to go in a bus shelter.

Singapore shelter

While it would be financially prohibitive to protect every bus shelter and bench, I would suggest that those on main streets just past busy intersections should be protected by these simple safety devices. The installation of a set of these would be much cheaper than to replace the steel and glass bus shelters that you now see around Surrey courtesy of the Pattison Group. They should also be used around secondary schools where large crowds of young people often congregate waiting for a bus in an area with high traffic flows and plenty of novice drivers. It might also be a good idea to consider attaching reflective tape to all bus benches and shelters so they are more visible and to make drivers aware more of them. Surrey Mayor Hepner is on record about the rash of bus shelter crashes as saying, "Is it such a significant issue that we should do something about the design of a bus shelter? Probably not in my opinion." Instead of coming to a conclusion without any facts, I suggest she inquire with the RCMP, Translink, Pattison Group and Benchads to find out just how often bus shelters and benches are being damaged by cars in Met-Van. The new bus shelters here have the City of Surrey logo on them and they are responsible for people's safety, especially when these are placed in dangerous locations. With the city motto being "the future lives here" it is time to ensure that those utilizing pubic transit can do so safely and make this essential upgrade.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



Oct. 26, 2015

Politicians Lie - Numbers Don't

It has taken me a week to recover from the results of last Monday's election where Justin Trudeau lead the Liberals to power with voters making it clear they had had enough of Stephen Harper's Conservatives. The 42nd Canadian general election was a marathon 78 day campaign, the longest in modern history dating back to 1872 and longer than both the 2008 and 2011 elections combined. While the various political parties tried to push their differing platforms, it was the call for change in Ottawa that polled as the most important topic for 70% of Canadians. A total of 3.6 million people took advantage of the advance polls, an increase of 71% over the early poll results from 2011. When the final results were in, 68.5% of a total of 26 million eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2015 federal election, up from 61.4% in 2011 showing increased interest in the democratic process in Canada.

When the smoke had cleared the Liberals had pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Canadian election history. Going from 3rd party status, they received the largest numerical increase in seats by a party ever recorded, going from a lowly 36 seats in 2011 to 184 MP's elected in 2015 out of a total of 338 seats, well above the 170 needed for a majority. The Harper Conservatives dropped a whopping 60 seats from 159 to 99 while Thomas Mulcair's NDP that were originally favoured to win slipped badly from 103 seats to 67. This year is only the 4th time that a majority government has been driven from power, with the bulk of these losses following major economic recessions. Interestingly, the Liberals received 39.47% of the popular vote this time around as compared to the Conservatives getting 39.62% only 4 years previous. Hopefully Justin Trudeau will keep these similar numbers in mind (-0.15%) and realize that over 60% of all Canadians voted for other parties.

Here in B.C. the riding's that the Liberals won helped them to cement their parliamentary majority in Ottawa. While large swaths of the province went NDP or Conservative, much of the seat rich Lower Mainland was awash in red ink. The Liberals saw an amazing turnaround, going from a lowly 2 seats in 2011 to a staggering 17 seats, one higher than the 16 they received in 1968 during the original "Trudeaumania". The Conservatives saw their MP base here dwindle by over half, falling from 21 to 10 seats with Steven Harper resigning as leader now long after the votes had been tallied. Voter turnout was strong totaling 70%, way up from the 61.1% in 2011 and 58.8% in 2008, again showing the interest people had in this election and the strong desire for change. In this region the Liberals cleaned up winning Surrey Centre with Randeep Sarai, Surrey Newton with Suhk Dhaliwal, Fleetwood-Port Kells with Ken Hardie, Cloverdale-Langley City with John Aldag and Delta with Carla Qualtrough.

In South Surrey-White Rock, Dianne Lynn Watts eked out a narrow victory for the only Conservative win in Surrey receiving 24,935 votes (44%) and winning by only 1,439 votes or 2.5% over her closest rival Liberal Judy Higginbotham at 23,495 (41.5%) with the NDP's Pixie Hobie far back at 5,895 (10.4%). Compare this to 2011 when Conservative Russ Hiebert won by over 20,000 votes, receiving 31,990 votes (55%) to NDP's Susan Keeping at 11,888 (20%) and the Liberal's Hardy Staub at 9,775 (17%). It is interesting to note that the 1,939 votes that the Green Party's Larry Colero got this year were greater than the vote differential between Dianne and Judy by exactly 500 votes. The slim margin of victory for Mrs. Watts also pales in comparison to the last time she was elected mayor in Surrey in 2011, then receiving 55,826 votes (80%) and easily beating her nearest challenger Ross Buchanan at 6,265 votes (9%). One has to wonder if the Liberals having to switch candidates from Joe Davies to Judy Higginbotham mid-election and the short 33 day campaign that remained affected the final outcome of this year's nail biter of a race.

Justin Trudeau at age 43 (born Christmas Day, 1971) will be Canada's 2nd youngest Prime Minister in Canadian history when he is sworn in on Nov. 4th. The record holder is the then baby-faced Joe Clarke who became PM on June 4, 1979, one day before his 40th birthday. Justin is the 2nd child in Canadian history to be born to a Prime Minister in office, the 1st being our original PM John A. MacDonald's youngest daughter Margaret. Justin will be returning to 24 Sussex Dr. where he lived for 12 of his first 13 formative years, not including the one year he lived in the official opposition leader's residence of Stornoway when his father Pierre was briefly voted out of office. Just as he shared the house with his two siblings, Justin and his wife Sophie Grégoire will be bringing their three children to the house of the Prime Minister if it isn't closed for renovations. A Trudeau's return to the the Prime Minister's Office marks the very first political dynasty here in Canada. In case you were wondering, Justin Trudeau easily won his Papineau, Quebec riding in a landslide with 52% of the popular vote, nearly doubling those ballots cast for his nearest NDP rival.

There you have it folks, the 2015 Canadian general election in a nutshell with a focus on the important, interesting and idiocratic numbers plus the close-to-home races. Gone are Dianne Watts's plans of a Harper Conservative government leading the country for another four years and a possible rumoured Cabinet post for the former mayor of Surrey. I still trust she can bring a strong voice to Ottawa from south Surrey-White Rock and do a good job of representing this riding even while as a member of the Official Opposition. For Justin Trudeau, he has big boots to fill and a long list of campaign promises to deliver on. Hopefully his youthful exuberance and personal persona will not be dulled by the rigors of Parliament Hill and federal politics. There are a lot of people who are counting on him to return Canada to a more compassionate style which is what Mr. Trudeau meant when he recently announced to our overseas allies, "We're back!" Time will tell how long the honeymoon lasts or if Justin Trudeau can live up to the title I've now bestowed on him, "The people's Prime Minister", that is coming soon to a Twitter hashtag near you.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


October 19, 2015


The Hub-bub at Riverside Golf

You know it has to be an interesting story for me not to be pontificating about the various political parties and their candidates running here in South Surrey/White Rock on election day. Sometimes democratic principles and individual property rights are not threatened by those wielding power in Ottawa but by unelected officials toiling away at City Hall. Such is the situation faced by Ken Poirier whose family has owned Riverside Golf and Tennis Ltd. at the corner of King George Blvd and Crescent Road for over 50 years. It is hard to miss the very large sign reading "We Need Your HELP, City Forcing Us Out, Please Come In & See Us" that sits at the side of the road at this busy south Surrey intersection. After seeing Justin Trudeau speak at a Liberal function in Surrey on Sunday, I decided to take them up on their invitation and see what all the fuss was about.

Earlier this year the City of Surrey decided it wanted to push Crescent Road through to nearby Winter Crescent (4% of the Riverside property) and they applied to expropriate the entire 16 acres including driving range and golf course. This was in large part because of the "Biodiviersity Conservative Strategy" report produced for the City of Surrey tabled in 2014 by Diamond head Consulting. The backbone of this report is what is called a "Green Infrastructure Network" or GIN. Taken directly from the executive summary, "A Gin is an interconnected network of protected open space and natural areas that conserves ecosystem values and functions and provides benefits to people and wildlife. The GIN will conserve important habitat and guide future land acquisition, development, and other management actions." Central to the GIN is having large habitat "hubs" greater than 10 hectares that give wildlife the green space they need to survive and thrive. In their Opportunities section of the Serpentine- Nicomekyl River Management Area, they listed "several golf courses located adjacent to watercourses and corridors" as being suitable areas to take over.

The ironic part is that Surrey wants to connect a road to a development property just east of the driving range and 9 hole par 3 golf course that Riverside unfortunately sold to a developer a few years back. It has recently been razed with nearly 350 trees bulldozed while only two mature trees were retained on the entire site. Because of the open clear-cut that exists next door, the herds of black-tailed deer and coyotes that used to visit the golf course on a regular basis are now gone. The Riverside complex is also problematic for a wildlife corridor as it is constrained by the King George Blvd., especially now that it has been widened and with the very busy Hwy. 99 only a few blocks away. It is as if the planners didn't read their own book that outlines how four lane highways tend to block the movement of wildlife (duh). Amazingly, just east of Hwy. 99 on the south side of the Nicomekyl river there is a large undeveloped riverfront property that is forested wilderness with grassy flood plains. It already functions as a wildlife hub and is between two pieces of existing Surrey parkland. It is this property that Surrey should be retaining as they already possess the wildlife diversity they are looking to preserve without needing to destroy recreational green space. Check this out for yourself on Google Earth or Surrey's Cosmos satellite viewing platform, layering the "Park - Natural areas" tab.

The Riverside golf course is a beautiful green space where residents of the peninsula can relax playing a quick game of golf, get exercise in the natural environment and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. This included myself seeing flocks of ducks in the Nicomekyl River, viewing a Cooper's hawk, grey owl and great blue heron on site and checking out fresh chewing marks on trees caused by busy beavers. The fact I was wearing a "Surrey - City of Parks" retro t-shirt at the time did not go unnoticed by Mr. Poirier. The property currently features three ponds surrounded by brush and many stately trees that would have to be removed if flooded to create the fresh water marsh that Surrey has stated they are planning to create. If the city wants to preserve habitat, why would they chose a site where it is already developed into a long-serving recreational property that has stopped being just a business but become an integral part of our community? There are people who began golfing at Riverside as teenagers who are now taking their grand-children there to learn the game. Cannot people and wildlife coexist at Riverside as they have done for generations without destroying a prime green recreational site where people can get healthy exercise?

Ken cannot understand why Surrey cannot simply realign the connecting road, allow them to rebuild part of the parking lot and then put in a public walking trail on top of the dyke running around his property. This was what was outlined in a map for Surrey contained in the Biodiviersity Conservation Strategy. This would allow the Riverside complex to continue operations as it has for five decades, letting golfers to use the driving range and course for recreation, while continuing to serve as an oasis for wildlife in a sea of development. Instead of this win-win situation, Ken's view is that they city has "stolen" his land and are offering him far less than it is worth (reportedly 20 cents on the dollar). I should note here that the Riverside complex was recently considered as the site for a recreation complex and country club similar to the Arbutus Club in Vancouver. This development that stalled due to an ALR application was to have been a "comprehensive sports, recreation and family-oriented country club" that would "promote healthy lifestyles and activities for members and the community." Currently the price being offered by Surrey for the property that they now own is $1 million per acre less than what Mr. Poirier believes it is worth on the open market.

While the expropriation was pushed through in record time, the owners and their supporters are now fighting back, especially with the city offering peanuts for their golf course. They have recently opened a "Riverside Golf" Facebook page to bring attention to the planned demise of their facility. There is an old fashioned paper petition sitting at the front counter of their golf store and pro shop that people can stop in and sign that already has over a thousand signatures. An online petition at titled "Mayor Hepner Please Save Riverside Golf - Redesign City's Plans to Keep Our Golf Facility" has already received 90 signatures since it went live only four days ago. I even signed it myself and added a rather biting comment. Besides having a wonderful explanation of why this expropriation is so ill-advised, the site also generates an automatic email directly to the desk of Mayor Hepner letting her know you have signed it. It's available at the following address:

One final word of warning about expropriation. There is nothing stopping the city from completing this sale and after a two-year waiting period deciding that the property does not fit their environmental plans and selling it. There have been many instances in the past of governments expropriating people's properties and then never doing anything with them or completing sweetheart deals with local developer friends and campaign donors. I would certainly like to think this is not the case but with attractive environmentally diverse forested wetlands located so close by that are not hemmed in by major roadways, you have to wonder why this golf course was selected to turn into a swamp? It is a bad choice, it is the wrong location and it already operates as both a green space and a much needed close-to-home recreational facility. Considering the ever growing population in south Surrey and the epidemic of obesity we are experiencing, would it not be better to leave it as a golf course instead of a mosquito infested swamp next to an existing body of water?

Good question to ask our new Surrey First Mayor when this issue is likely to go before Council on Nov. 2 at city hall.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



October 12, 2015

In-Camera In Question


In-camera (/ɪŋˈkæmᵊrə/; Latin: "in a chamber") is a legal term that means in private. The same meaning is sometimes expressed in the English equivalent: in chambers. Generally, in-camera describes court cases, parts of it, or process where the public and press are not allowed to observe the procedure or process.
(Definition source Wikipedia)

I've always had a problem with the term "in-camera" meeting in that there are no cameras or recording devices allowed. It is a complete misnomer that would be much better described as "behind closed doors" or a "private meeting." There are many reasons for council to hold an in-camera meeting with land purchases, contracts, management hirings and legal issues being some of the more common. While many civic politicians talk about open and accountable government, in-camera meetings are becoming the norm these days and many communities including White Rock have seen seen a large increase in their frequency. Taken directly from BC Government websites, here are the rules of conduct for council members with respect to in-camera meetings and the confidential information they often deal with.

Open Meetings: Best Practices, BC Ombudsperson
Section 117 of the Community Charter imposes an obligation on councilors to maintain confidentiality in respect of information considered in a closed meeting. Specifically it requires that a council member or former council member must, unless specifically authorized by council, keep in confidence information considered in a lawfully closed meeting until that information has been discussed at an open meeting or otherwise released to the public. The obligation under section 117 must be respected regardless of any individual opinion as to whether or not a matter should have been discussed in a closed meeting.

Duty to Respect Confidentiality, Sec. 117 Community Charter
(1) A council member or former council member must, unless specifically authorized otherwise by council,
(a) keep in confidence any record held in confidence by the municipality, until the record is released to the public as lawfully authorized or required, and
(b) keep in confidence information considered in any part of a council meeting or council committee meeting that was lawfully closed to the public, until the council or committee discusses the information at a meeting that is open to the public or releases the information to the public.
(2) If the municipality suffers loss or damage because a person contravenes subsection (1) and the contravention was not inadvertent, the municipality may recover damages from the person for the loss or damage.

Imagine my surprise when reading the front page news story in last week's Oct. 7th Peace Arch News titled "Absolutely no reason to resign: White Rock mayor" when I realized that Mayor Wayne Baldwin had likely released information from a recently held in-camera meeting. The link is listed here (" and the topic was about legal advice he had received which indicated a letter to the editor in the PAN he'd sent earlier had been legally correct. The passage in question reads, "I tried to actually get it out last night and have it go public but council didn't vote for that. At this stage of the game, you could FOI it, but since it's privileged information, if it would come out. It might." A member of the public who attended last week's raucous council meeting that included a visit by members of the RCMP assured me that this topic was not on the agenda for the regular council meeting, indicating that it was covered during the in-camera meeting held earlier that evening.

Disclosing topics being discussed during in-camera meetings is a serious breach of protocol as listed in the Community Charter. Even worse is revealing the results of a council vote that has been held in-camera and not released to the public except for an off-the-cuff comment in a local newspaper. It was in May of this year when Mayor Baldwin told the Peace Arch News that information published in the White Rock Sun was a "matter of privilege" and taken from a White Rock in-camera meeting. This led to the public censuring of Councillor Chesney and the stripping of various committee appointments. The supposedly derogatory comment used for this public humiliation was written by yours truly and I can tell you without a word of doubt (backed up by my lawyer and several English teachers) that there was nothing defamatory in the one sentence that White Rock council used to attempt to stifle free speech and control one of the independent members of council.

I can guarantee you that if Councillor Chesney or Councillor Fathers had released in-camera information to the media, whether inadvertently or not, there would have been hell to pay and they'd have been pinned to the wall with the maximum punishment that could be devised. I'm a firm believer that what's good for the goose is good for the gander and that rules apply to everyone. The question is what will Mayor Baldwin's punishment be if it turns out that he did indeed fail in his duty to respect confidentiality as outlined in Sec. 117 of the Community Charter? While it is unlikely this disclosure will cause White Rock any financial damage that could be recouped in court, what it does is destroy council's credibility if nothing is done. They censured Councillor Chesney for a statement made by myself that is covered by freedom of speech and freedom of the press, ignoring the fact that anyone with even a rudimentary grasp of the English language would realize that it was not derogatory nor intended to be. Are there going to be two rules in White Rock, one for the cozy Coalition members that include Mayor Baldwin and another for the two independent councilors?

They had best consider their options because when you have one set of people covered by two different laws with one being unjust, the predictable end result is revolution. If the majority of council cannot abide by the rules and respect the wishes of the electorate then the backlash they are currently seeing from the public will only escalate further. In three and a half years when their term in office is over, they may not only find themselves voted out of a job but possibly have their names go down in history as those who caused White Rock to rejoin Surrey. Will Mayor Baldwin be censured or taken off committees that fatten his take home pay cheque? Will he be suspended as mayor for a time, replaced by an acting mayor and his salary reduced to councilor pay? In all likely-hood, the censure of Councillor Chesney will remain firmly in place and nothing will be done about in-camera breaches regardless of the public outcry. No wonder the "No More HighRises in White Rock" and "Only in White Rock" Facebook pages are becoming even more popular by the day.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



October 05, 2015

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

"Surryian" Terrorists

"ISIS URGES JIHADISTS TO ATTACK CANADIANS. YOU WILL NOT FEEL SECURE IN YOUR BEDROOMS. WE WILL FIGHT JIHADIST TERRORISTS AT HOME AND ABROAD." Certainly not the things you would see on a regular Canadian election brochure but these headlines were boldly emblazoned on a Dianne Watts flyer delivered to many south Surrey homes late last month. While Dianne first tired to distance herself from the rather shocking message that was not well received in the riding of South Surrey - White Rock, she later backed up what many considered to be fear mongering by declaring that "terrorism is a real and serious issue" and "ISIS has clearly declared Canada as a target for terrorism." Not very surprising considering the Canadian military is using F-18 fighters to drop laser guided 500 pound bombs onto their positions in the ISIS caliphate half way around the world. It is wise to remember the often quoted line from novelist Gerald Seymour's book Harry's Game that reads "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

What many don't realize is that Dianne Watts earlier showed that she backed ISIS terrorist claims, reportedly retweeting this comment from the UK Justice Forum a month ago on Sept 4th from her personal Twitter account, "Don't be fooled by the rhetoric. The movement of Syrians into Europe is being orchestrated by ISIS" with the hash tag "destabilisation" What makes this tweet so interesting is not the dubious misinformation it contains but the fact that it was then quickly deleted, allegedly only fifteen minutes after first being posted. Fortunately a screen grab of it was taken before it disappeared and the information put online for public consumption. With all of the weird, wild and wacky comments on Twitter and Facebook that have tripped up candidates from all political stripes this election, many from years ago, you have to wonder why Mrs. Watts was not called out for this fear mongering that took place after she was appointed as the Conservative star candidate for this riding? I would like to think that issues in Surrey come first and the Harper Conservatives second but it appears that the Russ Hiebert days might be here to stay if Dianne Watts gets elected and decides to toe the party line.

The real problem here in Surrey is not jihadist terrorists lying in wait under or beds or hiding in closets waiting to jump out like the boogeyman when the lights are turned off. It is the young men, mainly of Indian or Somalian descent who have turned the streets of Surrey into a war zone, fighting over the street level gun trade with hand guns-a-blazing. While it is hard to keep track of the tit-for-rat-a-tat-tat shootings, there were six homicides and 28 attempted murders in the first half of 2015 with the total shootings numbering 45 (calibre?) to date. Of course this is nothing compared to 2013 when Surrey had a record 25 murders on its streets with five people being found dead on the notorious Colebrook road alone, making Surrey Canada's murder capital with 5 homicides per 100,000 people. This happened during Dianne Watt's long-running tenure as Mayor and as head of the Surrey First slate. While running for federal politics means you need to focus on country-wide issues including military deployment to war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq, the problem here in Surrey is illegal hand guns and marijuana prohibition. I'm concerned about national security with random nut-jobs like Michael Zehaf-Bibeau attacking Parliament Hill in Ottawa or Martin Couture-Rouleau running over soldiers in Quebec, but I'm more worried about my own personal safety from catching a stray bullet in the head while driving down King George Blvd.

The real terrorists that people need to be afraid of here are the gang-bangers who think nothing of shooting from car to car as they drive down Surrey streets, mainly in Newton with 76 Ave. and 128 St. seemingly to be ground zero for the violence. Only two days before Dianne's retweet about Syrian refugees and ISIS, a 74 year-old grandfather was shot dead in Abbotsford while taking out the garbage after a neighbour's car was sprayed with bullets. It is an absolute miracle that no one has been killed by a stray round in Surrey as these low-level low-lifes battle it out for territory, regardless of the risks to the general public. We need a representative from here who will take our concerns to Ottawa about the epidemic of violence, rather than have someone come home from Ottawa spouting the tired party line. While the fighting in the Middle East battle ground is likely never going to end, we need to clamp down on the war-zone in our own backyard. Where are the RCMP officers and the "boots on the ground" that were promised? What is the government going to do about confiscating illegal guns and ending gang violence? When is someone in Ottawa going to end prohibition of marijuana and the street fighting over illegal profits? We need to solve our own problems here before we can begin dealing with the world's.

With a couple of weeks to go before the federal election it will be interesting to see if there are any more missteps in the local campaigns or old embarrassing Facebook posts that surface. Hopefully the all-candidates meetings will be well attended by the candidates but I have been told this may not be the case. Ducking out of public meetings with constituents where questions are raised and the candidates responses gauged in an open setting is an affront to democracy. If you cannot bother to answer resident's questions before being elected, how can you be trusted to represent us after being whisked away to Parliament Hill? For too long this riding has not had a champion to take our concerns to Ottawa, with the Prime Minister's Office running the show and quashing any display of backbone. We don't need a candidate that is as two-dimensional as a cardboard cut out or as compliant as a trained seal as has been the case for far too long. It is the "Surreyian" terrorists shooting up our streets and neighborhoods that need to be put in the cross-hairs and one of the candidates here in the Semi-pen needs to step up and show that they have the guts and determination to do just that.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



September 28, 2015

Oh Yes, There Will Be Blood

"The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes." Acts 2:20


Strange occurrences in the night sky happen on an infrequent basis and while I'm no amateur astronomer, I tend to keep on the lookout for weird phenomenon whether it be northern lights, the International Space Station whizzing by, a super moon or lunar eclipse. I've seen the northern lights in the Lower Mainland a half dozen times over the years simply by checking for sheets of colour in the night sky over the north shore mountains. Sunday night was a rather momentous occasion with a so-called "super moon" that occurs when the moon is at its closest orbit to the earth appearing 13% larger than normal, coinciding with a lunar eclipse caused when the earth blocks out the sun and casts its shadow on the moon. Known as a "blood moon" because of its orangish red to rusty brown colour, its more modern namesake is a "supermoon lunar eclipse." I'm going to stay old school on this one and stick with the rather creepy "blood moon" name that goes so well with several threatening passages from the bible.

This celestial event took place just after sunset and was visible from 7:11 to 8:23 p.m. simply by looking to the eastern sky that was clear compliments of a high pressure ridge. The moon appears reddish because of Rayleigh scattering, the same atmospheric effect that makes sunsets look red. To be truthful, I wasn't really that excited as this would be the second lunar eclipse that I have witnessed here since I moved into the Semiahmoo peninsula over a dozen years ago. I watched the last one from the front lawn of a Crescent Park rancher with my then young daughters and was actually impressed with the rather bizarre light show. The last time that the supermoon coincided with the lunar eclipse was back in 1982 when Madonna made her musical debut and Michael Jackson released the album Thriller to give a musical time frame reference. In case you missed it, the next lunar double feature like this will not happen until 2033, a long 18 years from now. Add that number to your age and try to imagine where you might be, or even if you will still be here for those folks already in their senior years. My guess is that no matter what, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones will still be alive and smoking.

As luck would have it I made my way back into Canada through the Peace Arch crossing after a day trip to the United States at 7:30 p.m. Since I knew that the lunar eclipse would not be visible unless seen from a clearing facing east, I took the 8th Ave. exit from Hwy. 99 heading onto the King George Blvd. I figured that the grassy field south of the Pink Palace hotel would offer some great viewing and thought I'd simply pull over to safely observe it and maybe snap a few pictures. Well it seems that I'm not the only one who thinks this way for there were cars solidly parked on both sides of the road for the entire one mile distance from 8 Ave. to 16 Ave. Hundreds of people stood along the sides of the road and in the field with some even bringing lawn chairs and blankets to sit and watch the eerie spectacle. I phoned a long-time friend who lives in east White Rock with a house that has a patio on the roof to alert him to the sight. It turns out there was no need as his family along with several of the neighbours were already upstairs looking at it through a high powered telescope. He informed me that people were watching from almost every house on the hill and that he had heard the White Rock pier was also full of folks taking in the nocturnal light show. It looks like social media has made lunar eclipses a social event not to be missed.

Sunday's Lunar eclipse was the second to occur this year (the other was April 4) and was the last in a series of four total eclipses that have happened during the past two years known as a tetrad. It turns out that in the 21st century we will see a total of eight of these tetrads which is a mathematical miracle since from 1600 to 1900 there weren't any. The next total eclipse won't happen until Jan. 31 2018 followed by a second one on July 28 of that year. A little too early to be marking it on the calendar considering they aren't even printed yet but not to worry as I'm sure it will get plenty of press as it seems that watching a lunar eclipse is a popular attraction. It certainly is easier than watching a solar eclipse and risking retinal damage, shining sunlight through a pin hole in cardboard or wearing heavy duty welding goggles (been there, done that). More than anything, the blood moon put a big exclamation mark on the White Rock Moon Festival held this weekend with Chinese lanterns gracing the pier and promenade. Its too bad this yearly event could not have been extended beyond Friday and Saturday to coincide with the heavenly light show that many enjoyed on Sunday's moon night.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



September 21, 2015

Crash site photos of then Mayor DIANNE WATTS Cadillac Escalade & Redekop vehicle


After skewering the Liberals over the resignation of Joy Davies last week and being photographed hugging the NDP's candidate Pixie Hobby, I have to begin this week's The Naked Truth with a disclaimer. No, not the one made mandatory at the top of this column because of White Rock Council's rush to censure Councilor Dave Chesney for a comment I made here earlier this year.

This one is a little more personal and goes to the core of my political beliefs. While I may advocate for a more socially responsible world and forward a green agenda, the truth is that for most of my adult life I have voted Conservative (gasp). This is mainly out of my concern for fiscal restraint, criminal justice reform and ineffective gun control legislation with a two billion dollar price tag. Yes, I have to admit that in the past I have voted for Russ Hiebert, which might come as a bit of a shock to many including Russ himself. The same can be said for Dianne Watts who I voted for when she was mayor of Surrey and I have to admit I even started a Facebook page to help promote her bid for World Mayor in 2010 (she came a very respectable forth). If Joy Davies can be pressured to resign over a couple of old Facebook pro-pot posts from several years back, then Dianne Watts needs to come clean about her Crescent Park car crash five years ago.

This is a story with long legs running back to April 23, 2010 when Dianne Watts and her husband Brian were involved in a serious motor vehicle accident at the corner of 128th St. and 24 Ave. in south Surrey beside Crescent Park Elementary. If you are planning on voting in the Federal election, you should scroll down and read the following TNT's: April 26, 2010 "Carnage on the Streets of the Semi-Pen", Aug. 8, 2011 "Watts Courting Trouble" and May 12, 2014 "Watt Really Happened With the Mayor's Car Crash." The short and dirty version is that the Mayor's Cadillac Escalade heading east on 24 Ave.collided with a Chrysler 300 sedan heading north on 128 St. driven by Shawnene Redekopp just after 11 pm. on a rainy Friday night. There were many issues concerning this accident, especially the demand light that always stayed red for 24 Ave. until activated, with the green light showing for a mere nine seconds. Surrey RCMP quickly released that "alcohol was not a factor" even though no one involved was apparently ever checked for impairment. The mayor's office originally reported that Mrs. Watts had been on "city business" but an FOI I filed with the city of Surrey revealed this was not the case and that the Watts had been at a social gathering that evening at a large mansion in Ocean Park.

While Dianne and her husband received minor injuries, Shawnene Redekopp suffered broken ribs, a broken collarbone, a ruptured spleen that was surgically removed, a damaged pancreas and fluid buildup in her lungs that required a month long hospital stay. After a lengthy investigation the Surrey RCMP issued Mrs. Redekopp a violation ticket for running a red light and causing this crash, even though Shawnene maintained she had the green light and right of way. Obviously not agreeing with the findings of the police in Surrey, Mrs. Redekopp filed a civil claim against the Watt's and their leasing company in Jan. 2011 claiming that her injuries were caused because Dianne Watts was operating her vehicle that night without due care and attention, at a rate of speed that was excessive and while under the influence of alcohol drugs or fatigue. The Watt's filed a counter claim contending Mr. Redekopp's injuries were caused by her own negligent conduct and countering with the same claims of undue care, speeding and impairment as causes of the crash. It is interesting to note it took seven months from the date of filing for this information to come to light with no press release from the Mayor's office regarding this serious legal matter.

To say that I waited with baited breath for this legal case to eventually appear before the courts would be an understatement. After several lengthy delays, it was finally scheduled to be heard in June of 2014 but in May of last year, the Indo-Canadian Voice broke the story that this case had been mediated out of court with the results protected by confidentiality agreements for both parties. It turns out the case had actually been settled months before in February but again there was no press release on this court case from the Mayor's office. In this - she said/she said battle with both sides claiming the other was at fault, there was no public disclosure of the final outcome. With public accusations and conspiracy theories being posted on social media about this crash, the truth has been conveniently swept under the carpet. Did Shawnene quietly fold her tent and go away, accepting blame for the car crash that almost killed her? Did Dianne Watts have to dig deep into her treasure chest and pay for injuries, pain and suffering she allegedly caused that night? Most importantly, if Shawnene's version is correct, was the Surrey RCMP's investigation tainted by corruption and the Mayor given a free ride as head of the Police Commission? Pretty serious questions that need an answer from the person who now represents the Conservatives in the South Surrey-White Rock riding.

If Dianne Watts deserves to get even a single vote in the upcoming federal election, she needs to first come clean as to what really happened on the night of April 23, 2010 and if she ultimately had to pay financial restitution to the woman whose car was involved with hers at Crescent Park elementary. The Conservative party needs to realize that this car accident, if settled in favour of Shawnene Redekopp, represents a far more serious problem to Dianne's image and character than the mundane postings on Facebook that saw the Liberal's Joy Davies pushed to resign last week. They cannot pretend it didn't happen, they cannot hope that people will simply forget, they should expect people to want to know the truth about this incident. It is interesting to note that while the Semi-pen is covered with large 4' x 8' election signs for Diane Watts (now featuring her smiling face), there is none posted at the corner of 128 St. and 24 Ave. where this crash happened. Consider this an official public calling out; Dianne Watts and Shawnene Redekopp, the people of this riding deserve to know the details in your settlement of this accident that should have been made public from the start. Who was to blame, are the Surrey RCMP corrupt and who deserves our votes? In the upcoming all-candidates meetings, Mrs. Watts needs to be questioned about this car crash so we can finally get some answers.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



September 14, 2015

No Joy in Mudville, or South Surrey/White Rock for that Matter

Well the Liberals under Justin Trudeau (JT is not only for Justin Timberlake) are operating with the slogan "Real Change" and we now have evidence of what that brings for the Semiahmoo peninsula. It is hard to believe that Joy Davies, the federal Liberal candidate for south Surrey-White Rock resigned after several pro-medicinal-marijuana posts of hers were dug up from several years ago on Facebook. Here is her explanation for resigning, taken ironically from her Liberal candidate Facebook page: "After much consideration, I have decided to resign as the Liberal candidate for South Surrey – White Rock, effective immediately. I believe in the work that the Liberal team is doing and my personal opinion and past comments should not distract from what is most important right now – ensuring all Canadians receive the real change and new leadership they deserve." No word yet on who the Liberals will select for their next candidate or whether they will leave the position vacant after Joy's untimely departure.

Its not a secret that Joy Davies advocates for medicinal marijuana and the patients who use it in various forms to deal with a host of medical health issues. This was well-known and was likely discussed during the candidate vetting process which she obviously passed with flying colours. The real charade is that JT and the Libs are advocating to legalize marijuana as part of their party platform along with even having a "Liberals for Legalization" Facebook page with over 11,000 likes might I add. The Huffington Post reported Ms. Davies as being on record stating "second-hand marijuana smoke at home poses no risk to children" and that "babies born to mothers who consumed pot during pregnancy had higher IQs than babies whose mothers did not." Other posts suggested that the Canadian Cancer Society promotes the pharmaceutical industry (imagine that?) and that marijuana use reduces domestic violence at home. Pretty standard fare I would think for someone on the front lines fighting the failed "War on Drugs" and propaganda like "Reefer Madness."


EDITOR'S NOTE - Today's VANCOUVER SUN has a front page story on cannabis and kids (read more)


I had to shake my head and try not to laugh while watching Global TV on Sunday night and their timely story "Cannabis For Kids." It detailed information from Project Bearings and how cannabis oil that is a CBD extract reduces seizures in kids and has the backing of neurologists. Founder Sherri Brown told how pharmacy drugs for epilepsy and autism often leave children like zombies, while this treatment greatly increased the quality of life for many patients receiving it. I personally know of a young mother who finally resorted to marijuana to combat nausea associated with morning sickness that left her unable to eat, weak and disorientated. While she had been warned by a family friend that their child would be "born retarded with a third arm" (I kid you not), their toddler is healthy, intelligent and vibrant, even without the extra appendage that never formed. I personally believe that smoke in any form is not good for healthy lungs but the violence associated with alcohol abuse at home vastly exceeds that of mellow marijuana smokers. I guess this now precludes myself or Sherri Brown from ever running for public office because of these offending comments that can come back to haunt us well into the future even after marijuana is legalized here.

It is unbelievable to me how political parties react to news that their candidates have old comments on social media that could be misconstrued or not jive with current party policy. It is getting to the point that only those who have never been active on Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc. need apply. They are not looking for people who can think for themselves, voice their concerns or present new ideas for public consumption. Politicians are now unapproachable and unwilling to answer questions unless they first check with their higher-ups or handlers to ensure that the proper message is presented nicely sanitized and tied with a flashy bow. Personally I don't want wishy-washy robots who are constantly fretting over how something they have said might be misconstrued or questioned. Have an opinion, take a stand, offer an idea and most importantly grow a freaking back bone. God forbid that they say anything political incorrect and possibly offend somebody! Oh crap, did I say God, oh God, did I say crap? If you read this TNT often, you will know I'm not afraid to speak up and if you have a problem with freedom of speech, I can give you directions on where to stick it and how high up.

It will be interesting to see who the Liberals select as a ventriloquist dummy that JT can control when it comes to public speaking arrangements. Joy Davies is respected and well-liked in this community and I believe she was the perfect person to represent this constituency for the federal Liberals. It is a shame that she is gone and a sham on how she was pressured to resign with her election signs already posted on every street corner. Considering how this sordid affair unfolded and its final outcome, I have a suggestion to those in this riding who were going to vote Liberal. No matter who is trotted out to replace her, think about switching to the other left-of-centre party that has not thrown their candidate under the campaign bus. Pixie Hobby is the NDP candidate for this area bringing more than thirty years of federal government experience as a progressive environmental lawyer and who helped develop the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. She is a classy woman, a brilliant mind, a social activist and a wonderful person, just like Joy Davies. What better way to send a memo to Justin that we don't need another control freak running the PMO's office in Ottawa (whisper "he's just not ready"). Remember when you step into a Semi-pen ballot box on Oct. 19 that "Everyone Needs a Hobby."


Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



September 08, 2015

Hump Hose

Thank God for White Rock City Hall, thank God for the BNSF Railway and most of all, thank God for the Hump hillside. Without them there would be a glaring hole in this column over the years because of all of the idiotic stories that I have been able to cover on this subject during the past six years. Once again the Hump raises its ugly head showcasing the utter incompetence of the majority of the people elected to govern the City By The Sea. Good thing there is now a disclaimer at the beginning of each and every TNT or it is likely that White Rock councilor and WR Sun editor Dave Chesney would be censured yet again over so-called defamatory comments that I make here regarding the Hump and railway safety. This is an absolute crock of crap and everyone in town knows it but the Baldwin backers still continue to rule with impunity and not govern with authority.

It has now been four months since the def acto clear-cutting of the western portion of the Hump hillside and the two TNT's I wrote at that time titled "The Naked Hump" (May 11) and "Censurship" (May 19) which are posted below for your viewing displeasure. While the Notice Of Work sign put up when the tree chopping and brush mowing began stated "The slope will be replanted to promote slope stability and beautification", nothing has been done to date. We are already into September with one storm already behind us and plenty more to come in the fall and through the winter. It will be interesting to see what happens with heavy rains washing down a denuded slope that had landslides when it was last cleared of trees in the early 1990's. You would have thought that the folks in charge would have had some kind of an idea what they were doing beyond razing the entire green space in order to give people living on Marine Drive unobstructed views no matter about the increased slide risks. There have been no trees planted and the vaunted retaining walls and terraced hillside green space that Councillor Grant Meyers talked about are still only a pipe dream like the kind you would most likely find at Hempyz.

Here is where the Hump hillside saga goes off the rails yet again. The scope of work sign that I found face down in the weeds on Sunday promised that "The work will focus on..., eradicating invasive species." Well the last time I checked one of the most prolific of invasive species here that is also classified as a noxious weed is none other than the Himalayan blackberry. It thrives in the Pacific Northwest after being introduced into North America in 1885 by a famed American botanist Luther Burbank. It loves disturbed ground and steep slopes where slides and soil motion make for fresh patches of dirt where it can become entrenched. It is not surprising that the Himalayan blackberry can be found along the base of the Ocean Park bluff from White Rock to Crescent Beach, except for in the wide area near the track that was sprayed with herbicide to kill it earlier this spring. While I realize that White Rock did not have Stage 3 water restrictions like the rest of Metro Vancouver, you have to wonder who thought it was a good idea to install sprinklers all across the razed section of the Hump to water the blackberries that now completely cover this area?

In a story bound to get posted on the "Only in White Rock" Facebook page, thousands of feet of hose and a multitude of sprinkler heads were installed this summer on the Hump hillside. They string along the bottom and up onto the hill in multiple locations like a green spider web connected to the city water supply near the pier railway crossing. The only other time I have ever seen someone water blackberries was a homeowner on Ocean Park Blvd who wanted to encourage their growth to keep his dogs from going down the cliff as has already happened several times before. Why the city would be trying to get an invasive species to grow after mowing it all down is beyond me unless they were afraid that with the drought much of the disturbed soil left by the tree fallers and their flail mowers would still be bare come the winter. The drought we had this summer certainly would have limited the regrowth of any protective vegetation on the Hump, increasing the slide risk during the rainy season. Of course, they may have also been trying to reduce the fire risk that was greatly increased not only by removing the trees and their shade but by chipping the branches and spraying this highly flammable debris back onto the Hump hillside.

I only found out about this latest Hump fiasco this weekend and will be making some inquiries this week at the bunker on Buena Vista as to what they were trying to accomplish by watering the Hump hillside this summer. Seeing the slapped together watering system reminded me of the identical thought process and lack of planning that went into the original decision to clear-cut the Hump in the first place. If this is standard operational procedure or business as usual in White Rock, then there are bigger problems in the City By The Sea than I can even imagine. I'm starting to think that if nothing is done soon, I just might pick up a few hundred Douglas fir seedlings from a forestry company and have a planting party on the Hump. Installing them in groups on the old landslide sites would not only improve slope stability as White Rock had promised but also return the Hump to a more natural forested state that existed before the clear-cut-crazy councilors took control. Since railways are under federal jurisdiction and the BNSF owns the Hump, it might make for a timely election topic as to why the Transportation Minister or the Conservative government have not stepped in to end this ongoing travesty.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


August 31, 2015

Summer's Over Weather You Like it or Not

Serpentine Fen next door to Art Knapps Garden Spott King George Highway - South Surrey


After the warmest, driest spring and summer on record and drought conditions with high to extreme forest fire risks, you knew that eventually the weather would change. I joked with people last week that with the PNE now open it was only a matter of time until the wheels fell off the weather wagon and we would finally received some precipitation. With rainfall warnings and wind alerts sent out by Environment Canada for Saturday, I cancelled our plans to go to the PNE and instead answered my parents call for help with moving, driving out to Chilliwack with my truck to provide assistance. If I had any idea of how bad the conditions would get I would have stayed home instead of running the gauntlet and risking my life as the low pressure wind storm trashed the coast.

I had only gone a couple of kilometers when the wind storm that wreaked havoc across the Lower Mainland struck. On 24th Ave. I watched as a high tension wire with a broken insulator blew sideways in a gust, touching the wire beside it. A bright blue fireball a metre wide and big puff of smoke erupted from the lines and I stopped in the middle of the road unsure of the electrical danger it posed. Seconds later an even bigger gust blew it once again to the centre wire where it basically exploded in an even larger ball of blue flame and a sizzling boom, this time bringing out the neighbours to see what the hell was going on. As I yelled over the wind for a resident to stay back and call BC Hydro about the problem my wife texted to inform me the power had gone out. Needless to say this came as no shock to me (oh sure, I can joke about it now).

The drive through the Sunnyside Acres park next to Softball City was basically like passing through the debris coming out of a wood chipper, with branches and leaves filling the air in a constant green rain and a large branch sideswiping my truck as I sat waiting for the traffic light to change. Things did not improve at the nearby Rona where a thirty foot wide leaf tornado at least double that height rolled across the south parking lot and tore the roof off the shed near the yard cashier, depositing it with a terrible crash into some metal carts in a fenced off enclosure. It didn't get any better as I made my way through south Surrey along the north side of the Hazelmere hill but once I got into Brookswood, things went from scary to downright dangerous. On a one mile stretch of 36 Ave., there were four trees blown down onto power lines, three times I had to stop and wait for the thick branch rain to stop before proceeding and a frightened dog running wild that I missed by only a few feet after emergency braking and a four wheel drifting swerve on the fallen debris.

The problem with this wind storm was that it hit at the end of the warmest summer on record and the trees were stressed and dried out. With their full canopy of leaves they had plenty of sail area to catch the wind and wood that was extremely brittle. It really was the perfect storm and the only time that I can remember what is usually a November phenomenon happening in August. The worst trees to be near were the cottonwoods that basically came apart under the constant force of the wind. When I finally reached Fraser Hwy. a firetruck was blocking the way with a large clump of trees, power poles and wires on the roadway less than a block away. Taking yet another detour, I drove north hoping to get to the freeway only to encounter the bizarre site of a large Douglas fir tree suspended on wires along both sides of the road so that the ten inch truck was level with the street twenty-five feet in the air. I drove underneath it hoping the wires would hold and saw the same tree still there this morning on the TV news with a police cruiser on scene. There was plenty more action through Aldergrove and Abbotsford including the Number One freeway being blocked by yet another fallen grove of trees but it was not until I reached Chilliwack hours later that I stopped seeing wind damage.

At the height of it all, there were approximately half a million people without power in the Lower Mainland. To complicate things, BC Hydro's website crashed during this time, either from lack of power to its servers (how ironic) or because it went viral with all of the traffic from those people who could still access the internet. Coming home in the evening after sunset, much of Langley and south Surrey was shrouded in darkness revealing he extend of the damage to the power grid. Even in the light of day on Sunday when I did finally go to the PNE Fair, there were large portions of Burnaby and Vancouver still without functioning traffic lights and the four way stop procedure in effect. Imagine if you will trying to navigate through the busy intersection of Kingsway and Willingdon Ave near Metrotown with no traffic lights and no police assistance? The PNE, which had to close on Saturday because of the wind was in full swing and we enjoyed the day where entering was free because of the wild weather. Amazingly, many traffic control lights were still not working on the way home at the end of the day, with Canada Way and Kensington Ave. being the most memorable of the bunch to pass through while holding your breath.

While the pictures of local damage posted in the White Rock Sun were impressive, they did not hold a candle to what happened in Cloverdale at the site of the Surrey Night Market. It was basically wiped off the map with row after row of flimsy canopies ripped from the asphalt and absolutely demolished by the strong winds. Most of the vendor's merchandise was left on site protected by perimeter fencing and watched by security guards, with it being strewn around and destroyed as if it was in a giant blender. The SNM Facebook page has pictures of the devastation and an announcement that it is now closed for the season, which was to have ended Sept. 20th. My wife and I worked there as vendors last year with our Surrey Shirts but decided against attending this year because of the increased time duration and extra nights that were added. After seeing the pictures of what looks like a town in Kansas hit by a tornado, we are thanking our lucky stars that we were not involved. It would not surprise me if this sudden and catastrophic end to the season puts a knife in the heart of the Surrey Night Market with many of the vendors likely uninsured against such act-of-God conditions.

Heavy rains that failed to materialize in most areas on Saturday are now back on the agenda with Environment Canada issuing yet another Rainfall Warning for Monday with heavy rain of 50-80 mm expected throughout much of the Lower Mainland. They are also warnings from them that "Heavy downpours can cause flash floods and water pooling on roads. Watch for possible washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts." I'm not really sure if we need the old 1-2 punch but it is important to realize that every cloud has a silver lining. Hopefully we will finally get enough precipitation to finally bring up local river levels and refill the Serpentine Fen that has resembled a dry California lake bed for several months now. Geese and ducks are congregating by the thousands in the few brackish ponds that remain while much of this important wildlife sanctuary is now acres of sun-baked cracked mud. With the massive warm ocean water "Pacific Blob" off our coast and the forecast for an intense "Godzilla el nino" affecting the jet stream, it is likely you can expect more wild extreme weather in the near future.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



August 24, 2015

How to Wreck a Beach


There are two basic truths to modern media, "If it bleeds it leads" and "If its nude, its news." In the dog days of summer, with a lack of bloody violence here except for yet another drive-by-shooting in Surrey (really?), it was not surprising to see the scribes at the Province newspaper focus their attention on Wreck beach. In case you missed the two page expose, it was on pages A2-3 in the August 20th edition titled 'We're an endangered species': Fewer nudists, more voyeurs as times change at Wreck Beach. Here is the link if you wish to read this titillating story masquerading as front page news that includes a few quotes from yours truly:

I first visited Wreck Beach in 1982 when I was living in Totem Park residence at UBC. I must admit it certainly was different visiting a nude beach for the very first time but I quickly got over my awkward shyness and blended in with the nudists and naturists that mingled there, enjoying being in the buff by the bluffs. At that time, most of the crowds treated Wreck as a nude beach, not its official "clothing-optional" designation as part of the Pacific Spirit Park. The textiled hoard seemed content to visit all of the beautiful sandy beaches easily accessible from waterfronts across Vancouver, rather than attempt one of the many trails leading to Wreck where the staircase steps often number around 400. Over time though with Wreck Beach often being listed as one of the top five nude beaches in the world, it has become somewhat of a tourist attraction, sometimes resembling something closer to a three-ringed circus.

Back in the 1970s and 80's, most people would shed their clothing and inhibitions at the base of the stairs before walking out to claim their piece of sandy real estate. You would still get the odd person who'd walk around Wreck often wearing a full suit and tie, trying to act inconspicuous while leering at the plethora of naked flesh. They would generally attract enough unwanted attention about their perversions from the assembled masses that they would scurry away and not return. Some other devious miscreants were caught using hidden cameras to take pictures of naked people including children on the beach, with their film being exposed, cameras being thrown into the surf and the culprits roughly escorted from the beach by some of the regulars. Over time, more and more people have taken to wearing clothes on the supposedly nude beach that even Wreck's "clothing-optional" nature is now in jeopardy. While it was basically a 50-50 split in the 1990's, textiles as they are known now are the majority with nudists and naturists now dwindling to an estimated 40 percent. After a huge Facebook party on Canada Day this year, now only a third of the people at Wreck are utilizing it as a nude beach.

It would seem that Wreck is becoming a victim of its own success, with buses full of foreign tourists often stopping at the top of trail #6 to discharge people intent on taking vacation pictures of nudists in their natural element. I'm thinking that these tour bus operators who have been doing this for years should be identified and have their offices targeted for a nude sit-in by members of the Wreck Beach Preservation Society. The influx of high definition digital cameras built into every cell phone that is linked to social media and the internet are also causing people to stay away from highly public nude beaches like Wreck that have in the past attracted up to 10,000 people a day. Just as drinking alcohol on the beach is forbidden, the use of cameras on a waterfront with thousands of naked people needs to be banned and enforced. We need to remember that secretly recording or videotaping for a sexual purpose is criminal voyeurism and the creeps getting their jollies by doing this deserve to be charged and jailed. That is always the problem with nude beaches, no matter now noble the original concept, they are often destroyed by warped individuals attempting to satisfy their deviant sexual fantasies and twisted perversions.

While nudists and naturists are dwindling at Wreck, the opposite is true for Crescent Rock Beach with the number of folks using Surrey's nude beach rising to the point that it is often difficult to find an open spot for your blanket on the rather limited strip of shoreline. Most of the nude beach users here point to the shorter drive, half the number of stairs, free parking, less wind, and great sunsets as reasons why they now go to Crescent Rock instead of Wreck. For those wanting to really get away from it all and relax in solitude, there are plenty of spaces between White Rock and Crescent Beach where one can be one with nature without rubbing shoulders with your neighbours, with the exception of the occasional passing train on the BNSF tracks. Most of the people you see wearing clothes at CRB are actually nudists and naturists either coming to or leaving the beach, not gawkers or trolls. You will get the odd person or young group of men who come on down to check out the view but they are quickly sent packing when asked why they are wearing so much clothing on a hot day at the nude beach. Nothing like being called a pervert or voyeur by someone who is naked to get them scurrying back to the rock they crawled out from under.

Hopefully Crescent Rock will not suffer the same fate as Wreck and naturists wont get overwhelmed by textiled beach goers venturing into their hard to reach paradise. The Surrey RCMP have officially recognized CRB's clothing-optional nature, confirming that under Canadian Case Law it is perfectly legal to nude sunbathe and skinny-dip away from the main public marine park beaches at White Rock and Crescent Beach. What amazes me is the complete lack of mention about Crescent Rock Beach in either the Surrey or White Rock city websites. Nudism and naturism are a form of recreation tied to the environment and are considered a culture by many who believe in and practice it. Unlike in Vancouver at Wreck Beach, there is no signage on the various staircases alerting people to the presence of a nude beach at the base of the Ocean Park bluff, or any signage for those walking along the beach into the clothing-optional zones. It's the 21st century and you'd think that those in charge at city hall would get their head out of the sand and give Crescent Rock Beach the recognition that it deserves as the second largest nude beach in the province of BC.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



August 17, 2015

Palma in Perry

Just like the Olympics that are held every four years, the world's elite marksmen (both men and women) gather every four years for the World Long Range Championships (WLRC) and the prestigious Palma Team Match. These are run by ICFRA, the International Confederation of Fullbore Rifle Associations who control the rules and matches. For those of you who have followed The Naked Truth over the years, it was back in October of 2011 that I wrote about my experiences down under in Brisbane Australia as a member of the Canadian Rifle Team. In 2015 the WLRC and Palma Match were scheduled to be held at Camp Perry, Ohio, following the National Rifle Association's US Long Range National Championship and their Fullbore National Championship. Besides the 25 member Palma Team, the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association (DCRA) also sent a 12 man Veteran's Team and an 8 man Under 25 Team to compete and represent Canada.

The NRA was first formed in 1871 to promote "the encouragement of rifle practice throughout New York State and the United States." The DCRA (formerly known as the Dominion Rifle Association) was incorporated just prior to that in 1868 to "promote and encourage the training of marksmanship throughout Canada." The first International Long Range Championships were held in 1876 at the Creedmore Range in Long island, USA, with the Americans winning followed by Ireland, Scotland Australia and Canada. After 1877 where the where the term "Palma" started being used, there was a long period of inactivity until 1901 when the Palma began again, this time between the USA and Canada in Sea Girt, New Jersey where the Canadian Rifle Team won. The Palma was shot over the years in various forms with many years being taken off for the two Great Wars. The modern Palma matches were revived in 1966 with a preliminary match between Canada and the US fired at Camp Perry, Ohio. The first official Palma match of the modern era was held at the Connaught ranges at Ottawa in 1967, with my father Bob being on the winning Canadian team. It is interesting to note that the first Palma Match in 1867 was to mark the USA Centenary and the modern Palma Match in 1967 fired to celebrate Canada's centennial year. To date over 30 countries from across the globe have competed for the prestigious Palma Trophy.

Camp Perry where this years WRLC and Palma match were held has a history almost as long as competitive shooting. Born out of poor marksmanship and gunnery during the Spanish American War of 1898, 300 acres of land on the south shore of Lake Erie were purchased to create a new rifle range for practice by state militias. The site was officially named in 1908 to honour Commodore Oliver Perry, the victorious commander of the American fleet who won the battle of Put-In-Bay on Lake Erie during the war of 1812 between the US and Great Britain. The original flag pole at the camp, which was erected in 1911 was the main mast of the US Sloop of War"Essex" that was involved in naval battles at that time. During the second world war, Camp Perry was taken over by the War Department and used to house prisoners of war in huts that have been renovated and are still used to this day, without the guard towers or barbed wire of course. Camp Perry expanded over time to a total of 642 acres consisting of 15 different ranges, making it the largest outdoor range complex in the world. The Viale range is the 1,000 yard range used for target rifle shooting, named after Robert M. Viale who received the Congressional Medal of Honor after falling on a live grenade in order to protect troops and civilians. Camp Perry today is the home and headquarters of the Ohio State National Guard and it has been used for the NRA Fullbore National Championships annually since 1953.

I arrived in Camp Perry in time for a day of sighting in rifles, shooting zeros for the various distances, shooting some practice ranges and getting used to the peculiarities of the range which include no backstop behind the targets, something I had never seen before. After meeting the entire assembled team at the hotel in Port Clinton, I was selected to shoot for Canada in the America Team Match the next day, consisting of 8 shooters and their coaches firing at 300, 600, 900 and 1,000 yards. In a sign of things to come, the incredibly strong team from Great Britain won gold, dropping only 15 points out of a HPS of 2,400, with several of their team shooting perfect scores of 300 for the day. Australia and South Africa came second and third respectively with the USA finishing out of the medals at a disappointing fourth place followed by Canada and the remainder of the 10 country field. The World Long Range Championship started after that consisting of 15 rounds fired at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards, until all 9 matches were complete after four days. Over 400 of the world's best long range target rifle shooters were in attendance ensuring that only the best possible scores would secure a medal. While the bulls-eye for all ranges is 20 inches wide, the v-bull used for tie breaking is only 10 inches across. For most ranges, almost all shots had to fall within this small dinner plate sized circle in order to win any medal.

My WLRC started strong over the first two days, dropping only one point in the first three ranges and shooting two "possibles" or perfect scores with double digit v-counts. The third day saw a continuation of good shooting for me with one of the best shoots of my life, a 75-13v at the 800 yard where I poured in a string of centre shots to finish, good enough to win a silver medal in that match. Unfortunately at the next range, I was on the last relay and got caught in strong winds that changed very rapidly. While I easily held the v-bull for elevation, the wind blew the bullets across the target far from the bulls-eye. There is a bit of luck when it comes to weather elements and anyone on that relay or the first two at the 1,000 yard basically got slaughtered. I saw grown men coming off the firing point with tears in their eyes and heard of many misses on the range due to the conditions. While that shoot ruined any chance I had of possibly winning the long range title, I continued shooting hard, getting respectable scores until the nine ranges were over. In the end, Australian Ben Emms was crowned as World Champion in a ten man shoot-off, dropping only 6 points in all his matches while putting over half of his shots in the centre v-bull. Vancouver born Mirko Teglasi who shoots for Canada while now living in Brisbane fired two perfect scores on the final day, shooting a 75-8v at the last 1,000 yard for a gold medal, winning another gold at the final day aggregate for high score and finishing in 13th place as the highest Canadian in the field.

The Palma Team shoot started with the team from Great Britain winning the first 800 yard range and they never looked back. At the end of two days of international long range target rifle competition, the Brits won in style shooting a 7,106 out of a HPS of 7,200 points, beating the old match record by 79 points with 176 v-bulls more than the previous standard. They also set a record individual score of 449-59v by Toby Raincock, besting the previous score by 3 points. They were the very first team ever to win all six ranges which is an amazing achievement considering the level of competition. This was the English team's fourth Palma victory in a row, something that has never been accomplished before. Lastly, the highly respected Jane Messer was the first female Palma Captain before the match and the first victorious female captain once the gun smoke had cleared. The Americans put up a valiant fight placing second and winning silver 35 points behind the Brits and the stubborn South Africans held of the rest of the other five countries to take third and secure their bronze medals. While in the past Canada has won the Palma Match or often been in medal contention, this year we finished far back in sixth place. While we have many quality shooters, it is safe to say that our level of marksmanship and coaching need to improve dramatically if we want to get back to the podium anytime in the near future. The next Palma is in New Zealand in 2019 and hopefully we will pick our game up enough by then to once again contend with the top teams in the world.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



August 10, 2015

Friends of Old Canada

l-r Marty Vanderzalm / Ves Vukovic


In the middle of July, a story about a historical WW2 plane crash in Chilliwack was in the news. On June 1st, 1945, a Liberator bomber KK241 with an eleven man British crew took off from Abbotsford Airport on a training flight. In what was the worst war-time training accident in B.C. history, the Liberator crashed into the top of Mount Welch in Chilliwack killing everyone on board. It took two weeks for search parties to discover the wreckage and the 11 men, all in their early 20's, were buried on the mountain with a simple cross to mark the grave site. I read about this story with great interest because my father was a RCAF and Canadian Airlines pilot before he retired from flying. I had previously bought him a book titled "Disaster on Mt. Slesse" about another airplane crash in Chilliwack on Dec. 9, 1956 involving Trans-Canada Air Lines Flight 810 that killed 62 passengers and crew. Little did I realize while reading about the Liberator KK241 accident that I would soon be able to reach out and actually touch history in the most unlikely of spots in south Surrey.

After an original memorial cairn built in 1982 for those lost on Mt. Welch was found laying in the middle of Airplane Creek in 2013, a decision was made to create a new permanent memorial away from the crash scene that was also accessible to the public. Last month, members of Aldergrove's Airfield Military Engineers used a Canadian Forces Sea King helicopter to recover one of the Liberator's engines to use as the centrepiece for a new memorial. It will feature a central stone slab with the engine remains mounted on it, flanked by two other stones resembling a propeller with the names and ages of the crewmen who lost their lives just before the end of WW2. I had seen the recovered engine on TV and in pictures of the daily newspapers and knew what it looked like. By chance I decided to stop by and chat with Marty Vander Zalm at his Way-To-Grow soil factory behind the King George Art Knapps store next to the Serpentine Fen. I knew that Marty was an avid historian with a broad interest and knowledge of the history of Surrey. What I did not expect was to see was the battered remains of the Liberator engine that had been recovered by the military from Mt. Welch sitting on a pallet in the middle of his barn.

It turns out that Marty does not only talk the talk about Canadian history but is also taking the necessary steps to help preserve and protect it. With other patriots, he has formed the "Friends of Old Canada" Society who are playing an instrumental role in producing the memorial, donating their time and the materials to create it. Their new website at is still under construction but it describes themselves as a "Volunteer, not-for-profit group helping promote and preserve smaller Canadian history which often gets forgotten and lost between the cracks", inviting people to "Join us on this historical adventure!" You can also follow the "Friends of Old Canada" Facebook page which lists their mission statement as, "To save middle of the road Canadian history through preservation, education and volunteerism." Even with its humble beginnings, the Friends of Old Canada have already worked on many historical projects, rebuilding fallen monuments and creating new ones out of stone to mark important moments in Canadian history that are being forgotten over time. They hope to eventually have a chapter in every province and territory across Canada to work on and share historical data and findings while documenting the important work they are doing.

Integral to the group's plans is Ves Vukovic, a master stone mason of Serbian descent whose family has been in the monument making business for 450 years. Yes, that is not a misprint; 450 years of marking history and people's passing in permanent stone in headstones and memorials. Ves runs his Stonemarks business out of a space on the Way-To-Grow property, making it easy for him and Marty to work on the latest Friends of Old Canada project. You can see examples of Mr. Vukovic's talent on his website that includes the NATO Memorial Cenotaph, which was dedicated in front of the Crescent Beach #240 Legion last Remembrance Day in a rather solemn ceremony that I had the privilege to attend. Its inscription, "Through this stone, we touch the lives of those who served for freedom" is remarkably similar to what Friends of Old Canada are attempting to do with the Liberator KK241 memorial. You can see an artist's rendering of what the final memorial will look like when set in stone plus a detailed project description and history at their GoFundMe page at the following link:

Of the $105,000 needed for this project, $63,000 has already been raised with $25,000 from the Department of Veteran Affairs, $20,500 from the Canadian Legion Foundation, $3,000 from Legion #280 in Chilliwack, with $12,500 in materials and kind donated by the Friends of Old Canada. The remaining funds will cover the following costs:
- flying family members of the men lost in the crash from the UK for the ceremony
- benches and concrete pads surrounding the memorial
- purchase and installation of a new flag pole
- memorial site maintenance for ten years
- commemorative pins to mark the event

Any money left over from this project will be used to fund the additional 27 other sites in BC that the Veterans Memorial Restoration Society located while researching this WW2 crash.

The monument unveiling is scheduled for Sat., Sept. 26, 2015 at Thompson Park on Chilliwack Lake Road. If you were a veteran or believe that these historical events should be memorialized, please make your donation to the GoFundMe page associated with this project listed above. If you are a history buff or want to leave your mark on Canada in a rather permanent way, contact Marty Vander Zalm or Ves Vukovic and join the Friends of Old Canada.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



August 03, 3015

Three Years, Two Deaths, One Remedy

This column is dedicated to the memories of Chantal MacLean and Cody Kehler from Surrey.

Friday is when the BC Liberal government dumps news releases out to the media that they usually hope will be forgotten by Monday morning. This time though, there was a release that contained information I've been waiting three years almost to the day to read and the timing was just right for this week's TNT. On Oct. 21, 2013, I wrote a The Naked Truth column in the WR Sun titled "Poor Engineering & Bad Government Kill People." It dealt with the deaths a week earlier of 17 year-old Surrey sweethearts Chantal MacLean and Cody Kehler who had died in a car crash on the #10 Hwy. hill in Delta near Scott Road. The beauty of the White Rock Sun is that these TNT's are archived so you can always take a trip down memory lane to stories that keep on rearing their ugly head.
Considering it was government inaction that was partially responsible for these two young people's untimely deaths, It is worth scrolling down and taking a few minutes to read the original column and the rather disturbing details it contained before continuing on.

While that Oct. 21 TNT was full of bad news, this one is positive and with upcoming changes that will certainly save many lives as the years go by. Rather than give you the Coles Notes, here is the bulk of what the Liberals announced that have me feeling much better about the government we vote for. Please take note of the dates involved and pan your upcoming commute accordingly.
NORTH DELTA — Concrete median barriers will be installed on a deadly stretch of Highway 10 in Delta.
Work to upgrade the highway, near Scott Road, will begin at the end of July as part of "B.C. on the Move," the province's 10-year transportation plan.
Announced Friday (July 24), the project will include widening the highway to install 600 metres of median barrier between Scott Road and Highway 91, to help prevent head-on collisions and other crossover incidents.
Imperial Paving Limited of Surrey will do the work on the $2.15-million project, targeted for completion this fall.
Last October, high school sweethearts Chantal MacLean and Cody Kehler were killed in a five-car crash on the stretch of highway. The Clayton Heights Secondary students were on their way to a Thanksgiving dinner when their vehicle lost control on a curve and went into oncoming traffic. Both died in the impact.
The stretch of Highway 10, between Scott Road and Highway 91, carries 30,000 vehicles a day.
"Safety is the top priority for my ministry, and I know that installing concrete median barriers along this stretch of Highway 10 is a priority for the community, so I'm very pleased to see work begin on this important project," stated Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Added Scott Hamilton, Delta North MLA: "Highway 10 serves as a vital connector for residents, commuters and commercial drivers, and provides a link to key destinations like the Vancouver International Airport, U.S. border and BC Ferries. This project shows we're committed to improving the safety of this route."
- See more at: Improvements Coming to Number 10 Highway in Delta
Work is set to begin to improve safety on Highway 10 with the installation of new concrete median barriers, as part of B.C. on the Move, the Province's 10-year transportation plan.
The Highway 10 upgrade includes widening to install 600 metres of median barrier between Scott Road and Highway 91 in Delta, which will significantly improve safety by preventing head-on collisions and other crossover incidents.
Imperial Paving Limited of Surrey is undertaking work on this $2.15-million project. Construction will begin at the end of July and is targeted for completion in fall 2015. During construction, drivers are advised to expect delays and are encouraged to check for travel advisories.
This project is a priority under B.C. on the Move to improve highway safety. Additional projects to improve the safety and reliability of B.C.'s provincial highway network will be announced as they are finalized.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone:
"Safety is the top priority for my ministry, and I know that installing concrete median barriers along this stretch of Highway 10 is a priority for the community, so I'm very pleased to see work begin on this important project."
MLA Delta North Scott Hamilton:
"Highway 10 serves as a vital connector for residents, commuters and commercial drivers, and provides a link to key destinations like the Vancouver International Airport, U.S. border and BC Ferries. This project shows we're committed to improving the safety of this route."

This stretch of Hwy. 10 averages about 90 accidents a year according to ICBC data and while most are mundane fender benders and rear-enders, the lack of a median barrier always exposes drivers to the risk of a deadly head-on crash. After the serious 2012 crash involving three cars that injured three people, I alerted the BC Transportation Minister, ICBC, local MLA's and both Surrey and Delta Councils about the need for these barriers that should have been installed when the Alex Fraser Bridge originally opened. Engineering and site surveying were done soon after but because of the high price tag due to the constraints of the hillside, it was decided at that time not to go ahead with the safety upgrades. Unfortunately it was not until the deaths of Chantal MacLean and Cody Kehler a year later that those in power realized the dangers involved on a hillside that carries 30,000 vehicles a day including many large commercial transport trucks. At least by the fall of 2015 when this project is completed, it is likely that head-on crashes on this hillside will be a thing of the past. It is a crying shame that it often takes a tragedy and loss of life for safety changes to finally be made.

These TNT's about this problem should serve as an example to residents of the Semi-pen on how to get governments motivated on making necessary infrastructure upgrades. If you know of a problem in your community, especially one which endangers the public, then get vocal and make your concerns known. Contact your elected officials at all levels of government, whether it is their responsibility or not as they all communicate with each other. Emails are great for this as you can reach a wide variety of power brokers at once and then follow up with personal phone calls to the one's who have more influence on the final decision. Letters to ICBC, the local police chief or other transportation safety organizations also play a vital role to not only share information but to show that you are concerned enough to take the time to do something about the problem. Letters to the editor are also a great way to bring issues to the public's attention and if you send enough of them you just might just find yourself one day writing a weekly column in the local newspaper.


At the end of the day, realize that you can single-handedly make a difference in your community. You do not need a delegation, an organization or a group to accomplish great things. What you do need is to know that being persistent and tenacious will ensure these problems are not forgotten and that eventually something will finally be done about them. Unfortunately with the Hwy. 10 hill, it took several serious crashes and the deaths of two young people to finally move mountains. With the passing of Cody, a Facebook page titled "Cody Kehler's BE The CHANGE was created whose goal is, "To continue Cody's indomitable spirit and legacy of BE the CHANGE through random acts of kindness. This was Cody's gift to the world." A fundraiser in his honour was held last month at the Beaver Lodge in Cloverdale, where attendees were invited to wear black and red with a ladybug being associated with his passing. Donations can be made at any CIBC under the name "Cody Kehler's BE the CHANGE", transit #00720, account 30-13510. We have the upcoming change at Highway 10 to thank him and Chantal for, making me wonder if when the construction is over that this stretch of road should be named "Ladybug Hill" to mark their passing.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


July 20, 2015


As you drive through the Semi-pen, you will notice that something looks strangely different. While we live in a so-called temperate rainforest, the drought that seemingly began last winter is taking its toll on neighbourhood lawns. While White Rock with its now pigeon-poop free and slightly chlorinated private water supply still allows three times a week lawn watering, the rest of Metro Vancouver is on Stage Two watering restrictions, meaning once a week watering for a maximum of five hours per property. This means that lawns throughout south Surrey are becoming parched and golden brown as people make the all to common mistakes that exacerbate the lack of rain and watering. Mysteriously, some people still have manicured green lawns, especially those with inground watering systems that can be programed to come on when most folks are asleep. To those people flouting city bylaws and wasting resources, we have a name for you: "Grassholes."

I recently contacted a friend of mine who is an executive at Metro Vancouver and passed along the motto "Brown It, Don't Drown It" for them to use as a slogan against unnecessary lawn watering. Most people fail to realize that grass turning brown in the summer is a normal part of its life cycle and reproductive strategy, with it returning to lush green in the fall when steady rains return with little deleterious effect. While some have gotten this message and figured out not cutting the lawn allows them more relaxation time in the hot summer months, others will simply pour the water to their lawns trying to overcome Mother Nature. What irks me is the folks who let their lawns burn to a crisp and then try to resurrect them from a dormant stage in the hottest time of the year with plenty hours of intense sunshine. If you are one of the few lunatic fringe who want a green lawn during the summer without draining the Capilano reservoir, there are some tricks to it and it is possible without a lot of time, effort or watering.

This picture of my front lawn was taken Sunday night, July 19, 16 days into the once a week sprinkling regulations. While it is not the manicured pool table look found at most golf courses, the grass is still lush and green even in the heat we have been having. This was made possible by first shredding leaves into an organic mulch onto the lawns in the fall, especially on those areas that were more prone to drying out. In the spring, regular weekly cutting with a mulching mower was done, returning all of the cuttings into the system rather than robbing the soil of this vital commodity. An organic fertilizer was used several times and at the start of the summer a specially formulated slow-release root fertilizer that promotes deep root growth was used. Shade trees throughout the property ensure that the grass always gets a reprieve from the sun's rays for part of the day. This lawn has only been cut once in the last six weeks, approximately two weeks ago on the night before my Monday morning watering time. The four inch height protects the ground from drying and the long blades hold the moisture in the soil, meaning only a small amount of water will keep it healthy and growing.

Besides aesthetics, the reason why I like a green lawn is it helps to keep the yard cool. Unlike my neighbour who has a heat pump net to my house which dims our lights when it starts and sounds like a diesel generator when running, our idea of air conditioning is to open the windows and let the wind blow through. It is also nearly impossible to water all of our trees, shrubs and perennials without watering the lawn and we do not have an irrigation system nor do I want one thank you very much. We are also on a watering meter which means that we pay for every gallon of water we use, ensuring that we use as little as possible to keep the multitude of plants alive in our yard. Not wanting to be a "grasshole" and also being Scottish cheap, I've picked up half a dozen plastic 45 gallon drums that will be converted into rain barrels for next year utilizing "Water$aver" downspout diverters to store rainwater from gutters for use in the garden. That way, even if Metro-Vancouver goes to Stage 3 watering restrictions I can still water the grass and at Stage 4 ensure my shrubs stay alive. It will be interesting to see how far this drought goes before Metro-Vancouver further tightens the taps on water usage in the Lower Mainland.

While the grass will recover and can be overseeded without breaking the bank, people who have given up on their lawns need to realize that their trees and shrubs are feeling the heat. Shrubs with small fibrous root systems such as heathers and azaleas are already dying in droves. Rhododendrons and hydrangeas which like plenty of water and lots of shade are also curling up and getting covered with insects. The column cedar hedges used on many properties to provide privacy and separation from neighbours are very susceptible to drought and many are now turning brown, especially those that were planted in the last two years. Even some of the larger trees including city boulevard trees are showing signs of drought stress and losing plenty of leaves in what looks like fall. Before this summer is over there will be plenty of shrubs and trees that will need to be dug up, disposed of and replaced which can easily add up a hefty landscaping bill. Conserve as much water as you can but check your plants and water accordingly to ensure they stay alive during the drought. If this warm and dry weather becomes the new reality, it is likely we may have to alter landscapes to eliminate those plants that simply can't take the heat. That might explain the 20 foot tall banana grove planted in the middle of my front lawn.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn





July 13, 2015

Asian Invasion

If it's not fire ants or giant hogweed, there is always another alien species taking up residence in the Lower Mainland and trying to take over. I maintained a property in Newton several years ago that had a large grove of Japanese knotweed (aka Japanese bamboo), an aggressive and fast growing Asian plant that was first brought to the Lower Mainland back in the 1990's. It grows similar to bamboo but with more fragile canes and wide lobed leaves in a heart shape. The 3-5 m. tall canes die down to the ground in the winter but return the next spring, spreading through the ground with thick roots. Digging it out is nearly impossible as you have to get every tiny piece of root otherwise it will regrow and the rhizomes can grow up to 3 metres deep. Even if you were to get all of the roots, disposal then becomes a problem as it is likely they will not die unless heat composted and shredded. Knotweed has tremendous growing pressure, allowing it to push straight through asphalt and to bust concrete through cracks and seams, causing very expensive damage. To date the advised method is to spray or inject the canes with Glysophate, better known by its trade name Roundup that is a non-selective translocating herbicide that kills the entire plant.

I was driving in the Chilliwack River valley this weekend when I noticed a herbicide notice sign next to what I realized was a clump of Japanese Knotweed at Tamahi Creek. Further up the road I saw brown dessicated canes of dead knotweed that obviously had been treated sometime earlier this year. The sign had been put in place by the Fraser Valley Invasive Plant Council and listed Glysophate as the chemical used to attempt to kill the knotweed found there. In the Lower Mainland, the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver, formerly known as the Greater Vancouver Invasive Plant Council is working with local governments to attempt to control the growth and spread of this noxious plant. You can visit their website at to get an idea of the size of this problem and how many alien species have taken up residency in our little corner of the world. If you think this is not a big deal, you have to realize that these invaders quickly dominate native vegetation and take over sensitive ecosystems through prolific seeding and aggressive growth. Japanese knotweed damages roads, sidewalks and foundations, resulting is costs to control the weed and repair damage. It can block wilderness trails, plug the sides of streams and create loss of wildlife by forming a complete alien monoculture.

I thought I'd seen a clump of Knotweed growing alongside a roadway in south Surrey so when I returned home I drove down Crescent Road to get confirmation. Close to the King George Blvd., there was a large spray of it growing out into the roadway next to Elgin Creek, nearly blocking the view of the roadway sign. Given its closeness to the asphalt, it will only be a short amount of time before it starts damaging the road and I suspect that its distance to the waterway will likely mean that herbicides cannot be used as a control measure. Showing how knotweed can spread, a short distance down Crescent Road by the Elgin Road ESSO station, several more groups of this invasive plant were also present but they were withered and brown, similar to what I had seen earlier in the day. Imagine my surprise when I noticed the small yellow Surrey signs that read "ATTENTION, Invasive Plants Knotweed. Treatment sight, do not disturb." While you have to call to find out what the treatment was, it is highly likely that Roundup is being used to kill the Knotweed and its invasive root system. With knotweed being a spreading problem throughout Surrey for the past few decades, it is nice to see the City of Surrey finally taking the needed steps to control it. To date Japanese knotweed is in all Canadian provinces except for Saskatchewan and Manitoba and in 39 of the US states.

Heading for home I was in for a shock for just east of the Elgin Hall, large groves of Japanese knotweed lined both sides of Crescent road several metres high and for a length of over 20 metres. In these zones it has virtually eliminated all other native plants and completely taken over. It is quite beautiful to see with its lush green foliage moving in the wind until you realize how hard it will be to eliminate such a massive stand of this plant. With all of the knotweed in such a small location, you have to wonder how many other corners of the Semi-pen it is quickly conquering? Since Surrey and White Rock employees can't be everywhere, it is up to residents here to educate themselves about how to identify this easy to recognize plant and report it to either City Hall or the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver. While it can be found almost anywhere, it often shows up along roadsides, pathways and the bank of streams. If we are going to nip this problem in the bud sort-of-speak, people need to keep an eye out for Japanese knotweed in their neighbourhoods and to ensure that it is eradicated. Above all, make sure that you aren't cultivating it in your backyard, accidentally believing that it is regular bamboo and contributing to its spread.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



July 06, 2015

Smoking Hot

I walk around in the summertime saying "How about this heat?"
I'm an a**hole (He's an a**hole, what an a**hole)
I'm an a**hole (He's the world's biggest a**shole)
Lyrics from the "A**hole" song, Denis Leary, No Cure For Cancer


Its funny how things work out but I had planned to write this week's TNT on the hot and dry drought conditions facing the West Coast and how people carelessly tossing lit cigarettes were defacto arsonists. While that is still part of this column, the subject matter broadened considerably with the breathtaking changes that arrived in our air shed on Sunday. I was up early to go for a nature walk while it was still cool, looking for a hidden artesian well at a nearby park that I had literally stumbled across several years ago (found it and a lost wallet to boot). With only sunny skies in the long term forecast, imagine my surprise as I drove down Crescent Road looking at thick dark cloud banks. It wasn't until I saw the dull red spot in the eastern sky that I realized I was looking at a thick cloud of smoke and the weird glowing orb was actually the sun that you could stare directly into without even blinking.

The new smart phones and their weather service for cities across the planet allow you to keep an eye on weather events around the world and also witness some very odd forecasts. While I have seen "Freezing Fog" (Alert, Nunavut) and "Blowing Dust" (Kennewick, Wash.), I never dreamed that I would see "Smoke" in the forecast for Surrey along with a dark hazy background. I know there's been a lot of shootings recently but I didn't think the gun smoke was really getting that bad. It turns out it wasn't that or leftovers from the Fourth of July fireworks in the States either but outflow winds bringing smoke from Sechelt and Pemberton down into the Lower Mainland, creating a thick grey haze that actually blotted out the sunset on Sunday evening. We are not the only ones suffering with a smoke filled forecast as it turns out that Winnipeg where my wife has family is having the same problem from nearby forest fires and getting the same "Smoke" forecast. Fortunately for them, their temperature highs on Monday will be only 17 instead of the scorching 31 forecast for Surrey.

A friend of mine lives in a heavily forested area of Roberts Creek only 7 km. away from the Half-Moon Bay fire near Sechelt. I talked to him about the conditions on the Sunshine Coast and he told me that it was so hot and dry that the corn in his garden was wilting no matter how much he watered it. The ash from the forest fire has blanketed his home, yard and vehicles, making it look as if they were living near Mt. St. Helens when it blew its top in 1980. I asked him if they knew what had caused the fire and he said it had been reported that people shooting rifles in the bush had caused a spark when a bullet ricocheted off a rock starting the blaze. The Lower Mainland Target Rifle Championships were to have been shot this weekend in Chilliwack but because of the Level 5 Extreme forest fire rating the military closed the range and now I realize that their concerns were legitimate. The annual BC Rifle Association TR Championships scheduled for next week has similarly been scrubbed and rescheduled for early in September. Hopefully it will rain before that (did someone say the PNE?).

A little closer to the Semi-pen, there is a large black scorch mark between the lanes of Hwy. 99 near Hwy. 91 in Delta where a grass fire likely started by an errant cigarette burned the bleach blond grass to the ground. It makes me wonder if auto makers eliminating ashtrays from many modern cars have inadvertently fueled this problem? In Delta, I've seen two centre median fires in Tsawwassen in the past month, reporting one small fire to E-com 911 and watching as an alert Delta Parks crew out watering boulevard trees used their tank to extinguish another fire. People need to understand that in these conditions, bark mulch and even black organic topsoil will readily light into a smouldering fire, similar to how peat bogs burn. On the way home last Wednesday I drove into the #12 Fire Hall at Crescent Park to alert staff there to a strong smell of smoke only blocks away on Crescent Road. While the RCMP have been patrolling the beaches for fires, I did notice one where a half bundle of firewood purchased from a gas station had been left behind, making me question why they are still being sold during a total fire ban.

In case you missed it, the Ministry of Environment has issued a smoke advisory for the Sunshine Coast and surrounding areas throughout Metro Vancouver that reads "Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted. Staying indoors and in air conditioned spaces helps to reduce fine particulate exposure. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease." Met-Van also announced this weekend that because of the hot and dry weather plus reservoir level concerns, Stage 2 water restrictions are being instituted for the first time since 2003, limiting lawn sprinkling to only one day per week and banning the use of pressure washers or spray nozzles to clean driveways. Homes with even numbered addresses can sprinkle their lawns Mondays from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. and odd numbered addresses on Thurs. from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. from now until Sept. 30. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, don't forget to adjust your timer to reflect the new regulations.

If we don't start seeing some relief from the extreme heat and receive some much needed rain, it is likely that Met-Van impose Stage 3 and possibly Stage 4 restrictions on water usage later this scorching summer. At stage 3 all lawn sprinkling is banned (bad news for gardeners) and hot tubs and pools can't be emptied and refilled. At stage 4 you'd better hope you have rain barrels that are still full as the watering of plants with treated drinking water is banned, all car washes, water parks and public outdoor pools are shut down and many other water uses are allowed only if ordered for health and safety reasons. For now the best advice on your lawn might be "Brown it, don't drown it" and the old water conservation cry of "If its yellow, let it mellow/If its brown, flush it down" might have to be cleaned off and used here in California North.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



June 29, 2015

Turtle Head

Bob Bose's fave t-shirt

Before I started penning The Naked Truth for the White Rock Sun I used to write plenty of letters to the editor, both for local newspapers and the larger dailies including national publications. If the subject is important enough, I still take the time to voice my opinion as was the case last week when a let-ed as I call them was printed in the Peace Arch News (Existing plaza unused, June 26). Getting published was one thing but I always strived to earn the coveted "letter of the day", ensuring the widest readership possible. Imagine my surprise last week when I saw former Surrey Mayor and Semi-pen resident Bob Bose's letter in the prime spot in the Vancouver Sun with the title "Cyclists using their Heads" and the caption "Former mayor of Surrey owes life to wearing helmet."

Mr. Bose was replying to an article by Kevin Griffin in the Sun the day before titled "More than half of young B.C. cyclists report always wearing a helmet." Rather than post a link, I thought it best to reprint his let-ed here to help spread his message:
This is an important issue and I appreciate seeing it again raised in print. I have been shocked to observe the numbers of cyclists riding without helmets in Ottawa, Montreal and other eastern cities. It seemed as if no one wore them.
I was involved in promoting bike safety at elementary schools along with ICBC. I still have a T-shirt, one of my favourites, with a graphic on the front showing a turtle wearing a helmet and on the back the slogan, "Brains are soft, helmets are hard, use both." It would be fantastic to see it once again reproduced.
I was hit by a car and suffered serious trauma in 1998 and would not be here today to write this had I not been wearing a helmet.

Always a cycling enthusiast, Bob was in training that year for the Paris-Brest-Paris cycling event that is a 1,200 km road circuit and a forerunner of the better known Tour de France. Its slogan is "ride until you drop" and you must complete a 600 km race in order to qualify for the PBP. Mr. Bose was going home from a long bike ride and heading eastbound on 24th Ave., just past the Hwy. 99 overpass. An elderly gentleman drove straight across 24th Ave. from Cranley Drive to enter the adjacent townhouse complex without seeing the bicycle headed his way. Bob hit the rear quarter panel of the car, flying over the trunk where he landed on the asphalt and a concrete curb. He was unconscious at the scene, taken to Peace Arch Hospital and then whisked to the trauma centre at Royal Columbian. It would be 8.5 hours until he finally woke up, with doctors informing him he had sustained a concussion and spinal cord bruising. Fortunately there was no swelling of the brain (Bob will tell you his head was already swollen) and he was released 24 hours later. The recovery from his injuries took much longer with lingering effects.

Since I grew up in the era of daredevil Evil Knievel, it was rather amazing that myself of any of my friends made it out of childhood alive considering the hair-brained stunts we dreamed up and performed. Fortunately while there were plenty of scrapes and bruises that included picking gravel out of my knee with the tip of a steak knife, we somehow managed to keep out heads intact in a era when there were no bike helmets. I remember at a young age riding my bike head first into a telephone pole after the chain fell off, leaving me with a goose egg on my forehead and a multi-coloured bruise that took forever to fade. When I was a teenager my neighbour's son was less fortunate when he showed up at our door with a crimson soaked towel pressed against his head. My mother was an emergency room nurse and he wanted her to check out a cut in his head he got from wiping out his bike. When he removed the towel, you could actually see his skull including one of the wavy cranial sutures. Needless to say he was driven off for repairs and his parents notified that he would be at the hospital where he received over a dozen stitches to close the gaping wound.

Mr. Bose's experience shows how even an veteran rider can have a serious accident along with life-threatening injuries. In his case, he will tell you that he believes his helmet likely saved his life in the 1998 crash. While wearing a bike helmet is required by law in BC, many other provinces to not have this legislation. Even worse here are the people you see riding on the streets here without a helmet and not being ticketed for the infraction. Numbers released by Stats Canada last week showed that BC cyclists between the ages of 12 and 17 always wore a helmet 56.8 percent of the time but the real story should have been the 43.2 percent that did not. Obviously we need to increase our education of young people as to the benefits of wearing a bike helmet and the possibly deadly results of avoiding this important piece of safety gear. Bob told me that the turtle T-shirt he has was printed in 1996 and interestingly came from the BC Ministry of Transportation. Maybe its time they look at running a similar campaign or even bring the helmeted turtle out of retirement in order to boost compliance and save lives.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



June 22, 2015

The Ghost of the Spirit Square Rises

"History repeats itself because no one was listening the first time."


I must admit that I felt like I had stepped into a time portal this week and taken a trip back to 2008 when I heard that the Spirit Square plan for the White Rock waterfront had been resurrected from the dead. In case you are not familiar with it, this million dollar plan calls for a community meeting place to be constructed on the lawn of Memorial Park just west of the pier and east of the White Rock museum. The Spirit Square is supposed to function as a community meeting place, similar to the many squares found in European Villages. As with fashion, it appears that what's old is new again, with the identical proposal that was turned down seven years ago now suddenly finding new life with the present mayor and council.

What is interesting is that in both of the occasions when the Spirit Square was being proposed, it was grant money that was the driving force behind the need for it to be built. In 2008 it was provincial money being dolled out under the BC Spirit Squares program celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the crown colony of British Columbia. Under this program, qualifying civic applications would be funded 50% by Victoria up to $500,000, with the other half of the funds coming from the city. Here we are seven years later and this time it is Federal Government money from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure grant that is putting funds towards projects that will soon help celebrate the 150th birthday of Canada back in 1867. Just as in 2008, there is a $500,000 cap with matching funds from the city, even though at the end of the day it is all taxpayer money. It is safe to say that without the outside funding from Ottawa, the Spirit Square plan likely would have remained hidden on its dusty shelf in a back closest at City Hall.

The original Spirit Square concept in 2008 received near unanimous approval from a wide variety of community leaders and took input from residents for its final layout, one of three that were designed at that time. It was the loss of 33 prime parking spots and the subsequent drop in revenue that galvanized opposition from local merchants and restaurants on Marine Drive, promising to make the Spirit Square an upcoming election issue that year. The fact that the land in question is owned by the BNSF Railway and the city's lease expires in 2023 (now only 8 years away) also made people question putting money and upgrades into land the city did not own. Others objected to developing Memorial Park and the loss of the angled lawn that attracts families and children, providing useful space when the tide is in and the beach under water. When the Spirit Square proposal was finally voted on, it was narrowly defeated by a 4-3 margin and the Memorial Park and its wide expanse of grass was saved from being concreted over. In the initial vote this week, it passed by a 4-3 margin with Councilors Knight, Lawrence, Meyer and Sinclair voting in favour. Interestingly enough, Mayor Baldwin joined the naysayers citing concerns over past controversy about this dated project.

The Spirit Square plan is hardly set in stone yet with many hurdles needing to be cleared before this proposal gets the green light. White Rock staff hastily put in the city's application, using one of the three earlier proposals that had been defeated in 2008. Application requirements due on Wed., June 17 only two days after the Council meeting included an approved financial plan, documents confirming a long term lease of the land and approval of the land owner. City staffers are currently in discussions with the BNSF about getting approval for this concept but it will be interesting to see if the eight years remaining in the lease qualify as "long term." Considering the BNSF recently allowed White Rock to clear-cut almost half of the forest from the Hump hillside except for one lone alder tree, I would be surprised if they wouldn't let them remove the lawn from in front of the pier. After all, if your neighbor came to you and asked permission to put a million bucks in landscaping upgrades into your yard at no cost or obligation, what would you say?

Bayvieww Park West Beach

It will be interesting to see if the original animosity towards the Spirit Square plan resurfaces considering that the same objections from 2008 still remain. I believe that Memorial Park is already a community meeting place as I saw plenty of families relaxing there on Fathers Day, enjoying the manicured lawn with its view of the pier and promenade. A cheaper and environmentally friendly concept would be to plant some trees there to provide shade to those not wanting to be baking in the direct sun all day and also to make it wheelchair accessible. There is already an unused concreted community meeting place at the other end of West Beach paid for with tax money; the Bayview Park Outdoor Plaza beside the boat launch which has only been rented out for weddings on three days over the next four months.

If this "what's old is new again" plan cannot stand on its own merits and only gets endorsed because of hefty additional government funding then the question must be asked whether it's worthwhile in the first place? With the original vote in 2008 defeating the Spirit Square plan, I would say that this question has already been answered.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


June 15, 2015

Reefer Madness Alive and Well

This evening at 7 p.m., Mr. Randy Caine who owns and operates the chain of Hempyz Gifts & Novelties and the ReLeaf Compassion Centres will appear before White Rock Council to enlist their support for a pilot project dispensing medical marijuana in the City By The Sea. This comes only a week after the presentation at the White Rock library titled "Medical Marijuana: Is it right for you... Is it right for the community?" In between we heard about the Holy Smoke church on Marine Drive and the "Pope of Pot" in a story broken by the White Rock Sun which is now front page news in the PAN. Their question of the week poll on the opinion page is "Should cities permit medical marijuana dispensaries? Yup, it looks as if White Rock has surely gone to pot over this issue. It's not much better in Ottawa where federal Conservative Health Minister Rona Ambrose blew a fuse on national TV, scolding the Supreme Court of Canada's unanimous decision allowing medical marijuana to be dispensed as edibles, oils and tinctures, leaving many wondering what she'd been smoking.

While all of this open and frank dialogue about the benefits of medical marijuana is welcomed, a sinister Orwellian plot involving Mr. Caine and a host of government agencies including CSIS, CBSA and the RCMP has been unfolding over the past few months that only now is being given the light of day. In March, Mr. Caine and his wife Maureen were refused entry into Mexico when they flew into Puerto Vallarta for a well needed vacation after the death of her mother. Federal Mexican customs agents were waiting for Mr. Caine when he departed the jet and whisked him away for interrogation before he even entered customs. They had a picture of him, personal information including his home address and phone numbers plus information about his various business interests. He was told he had been flagged as a "security threat" and refused admission to Mexico for being a "drug trafficker." When he inquired which Canadian agency had alerted them to his travel plans, he was told "you need to speak to your government." The jet he had arrived on was not allowed to leave for Canada until the interrogation was over at which point he was escorted back onto the plane and it finally departed. His wife Maureen was not told that Randy was refused entry or that he had been sent out of the country until after the plane had left, even though there was empty seats on board. She caught the next flight home several stressful hours later, adding to the amount of money wasted on this vacation from hell.

What is highly concerning about all of this is that Mr. Caine does not have a criminal record as a drug dealer or for any other illegal activities for that matter. He is a high profile community activist who was charged in July of 2011 with drug trafficking when his legal Langley Medicinal Marijuana Dispensary was raided by the RCMP after political pressure from then Langley City Mayor Peter Fastbender. The charge was dropped in 2013 when Mr. Caine was instead found in violation of his Health Canada license for the amount of marijuana he was allowed to have on premise and the method in which it was being stored. Randy was granted an absolute discharge on both of these paperwork violations that did not involve the Canadian Criminal Code and therefore were not registered against him as a conviction. Upon his same day return to Canada from Puerto Vallharta, Mr. Caine immediately inquired with a CBSA officer at the Vancouver International Airport as to whether they had been the source of the erroneous information that had been supplied to the Mexican authorities. The officer checked two databases available to him on several computer systems and declared that the travel alert had not originated from their department.

Over the past three months Mr. Caine has filed Freedom of Information requests with The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the RCMP. He has also enlisted help from MLA's and MP's in both Langley and White Rock to find out the source for the "false and baseless" information that was shared with Mexican authorities fearing the same incorrect data may have been given to other countries including the US where he likes to travel and do business. Randy has received a letter back from CSIS where the government spy agency claimed no knowledge of his situation but also informed him that national security meant his FOI might not be fully disclosed. The CBSA is also playing its cards close to the chest and he is still awaiting documents proving that it was not this agency who alerted the Mexican authorities. The RCMP have asked for a 30 day extension on Mr. Caine's FOI request, admitting their file on him is so large that they need extra time to process his application. Since Randy and his wife Maureen flew out of YVR, I would be very surprised if the CBSA were not involved in this scandal as they would have had instant access to his travel plans the moment he presented his passport to airline staff. If this turns out to be the case, the question is who gave them the slanderous and defaming information about Mr. Caine and can they be held legally responsible for damage to reputation and travel costs?

It will be interesting to see what type of reception Mr. Caine and his ReLeaf Compassion Centre partners receive when they appear as a delegation before White Rock Council on Monday night. Remember that three years ago when Hempyz first came to town, Paul Stanton, the city's director of planning and development services stated that safety and security concerns were grounds for denying their business license. While Council voted 4-2 to refuse his application, the city's bylaws required a unanimous vote for denial ensuring that this funky little boutique found a home next to the beach. Since that time Hempyz has done a thriving business across the street from the Museum, even in the winter months when the rest of the strip is often closed as seasonal merchants seek warmer shores. The ReLeaf Compassion Centre just around the corner from City Hall has attracted patients from across the peninsula with the only complaint about the business being that they did not operate as a dispensary. I'll never forget the loud applause and near standing ovation from the silver haired crowd at an all-candidates meeting several years ago in the Star of the Sea when provincial candidates all offered their party's support for medical marijuana. In the ultra conservative South Surrey-White Rock riding that tells me the tide has turned against the so-called "War on Drugs" propaganda as seniors seek out natural herbal remedies for a wide variety of ailments and relief from end of life suffering.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Got a hot news story or confidential tip that needs some TNT exposure?
Support your independent newspaper and send it to editor@whiterocksun



June 08, 2015

From Surf to Turf

World Oceans Day

With this TNT falling on World Oceans Day, Monday June 8th, 2015 and the Semiahmoo peninsula bathed on two sides by the salty brine of the Pacific Ocean, I had to bring attention to this world wide occasion. What is interesting is that this initiative was first proposed by the Canadian Government during the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Finally ratified by a United Nations General Assembly resolution that was passed in Dec., 2008, World Oceans Day is now officially recognized by the UN and held on June 8th each year.

This year's theme is Health Oceans, Healthy Planet, focusing on the problem of plastic garbage infiltration into worldwide ocean waters. Tofino artist Peter Clarkson has hung a net full of Tsunami debris collected off Tofino beaches at the Vancouver Aquarium to mark the occasion. I have personally cleaned up Crescent Rock Beach from Crescent Beach to White Rock several times and you would be appalled at how much plastic garbage is washed up onto the rocky shores. Plastic shopping bags and plastic drinking bottles are by far the most common litter, which hopefully will change people's reliance on these disposable products that can easily be eliminated.

For more information about World Oceans Day, check out their website at Locally the David Suzuki Foundation at also has information about how you can become an "oceankeeper." Remember that all global initiatives depend on local participation in order to make change in our ever more polluted and threatened world.

Crafted With Flavor

If you have not managed to visit the White Rock Beach Beer company on Russel St. across from the Bosa Towers and the Whaling Wall, you are missing out on one of the great tastes of White Rock. Run by three teachers who presumably did their homework on micro-breweries, they craft a fine pale ale, nut brown ale and porter beer with exceptional taste. While BCLC limits tasting to one serving per visit, they will gladly fill your reusable growler bottles that are available in either 1L. or 2L. sizes. Don't worry about bringing bottles from other craft breweries in, all are welcomed. Check out the piece of white stone just donated with a couple of small sticks leaning against it looking very similar to a slightly larger version on the White Rock waterfront just east of the pier.

I've been a big fan of the Old Yale Brewing Company from Chilliwack for many years who make one of the finest India Pale Ale's or IPA's that can be found locally. Besides many awards for their various brews, they won the coveted Best Beer in Canada award for 2014 at the Canadian Brewery Awards for their Sasquatch stout (I have one in my fridge at this very moment). In Surrey the Big Ridge Brew Pub, Russel Brewing Co. and the Central City Brewers all offer locally produced beers in a wide variety of flavors, some of which are also available at local beer stores. Craft Brew Week just ended in Vancouver with over 10,000 people expected to attend the PNE Centre Grounds, showing the growing interest in fresh beers. By far the most interesting news had to be the Four Winds Brewing Co. from Delta winning the coveted title of Brewery of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Brewing Awards held in Niagara Falls, Ontario. They also won two golds, two silvers and a bronze for their beers that must be experienced to be believed. You can find them on River Road in the Tilsbury Industrial area at Hopcott Road. Tell them that Don from the White Rock Sun sent you.

Senate Scandal Snares a Saint

Most Canadians are now familiar with the Senate spending scandal that began back in 2012 involving Senators Mike Duffy, Mac Harb, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau claiming ineligible travel and housing expenses. Mr Duffy's criminal trial for fraud and bribery is still ongoing, focusing the media spotlight and public eye on Senate spending expenses. If the political power brokers on Parliament Hill were hoping this problem would go away before the next federal election this fall, it is likely they will be disappointed. Auditor General Michael Ferguson is now calling for an independent oversight body for Senate expenses after sending the expense files of nine current and former senators to the RCMP before Tuesday's release of his forensic audit. The total amount in question is $975,000, which also includes a further 21 other senators who have been asked to repay ineligible expenses.

The local news on this national story is that retired Conservative Senator Gerry St. Germain who lives near Hazelmere in South Surrey is one of those whose file has been sent to the national police force. St. Germain represented BC in the Senate from 1993 until his retirement in 2012, helping to unite the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives to form the present Conservative party. In a statement released on Friday, St. Germain called the findings "adverse, baseless and unsubstantiated", believing the Auditor General used incomplete records to come to his conclusions. As reported by Darryl Dyck of the Canadian Press, St. Germain went on to state "My efforts now will focus on defending my hard-earned reputation and challenging a process that has been unfair and unjust." Personally knowing Gerry, his tireless work ethic, dedication to Canadian politics and Aboriginal Affairs, I trust the "Saint" will turn out to be just that.

The Green Green Grass of Home

After the warmest and driest May on record, it's not surprising that many people's lawns are turning brown and crispy even though summer is officially still a couple of weeks away. With my home being on a pay-as-you-pour water meter, I limit my lawn watering, focusing on the shrubs and plants instead (including the banana and palm trees might I add). After this week's mini-heat wave and with more sunny and dry weather in the forecast, it is likely that it will be hard to keep that lush dark green colour for the lawn now that Metro Vancouver watering restrictions came into effect. While our summer drought will be nothing compared to what California is experiencing, we can learn from them how to keep our lawns green all summer without watering, fertilizing or mowing.

Sound like a pipe dream or wondering what kind of grass I've been smoking? There is a new industry that falls somewhere between landscaping and painting, utilizing a water based dye to colour lawns. South Surrey painting company Imperial Painting ( has secured the Canadian rights to Lawnlift (, a biodegradable paint that they can apply to your grass to give it a healthy green colour. It is safe to use around children and pets and will not rub off on shoes or clothes once it has dried and the colour set. It will remain in place until the lawn grows and the treated grass is mowed off, meaning you can go on vacation this summer and still have great looking turf. For those trying to sell their house in the summer months, the dye job adds instant street appeal. Make your neighbours green with envy and show them that the grass is really greener on the other side of the fence, while reducing your yard work load.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



June 01, 2015

urBAN FOREST MANagement plan

I'm going to have to hit a drug store today to buy a cervical collar to help with the whip lash from once again shaking my head about the ineptitude and absolute gall shown by the City of White Rock when dealing with their environmental and tree issues. I'll probably also grab a box of Grovel and bottle of Pepto-Bismol to help me digest the nauseating news that the City By The Sea is looking for feedback from their residents on a new Urban Forest Management Plan. This concept was posted on the city website ( about the same time that the last of the trunks of the trees from the western end of the Hump were being chipped into sawdust and blown onto the barren hillside to cover the stumps where a forest once stood. What is truly scary is that nobody at City Hall is apparently concerned about the terrible optics of this or the tarnished image and reputation it gives White Rock and its residents. Good thing there's no "ban forest man" in Urban Forest Management Plan..., hey wait a minute.

Here is the exact wording taken directly from the posting. "An urban forest includes all of a community's trees, shrubs, herbaceous low-growing perennial vegetation and soil and is found on both public and private lands including parks and boulevards. The plan will provide direction for the future maintenance of the urban forest, including targets for canopy cover growth, locations and species for new tree planting, tree health and maintenance, tree protection, and budgeting. Feedback from the public will be used to help develop a vision and direction for future management of trees and natural areas within the City, to establish targets for future canopy cover, and to inform potential amendments to the City's Tree Management Bylaw (No. 1831) and Policy (No. 611). The City's Urban Forest Management Survey is open now through the City's engagement platform, Talk White Rock (registration required) and closes on 17 June. The City will also host a Urban Forest Management Plan Forum on Wednesday 24 June from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. at the White Rock Community Centre.

What is interesting is that the Urban Forest Management Plan was conceived by the previous White Rock Council and a request for proposal posted issued on Dec. 21, 2014, which closed on Jan. 12, 2015. I don't know how they expected to get a competent bid over the Christmas holiday season that basically left one week in January to put together a price for the wide array of work specified but there has been no official announcement that I'm aware of as to whether this contract was ever tendered. In fact the reason why Council voted earlier this year to put in place a blanket policy covering all trees in White Rock was because so many trees were being cut down with residents aware that an expert company was going to be hired to make suggestions about the city's tree policy. This document lists the city as "a green community..., in which the local government..., conduct their affairs in an environmentally responsible manner, contributing to the overall environmental quality of the community. To this end, White Rock will preserve and enhance ecological systems and provide leadership in promoting and implementing environmentally sound practices." Looking at the barren hulk of the Hump, I don't know whether to laugh at this ironic statement or simply cry.

There has been much banter in White Rock City Hall about the existence of a supposedly fictitious letter sent by Transport Canada to White Rock in May of 2007 warning about the causes of slides affecting rail safety on the BNSF tracks. I knew about it because I was invited to the initial site inspection along the corridor with Kris Dhawan, the Railway Safety Inspector for Transport Canada and others. Shortly after the meeting I filed a FOI request to see the final conclusion and who the information had been sent to. Fortunately I kept a copy of this document as I felt it might come in handy in the future with slope stability issues above the railway. Here is the important passage with the final portion underlined for effect by myself: "Because of the history of slope failures in the area, I am requesting that BNSF engage an independent geotechnical professional to inspect the area as soon as possible and make recommendations as to what further improvements could be made to increase safety of the slopes. The cooperation of the City of Surrey and the City of White Rock would be necessary to control discharge of surface water from houses above, to reduce or eliminate septic drainage fields of houses that contribute water to slopes, and to control tree cutting by residents in the area."

This letter was sent to Dianne Berfort, the Division Engineer at BNSF offices in Seattle along with Paul IIam, the Director of Engineering for the City of Surrey plus David Pollock, the Director of Operations for the City of White Rock. Beyond doing almost nothing to stop residents from cutting trees for views, they have now clear-cut half of the Hump for views under the guise of slope stability, ignoring the advice of the Railway Safety Inspector. With more "vegetation control" and "scrub tree removal" planned, it is likely that the rest of the Hump will be clear cut except for the lone "eagle tree" that will be left looking as naked and visible as an erection at the nude beach. How Mayor Baldwin and the Council members who support this action can justify it while knowing about the slide history and risk to passing trains beside the promenade is beyond me. Even more appalling is how Transport Canada can turn a blind eye to the biggest clear cut in White Rock after sending the City its previous warning about tree cutting on the slopes causing landslides onto the BNSF tracks? I will be forwarding a copy of this letter back to Transport Canada, the BNSF Railway and the Mayor and Council of White Rock, hoping to jog their memories or at least once again inform them of the danger.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn







May 27, 2015

Third Time's The Snake Charm

Last weekend was probably not a holiday for most folks north of the 49th parallel but I decided to venture into the "Land of the Free" and the "Home of the Brave" for their Memorial Day celebration. It is this weekend that the Washington State Palma Rifle Championship is held at the dreaded Rattlesnake Rifle Range in Kennewick near the Tri-Cities. I drove down there on Thursday night so I could get an extra day of practice before the three day match that attracts Americans and Canadians hoping to win the coveted brass rattlesnake trophy. I'm glad I left town early as you need all the help you can get when visiting what is arguably one of the toughest and windiest rifle ranges on the planet.

The problem with Rattlesnake is its location in south-eastern Washington near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, part of which is the danger area at the back of the rifle range. Pacific frontal systems drained of their moisture race down the eastern side of the coastal mountains, making this an ideal place for large wind turbines that generate electric power in the seemingly endless gales. You pass over 200 of these large white modern windmills before hitting the semi-arid desert that stretches for miles on the way to the range complex. The lack of clouds ensures that daytime heating also causes variations in ground heating adding to the wind and causing it to blow in different directions, while changing both strength and angle very quickly. It is not uncommon to see regular winds of 25-30 miles an hour with gusts reaching 45 mph plus dust devils and sandstorm advisories as part of the local weather forecast.

Unlike most of the coastal rifle ranges including the General Vokes 600 metre range in Chilliwack that are flanked with large stands of trees limiting exposure to the wind, there are basically no trees as far as the eye can see at Rattlesnake which sits on an exposed plateau. Even the nearby Rattlesnake mountain, named after (you guessed it) its large population of rattlesnakes, is devoid of trees and is instead covered with a thin layer of bunch grass and sage brush. The only trees are those lining the nearby Yakima River or those planted and irrigated by either homeowners or farmers for wind breaks. You have to be careful of other creatures while at the property as black widow and brown recluse spiders along with scorpions (I'm not making this stuff up) hide in almost every nook and cranny. I laughed when I saw someone had written "Rattlesnake" on a concrete block wall near the targets with an arrow to a hole at ground level. It turns out it was not a joke but a lair for a resident rattler that has been there for a couple of years.

Now imagine if you will laying on crushed gravel sitting atop several inches of Mount St. Helen's ash trying to shoot a target over half a mile away that measures six feet wide by six feet tall. To make it even more entertaining, the bulls-eye is 20 inches wide with a centre X ring of only 10 inches. The Palma Rifle shooting program uses .223 or .308 calibre single shot rifles, fired from the prone position with a sling to help with stability and iron peep sights. Matches are held at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards every day with two non-convertible sighters and 15 rounds on score with a highest possible score of 150-15X, not that anyone has ever fired one at the treacherous Snake. At most rifle ranges a score of 448 or 449 out of a HPS of 450 is needed to ensure victory but at Rattlesnake the match winner generally needs an average daily score of only 430. It is not the type of place for the faint of heart and there are many skilled marksmen who simply refuse to go there. That being said, if you want to learn how to shoot long range target rifle in the wind, there is nothing else that compares to Rattlesnake.

This was my third visit to this blustery Washington range that ended up the last two times with fourth place finishes out of the medals, awards or cash prizes. I remember the first time there trying to get used to my clothes being pinned on one side of my body while flapping like a flag in a hurricane on the other. Just having to deal with the white noise from the wind and the effect of it pushing on your body all day is a draining experience. Now that I have basically acclimatized to the conditions it seems almost normal to use large chunks of lava rock to weigh equipment down so it won't blow over or possibly away. I have previously won the long range match in Oregon (the first and only Canadian to do so) at the Douglas Ridge range that is known for calm conditions and record scores. Since I am practicing for the World Long Range TR Championships being held in Camp perry Ohio this summer, I felt that Rattlesnake would be a much harder challenge. I met up in Kennewick with my mom and father Bob Pitcairn who is a member of four sporting hall of fames for his level of competitive marksmanship over the past 55 years.

Without bothering you with the mundane details and play by play of each and every range, I managed to lead this year's match from the very first 800 yard on Saturday to the final 1,000 on Monday, finally getting my hands and name on the Rattlesnake Challenge Trophy. While the winds were not at their usual hurricane force, the speed and angle shifts were enough that even seasoned veterans missed the target. There are wind flags across the range plus you can use mirage in spotting scopes, you last shot location and even your neighbour's target to gauge wind speed but sometimes it is almost impossible to select a sight setting due to rapidly changing conditions and plain old fear. I held only a one point lead over several competitors at the end each day and at the final 1,000 yard range shot the top score of only 136 out of 150. In fact is was a clean miss by a fellow Canadian shooter during a rather nasty left to right wind switch that sealed the deal for me. I should note that last year my Dad and a great Washington shooter named David Littlefield had an absolute tie for score and X-bulls after three days of shooting in strong winds, with David winning in a count back.

To my faithful readers, I'm sorry that this TNT was a little late but I first had to write the ending on the range then get home to my office to bash it out which proved nearly impossible with everyone living in Washington apparently on the road until the wee hours of Monday night. Imagine if you will an eight mile long traffic jam on a single lane highway through the forest that was stop and go for nearly two hours. Of course at the end of this epic journey, the border guards wanted to once again check that the target rifles I declared match the numbers they have seen countless times. Hopefully it was all worth it and the experience will pay dividends when I join my Canadian Target Rifle teammates in Camp Perry, Ohio for the 2015 Palma Match Team and Individual World Championships. Until then I'll keep shooting from the lip, shooting from the hip and turning copper and lead into gold.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



May 19, 2015



I'm sorry for making you wait but here is the TNT I promised two weeks ago, arriving a little late because of the apparent need for legal opinions and the Hump fiasco. After reading the constant diatribe about "defamation" and "vile comments" posted in the Peace Arch News, I thought the people of White Rock should get the inside scoop on how poisoned the atmosphere in City Hall really is these days and the libelous smear campaign that is behind it. They need to realize that much of this is designed to get attention off the clear cutting of the Hump that has been happening off and on over the past six years before the most recent razing that finished this hatchet job. While the city work being carried on private property is costing White Rock tax payers $80,000, residents along Marine Drive now benefit from an unobstructed pier view that a real estate appraiser estimates is worth $100,000 per home. Not that this was the reason of course, as the main purpose was listed on the city notice of work sign as slope stability..., slope stability..., and you guessed it, slope stability.

For almost six years years now I have penned "The Naked Truth" (TNT) in the local White Rock Sun, with more than a handful of these dealing with tree cutting (so-called "vegetation control") on the Hump hillside. Plenty more of the TNT's have to do with landslides onto the BNSF tracks and tree cutting that is generally the primary cause of slope failure. On Feb. 9, 2015 I wrote a column titled, "White Rock Railway Safety Task Farce" questioning Councilor Grant Meyer's ability to be chair the rail safety task force while he continually called for the Hump to be clear cut. In this column I used a strongly worded metaphor to describe my feelings when I was informed the person in charge of rail safety wanted to do something that I believe directly threatened passing BNSF trains. I did not make false accusations against Grant Meyer, I did not make false claims against his character and I certainly did not use the offending word to describe him. Freedom of expression and journalistic freedom are protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and I am allowed to describe my personal feelings regardless of how others choose to perceive them or use them for their political gain. Its called freedom of speech folks and I exercise my right to do so on a weekly basis.

Councilor Chesney who is also the Editor for the White Rock Sun was taken to task by Mayor Baldwin and Councilor Meyer over the column I had written, with Mr. Meyer voicing his concerns to Mr. Chesney that he in no way wished to be associated with the metaphor I had used that was akin to a fox in a hen house. In order to smooth ruffled feathers, Mr. Chesney agreed to edit out the offending term (something I did not agree with) and he apologized to Grant with a verbal apology and handshake later that week. While this was to have been the end of the story, new demands and conditions were then placed on Mr Chesney, which lead to public calls of "defamation", "likely defamation" and finally a vote for censure which was voted for by the majority of council. How the vote actually turned out is protected by the secrecy of an IN CAMERA meeting where the vote took place. The people of White Rock need to know two important details about this whole sordid affair. At no time did Mayor Baldwin or Councilor Meyer ever contact me in any way to voice their concern or displeasure with my choice of words in The Naked Truth (TNT) column. A senior member of my legal team who specializes in defamation lawsuits read the passage in question and assured me that anyone with even a rudimentary comprehension of the English language would know that no defamation was implied or intended towards Mr. Meyer.

With Mayor Baldwin then switching tactics saying that the censure was because Dave Chesney had leaked secret privledged information without providing any evidence to back his claim, I'm left wondering what the real reason was for his being, dare-I-say, tarred and feathered for publishing my comments? Well, here we are two months after my warning about Councilor Meyer wanting to clear-cut the Hump and there is only one tree left standing on what six years ago was a forested hillside. The comical part is that this lone sentinel actually blocks most of the view of the pier from the viewing platform on Marine Drive but not the sight lines for the residents above. Over the past six years, at least 150 trees have been removed from the Hump including some up to three feet in diameter. What is disgusting is how the notice of work sign at the Hump lists "slope stability" three times for reasons for the clear-cut while mentioning "improving lines of sight" only once. The slope stability smokescreen is nothing but a "Baldwin-faced" lie as in 2008 after a series of slides onto the tracks in the Semi-pen, Transport Canada sent a letter to the BNSF, White Rock and Surrey, warning them that the cutting of trees on the steep bluff slopes above the railway was one of the main causes of landslides threatening safe rail operations in the corridor. Did nobody realize that the train and whistle noise plus coal dust will now carry far up the hill without the trees to block them?

The steep Hump hillside is historically known for previous slide activity. A photo taken from the end of the pier circa 1920 shows four vertical slides plus a long lateral slump slide not far from the pier. Now that the trees and brush have been stripped bare, the evidence of several of these past slope failures is plainly evident dating from the last time the Hump was clear cut. In the early 1960's, a portion of Marine Drive tore loose and crashed to the bottom of the Hump hill tearing out steel pipes, broken portions of which can be seen next to the tracks now that the brush has been removed. This is in the same location that White Rock now has soil monitoring sensors in the roadway where a noticeable crack and dip have appeared in the asphalt. Five years ago the Marine Drive sidewalk across the Hump was replaced because the metal safety railings were leaning towards the beach at 10-20 degrees from vertical. I had professional geology engineer Frank Baumann who had been referred by SFU Geology Professor John Clague come for an inspection and he confirmed that the displacement was associated with soil creep on the Hump hillside. Soon thereafter the city of White Rock replaced the entire railing along "The Hump." Amazingly the BNSF apparently agreed to the work currently being done and curiously White Rock is spending taxpayer money to alter private land that they do not own. Even more surprising is that even after their dire slide warning, Transport Canada did nothing to stop the forest flattening on the Hump. I guess it takes somebody getting killed like the lady jogger hit by the AmTrak several years ago at East beach to initiate their railway safety protocols.

We have witnessed an apparently cohesive smear campaign since the last election aimed squarely at Councilors Fathers and Chesney with myself included in the recent rant in the Peace Arch News Letter To The Editor section) by someone who I doubt ever read my unedited Feb. 9 TNT column. Councillor Fathers was the first to be attacked with Baldwin-backer Cliff Annable (the Executive Director of the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce) bringing up noise complaints from an adjacent strata about the White Rock Farmer's Market, while it was being nominated for being the best in BC. Then it was Dave Chesney's turn for having the audacity to push ahead with his promised "Community Conversations" initiative that attracts many constituents but never the mayor or his slate mates. Councilor Chesney had the good idea of suggesting that White Rock give itself the title of having "The Longest Pier in Canada", something a simple Google search brings you straight to White Rock. Former Mayor Hardy Staub told me when I met him at the BC Rod & Gun show in Cloverdale that Baldwin and his bunch had voted against this tourism windfall simply because the idea was brought up by Mr. Chesney. Now we find out from a PAN editorial that Cliff Annable and Councilor Lynne Sinclair were apparently behind a media campaign to smear Chesney for his personal thoughts on pregnant women in yoga pants. Do you see a pattern here? I view the censuring of Councilor Chesney as an attempt at censorship to muzzle his White Rock Sun. I even have a new word for it courtesy of White Rock City hall; "Censurship."

White Rock residents need to let Mayor Baldwin and his coalition Councilors Meyer, Sinclair, Lawrence and Knight know that they are tired of secret plans being made behind closed doors (did somebody say "garbagegate"?) Their city issued cell phone numbers are available online at the City of White Rock website (click here) should you want to give them an ear full. The clear cutting of the Hump is an ugly scar on a slide prone slope that a few plantings or even some retaining walls as has now recently been suggested by Grant Meyer will likely not fix anytime in the near future. The "Clear Cut Coalition" lead by "Bald-Win" who were responsible for destroying the Hump hillside forest and putting rail safety at risk need to be held accountable and axed in the next election. Transport Canada and the BNSF have to be questioned also why they let White Rock clear cut the Hump as they knew about the slide threat from tree cutting for views. When this whole fiasco Chesney contacted the BNSF rep for the Seattle to Vancouver corridor. Chesney was assured the rail line had received a request from the city of White Rock to do vegetation control, and that only ONE TREE ould be removed. If the city has any more plans to log the rest of the Hump it may be time for residents objecting to such devastation to stand between the trees and the chainsaws. I want to be on record stating that I believe the entire Hump hillside will one day be completely clear cut by White Rock unless residents take a stand, or maybe preserve a stand, against such an environmental abomination that greatly decreases slope stability above the BNSF tracks. Hopefully the tree cutting will finally stop so I can write about a topic other than White Rock the aptly named Hump.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



May 11, 2015

The Naked Hump

It took five years and countless attacks on the forest of the Hump hillside but White Rock City Hall has finally completed the total clear-cutting of all trees and vegetation from the Hump hillside from the pier to Johnson Street. Their posted signage stated "The work will focus on maintaining slope stability, increasing lines of sight and eradicating invasive species. Tree stumps will remain to ensure slope stability. The slope will be replanted to promote slope stability and beautification. We appreciate your patience on its appearance as we go through this transition." What the sign should have said was any and all trees regardless of size will be clear cut and a tracked vehicle used on the hillside to mow any remaining vegetation to ground level. At least then people and some surprised White Rock councilors would have known the extend to what was planned.

If you scroll way, way down to my March 8, 2010 TNT titled "Gone But Not Forgotten", you can see a picture of the mature forested that once stood on the west end of the Hump before someone got the brilliant idea of cutting down the trees. The November 30, 2009 TNT titled "Stopping The BNSF In Their Tracks" carries plenty of information about the slide threat involved with clear-cutting the Hump and should be read for background to this issue. Even further back, the October 9, 2009 column "Clear-Cut Case Of Negligence" give information about the landslide threat on the steep slopes above the tracks. This TNT also contains historical photos of the Hump back around 1920 taken from the pier after the slope was previously clear cut showing multiple landslide sites and a 150 m. wide lateral slump slide that happened near the pier. I guess nobody in White Rock City Hall has ever heard of the old saying that people who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The Hump on Tuesday

There are plenty of questions that need to be answered by Mayor Baldwin and his clear cut crazy councilors. Why is the city spending $80,000 of tax payer money to do tree work on private property since the Hump hillside is owned by the BNSF? How is it that rotting stumps will ensure slope stability but the live trees did not? Why is the city entertaining the concept of cutting down trees for views when this is not supported by other civic governments in the Lower Mainland? Is the rest of the Hump going to be eventually razed and are their still plans to build a vertical parking lot on the property as was previously envisioned? How is it that the city of White Rock can ignore its tree cutting bylaw and take down trees that according to the "No More Highrises in White Rock" Facebook page were 20 measuring over a foot across and 6 with diameters of over three feet? Will City Hall be contacting the BC Property Assessors to inform them that those residents who received views of the pier will need to have their assessments raised by an average of $100,000 for this year's property tax?

The Hump Friday

For Gus Melonas, the spokesperson for the BNSF, I'd like to know how his statement that one tree that was interfering with railway operations was going to be taken down became a complete clear cut with everything destroyed? Previously White Rock vegetation control where it was promised that not a single tree would be removed resulted in a total of 80 trees dropped so why would he entertaining further tree trimming? With Transport Canada warning the BNSF and the city of White Rock in 2008 that tree cutting on the steep slopes above the rail corridor was the main cause of landslides onto the tracks, why has the BNSF over and over allowed White Rock to clear land that the railway owns? I'd also want to ask Gus if he thought that leaving large piles of heavy logs at the base of the slope next to the tracks created a safety problem as someone could have easily placed them in front of a passing train causing a derailment? Now that all of the trees and blackberries are gone, what is going to stop people and kids from using the Hump as a shortcut to the beach, crossing the tracks at the base of the hill.

Transport Canada and Railway Safety Inspector Dennis Maskell also have some questions to answer. If Transport Canada can fence off the entire White Rock waterfront after one jogger gets struck by a train, where are they when the City of White Rock and the BNSF Railway are completely ignoring the safety warning they received about tree cutting above the tracks leading to landslides? Why did they not issue a stop work order on this project or ask to see the geological report on the condition of the slope if one actually exists? Can Transport Canada fine the BNSF and White Rock for the razing of the hillside and force them to plant large trees such as Douglas Firs whose root structure will actually retain the soil? Most importantly, did they not receive copies of my TNT that I sent to them over the years detailing the risks involved with cutting trees on the Hump hillside?

The unobstructed views of a few wealthy property owners on Marine Drive should not be more important than the benefit that everyone else in the community gained from having a healthy forest ecosystem in place on the Hump. Besides holding the soil in place, the trees work to help pump large amounts of water out of the ground, lessening the slide threat. Only five years ago people out for a walk along Marine would enjoy peek-a-boo views through the trees plus the shade from the leafy canopy on hot summer days, something that is now gone. The trees and brush of the Hump were a natural area frequented by a large variety of wildlife that have now been displaced by the wanton destruction. With previous landslide history, sidewalk railings that had to be replaced because they were leaning from soil creep and ground motion sensors on Marine Drive at the east end of the Hump, there is no logical reason why this work should have been contemplated, yet alone completed.

Because of the ongoing gong show at White Rock City Hall, the question needs to be asked if the citizens of White Rock would be better served by amalgamating with Surrey? Not only would people save a third on their property taxes, the clowns running the three ring circus would have to find other employment (remember, you don't have the longest pier in Canada). Sure, Surrey is having problems with crime and gang violence but at least the people running the show do not end up on the front page of the newspaper on an almost a daily basis. The way things are going, it will not be long until you start seeing t-shirts with the slogan, "Living In Surrey Means Never Having To Say You're White Rock." Maybe what is needed is a political slate calling itself "Ward 7" with a mayor and six councilors to run in the next civic election on a amalgamation platform.

The only question is whether the City of Surrey would actually want their whining problem child back as they already have enough issues to deal with.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



May 04, 2015


Before I get into the meat of this TNT, I'd like to take a moment to point out that I have been writing my weekly column in the White Rock Sun since June 20, 2009. By my math that is 306 versions of The Naked Truth over the years, written every Sunday night, even while on vacation from as far away as Mexico, Cuba and Australia. While some columns have flowed quickly onto the computer screen others take plenty of research and lots of editing, meaning I have spent a full forty days of my life writing for my own personal release and hopefully your reading pleasure. In all this time I have not needed a disclaimer from the editor separating my viewpoint from that of the White Rock Sun but due to the present polarized and poisoned political climate in the City By The Sea, you can now expect to see one every time this TNT deals with issues concerning White Rock City Hall, their Mayor or Council. Because of legal threats, intimidation and outright bullying, the TNT you were to read today titled "Censureship" cannot be posted until it is vetted by my legal council. So much for freedom of expression, so much for freedom of though and lastly, freedom of the press as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Much, much more on the subject coming soon but I can guarantee it will likely not be hot off the press. As for the rest of this TNT, its my opinion and by golly I'm entitled to it, plagiarism not withstanding.

White Rock Sun Editor and White Rock Councilor Dave Chesney found out last week what Chip Wilson from Lululemon learned the hard way; it is almost criminal behaviour these days for a man to make commentary or express his opinions on a woman's body or her fashion choices. The media will hunt you down like a wounded animal and drag you through the mud for any comments they deem as derogatory to women, whether this was intended or not. In 2013, Chip's off-hand comment "Frankly some women's bodies just actually don't work for [wearing Lululemon pants]… it's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it," ended up costing him $1.7 billion (yes, B as in Billions) in stock losses followed by his stepping down as a company director. It didn't matter that given the context of the conversation and the garments in question that he was actually correct. In case you missed it, Dave Chesney was interviewed for the podcast "The Goddard Report" a month ago and link to the online recording was posted on the electronic pages of the White Rock Sun three weeks back with its now infamous "sausage casing" comment. Rather than cherry pick the lines that raised such a chorus of righteous indignation, here is a link to the interview which should be listened to in its entirety for context ( It was only last week after being accused of making defamatory comments towards another city councilor which resulted in his censure that this story broke hard and heavy on almost every news service in the Lower Mainland. Coincidence I ask?

I'm not going to play the homer and come to Chesney's defence on his comments which were ill-advised regardless of how they were intended. That being said, I am going to agree with him that people need to dress appropriately for the occasion. Before anyone tries to call the thought police about me for this comment, realize that I'm the president of Surrey's United Naturists (SUN) that promote the clothing-optional use of Crescent Rock Beach. The picture of me at the top of the TNT was taken on vacation in Cuba at the island of Cayo Largo that contains large stretches of nude beaches. When I'm sunbathing I prefer to do so naturally, without textiles or tan lines. I cannot envision myself going to the beach wearing nylon board shorts to below my knees, similar to how women wore bloomers to the shorelines only a century ago. In fact, with the nice sunny weather I managed to spend a few hours at Crescent Rock on Sunday afternoon surrounded by plenty of other people enjoying the freedom of Surrey and White Rock's nude beach that is officially recognized by the RCMP. At this location, nude was the norm, body acceptance was on display and nobody cared how anyone looked because everyone had a perfect body; perfect for them and in the exact shape and size that it was supposed to be. Interestingly, I noticed that every single person got dressed before leaving the beach. That's why we sell nude beach t-shirts because eventually the sun goes down and you have to go home.

The funny thing is that on Saturday I had stopped at Four Winds, my favourite craft brewery located in Delta on River Road to refill several growlers (large beer bottles for the uninitiated) in preparation for the big boxing match that night. While waiting for the bottles to be filled, I sat back with a glass of IPA in hand, having a cold one at the end of a hard day's work. Unfortunately it was tough to enjoy as directly in front of me sat a burly biker in jeans and black leather, showing off a good three inches of his hairy ass crack. Now I'm sure there was plenty of that at Crescent Rock beach, butt to be totally honest I never noticed. Its hard not to stare or take offense at a beer tasting room where it is neither the time or place to be showing off one's big sweaty ass! If he hadn't been sitting with two guys that looked like hangers-ons for the Hells Angels, I might have been tempted to drop a quarter in his coin slot just to gauge the reaction. If such wardrobe was acceptable to most people, I'm sure that "Balls-Out Jeans" as seen on MAD TV would be all the rage (check out YouTube if you have not seen this hilarious sketch). There are people that take offense to too much cleavage, girls not wearing bras and showing nipple protrusion, guys wearing jeans slung low with underwear showing, old Frenchmen wearing clingy Speedo swimsuits, or a group of guys in slingshot thongs with top hats for that matter.

Here are some interesting facts about public nudity in Canada. It is legal under Canadian case law to skinnydip and nude sunbathe at a remote or secluded beach such as Crescent Rock. Its nice to know that the simple act of relaxing while being naked is not a criminal act in this country as if often the case in the USA. We don't look twice when men are walking down the streets in the summer without their shirts on but did you know that a woman's right to be topless in Canada is the same as a mans as long as it is not being done for business purposes such as a topless car wash. The Skinnydippers Recreation Club holds monthly nude swims at the Newton Wave Pool but if a woman were to show up wearing no top and a g-string bottom at any Surrey public pool, the lifeguards would say nothing because doing so would violate her Canadian charter rights. The only stipulation is to have your genitals covered, which means that g-strings for ladies and banana hammocks for men pass the dress code. While these situations are legal, it is something you do not regularly see as most people conform to social norms, dressing "appropriately" for the environment they find themselves in. This means parkas during Canada's winter, business attire while at work and gym clothes when exercising. Well..., two out of three ain't bad.

Which brings us back to Lululemoon pants and stretchy lycra spandex material. I'm old enough to remember the good old days when people went to the gym, got changed, worked out, showered, then put their street clothes back on to go home. Nowadays it seems that plenty of our modern society feel it is okay to wear tight fitting yoga or gym wear whenever and wherever they chose, believing it is a trendy fashion statement. News flash here for you folks; some people don't want see what you're trying to show off. While Mayor "Moonbeam" Gregor Roberts may ride his bike to work, even he has the sense to change out of bike shorts and into a suit and tie before taking on his daily duties as Mayor of Vancouver. An ex-partner of mine complained how the other elementary school moms were chastising her for wearing gym shorts when dropping off the kids in January and got mad at me for suggesting sweat pants were an easy remedy. More recently, my wife and I stopped by at a friends daughter's wedding party in Crescent Beach and were quickly identified as wedding crashers because we were not wearing a suit or dress like everyone else (the Surrey Shirts were a dead giveaway). It almost got hostile until we assured the burly doorman that we were with the bride's family and had been invited to drop by to say hello to our out-of-town friends. These examples show how dressing appropriately allows you to be blend into various social situations.

It is time for the media to stop playing fashion police when people voice their opinions on the dress of others, especially the male-bashing that is blatant and prevalent as recently witnessed. I'm comfortable in my own skin at the nude beach; I'm not comfortable with people shopping nearly naked at the local Wal-Mart. I'm obviously not the only one as there are plenty of websites, FACEBOOK pages and likewise dedicated to shoppers at Wal-Mart that, how do I say this without getting crucified, stand out from the crowd. I tell everyone that it is important to have a full-length mirror at the front door and to have a good look at themselves before stepping out into the street. It's surprising how often you will want to change when you realize that for the weather, the season, the event or the reason that your attire may be atrocious. As far as Dave Chesney goes, people are entitled to their opinions remembering that just like a-holes, everybody has one. I've expanded this old saying slightly for myself, with the new version going "the bigger the a-hole, the bigger the opinion", which might explain why I take the time every week to pen the Naked Truth.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


April 27, 2015

Pot Shots or Pot Shops?

Saturday night was a killer watching the Vancouver Canucks take an early 3-0 lead over the hated Calgary Flames, only to be then outs cored 7-1 from that point on sending our team out golfing early yet again. The hockey telecast ended up with several in the room stripping off their Canuck's jerseys and throwing them at the TV screen in disgust, which would have made for a great YOUTUBE video. While I enjoy highly hopped full flavoured micro-brewed craft beer, there is something to be said for what I call kool-aid beer, usually a light lager that goes down easy, especially on a hot sunny day or while watching a sporting event with friends and family as was the case this weekend. For many years now, the barley brew of choice for almost everyone I know including my wife has been Sleeman's draft. I knew about the brewery's previous prohibition era history where they supplied bootleggers and the notorious gangster Al Capone in Chicago that resulted in them being banned from operating for 50 years. I was also well aware of their "notoriously good" ad campaign putting light on their formerly criminal business practices. What surprised me during the hockey game was watching the new Sleeman's commercial once again focused on bootlegging and gangsterism, showing men holding Thompson .45 calibre sub-machine guns (aka "Tommy" guns)with 50 round drum magazines while barrels of beer were rolled through tunnels into the US.

If you happened to see this commercial, it highlights the problems with prohibition and the black market. Our economy depends on a free market for goods and services with buyers and sellers agreeing on a fair price to complete a transaction. When the government steps in and places laws against such business, people will still participate in this trade but because it is illegal, costs associated with risk will increase the level of illegal profits. Because the sale of the commodity are outside of the bounds of law enforcement, regular business practices do not apply and violence, threats, robbery, and even murder to seize profits and market share ensue. Sleeman today sells its beer across Canada and competes with other breweries not at the barrel of a gun but with advertising, brand marketing, customer loyalty and flavour. Long gone are the days when machine guns were needed to guard batches of beer, including that which found its way across the border at the Semiahmoo peninsula. Delivery trucks emblazoned with large beer ads are frequently seen rolling down our streets to liquor stores and watering holes without armed guards or the need for them. Alcohol sales and controlled, taxed and regulated by the government, with drinking being socially acceptable and usually done responsibly.

After caffeine and alcohol, lets consider the third most popular drug in British Columbia which is marijuana. Two years ago Surrey recorded 25 homicides, setting a new record along with becoming Canada's murder capital for 2013 (5 murders per 100,000 people) with the bulk of these reported as being drug and gang related. In the past month and a half there have been 23 shootings in Surrey and North Delta involving what the RCMP have described as "low-level drug traffickers" that have recently claimed the life of 22 year-old Arum Bains, the nephew of Newton MLA Harry Bains. It is estimated that the illegal sales of marijuana account for 80% of the funds generated by criminal gangs plus much of the violence associated with control over supply and distribution. Through the young adults I know, I've been told that their long-time herbologist working in Newton was recently robbed at gunpoint of his cash plus stash and told that if he continued working there that he would be shot dead. Of course because of the illegal nature of their sales, this theft involving $5,000 in cash and bud and the presence of an illegal hand gun went unreported. It was only last year that a neighbourhood kid down the street from my house in Crescent Park was visited by two balaclava wearing thugs carrying pistols because he refused to join their gang to sell pot and likely other harder drugs. Not too far off from the prohibition era Sleeman beer ads is it?

The RCMP, IHIT and Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit have been quick to talk about ending the culture of silence with regards to gang warfare and the spat of recent shootings on the streets of Surrey. What they don't say is that beyond all of the cultural and societal reasons for people entering the gangs and criminal activity, it is prohibition and the illegal profits flowing from it that attract many to the gangster lifestyle. The City of Vancouver, with a population of 650,000 does not have the murder or shooting problem that is seemingly becoming entrenched in Surrey, even though they do have the open Mardi-Gras that is the Downtown East Side. What Vancouver does have is over 80 generally unlicensed and unregulated medicinal marijuana dispensaries that are supplying pot to people who hold a valid license from Health Canada. These pot shops, while not authorized by the Federal Conservative government, operate in a grew zone but in an open business-like manner, competing for customers and market share like any other legitimate business operating in Vancouver. I should note here that federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose wants Vancouver to shut down these dispensaries instead of regulating them as has been recently proposed by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robinson.

If Surrey's Mayor Linda Hepner and the RCMP want to curb the gun and gang violence on the streets here, the most simply way is to take the illegal drug profits out of the hands of the criminals. Former Mayor Dianne Watts and the RCMP made it quite clear that marijuana businesses would not be tolerated and subjected to police raids as soon as they opened. The city even has restrictive zoning for medicinal marijuana businesses, making it all but impossible for them to open legally in Surrey. As long as the so-called "War on Drugs" continues here, the violence it spawns from those fighting over high cash profits will continue. Meanwhile nearby states of Washington, Colorado and Alaska (plus 20 more soon) have authorized the sale of recreational marijuana while BC's largest cash crop still remains illegal and largely controlled by gangs and organized crime. These states are not only saving millions in the decrease in court cases for former marijuana crimes, they are reaping huge tax and licensing benefits from pot sales that are helping to pad their bottom lines. As a bonus, many of the jurisdictions in the US that legalized marijuana in defiance of their federal government, have seen both property crime and violent crime decrease since legalization.

The choice to be made is whether we want pot shops in Surrey or thugs continuing to take pot shots at each other on the streets. We need to curb the violence here and as long as prohibition of marijuana remains, the gun crimes and drive by shootings will continue, endangering the public and giving the city of Surrey its rather sordid reputation. Christy Clarke needs to get off her LNG pipe dream and try something a little less hazy, with marijuana legalization generating not only tax income but new employment like the 15,000 pot jobs created in Colorado alone. As far as the Federal government goes, know that Stephen Harper's Conservatives are the only party who oppose marijuana legalization and that there is an election this fall. This is also something to consider when Dianne Watts attempts to be elected as the Conservative Party candidate here. It is her failed drug policies concerning marijuana in the City of Surrey that have helped to create this problem that Surrey First still ignores. Remember that Watts was mayor during the record murder year and her response was simply to install security cameras on Colebrook Road where five bodies had been dumped. Continued pot prohibition will only profit the criminals and if you don't believe me, simply ask the Sleeman family about how much blood money they received from Al Capone when booze was banned.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



Apil 20, 2015

Fun With Guns from Fri. to Sun.

The Pitcairns

With all of the tit for rat-a-tat-tat-tat shootings happening in Surrey (plus neighbouring North Delta) over the last month and a half, it almost seemed surreal to be going to the first annual BC Rod and Gun Show ( held in Cloverdale this past weekend. While it was supposed to have originally been held last September, City Hall red tape concerning the sale of new and used firearms delayed this hunting and fishing sportsman show until this year when the hurdles were finally cleared with bills totaling over $20,000. My wife Sheryl and I decided that this would be an interesting event for us to attend to sell our line of pro-Surrey merchandise, some featuring bold anti-gun/anti-gang violence messages that attracted a cease and desist order from Surrey lawyers several years ago. We used this event to showcase our new "Surrey Sheriff" t-shirt that was designed in response to Mayor Hepner's "I'm not the Sheriff" comment about gun and gang crime here. Of course, being a marksman involved in a variety of shooting sports over the years with the BC Rifle Association, it figured I would feel at home on the range.

We went to the Cloverdale Fairgrounds on Thursday night to check out our show location and the layout in order to plan our display for Surrey Shirts. Imagine my surprise when we entered the building and were warmly welcomed by a smiling older man with a rich German accent wearing a Canadian Airlines sweater. I immediately recognized former White Rock mayor Hardy Staub who had flown for the same airlines as my dad and introduced ourselves to him leaving out my connection to Dave Chesney and the White Rock Sun. It was quite entertaining to talk to Hardy about the delays in the BC Rod and Gun Show plus civic politics in both Surrey and White Rock. He was quite vocal in his support for Mayor Baldwin, his own time as White Rock mayor from 1994-2002 and his 21 years of public service for which I personally thanked him. Mr. Staub took a few pot shots at former mayor's Judy Forester and Catherine Ferguson plus for Councillor Chesney's idea of labeling the White Rock dock as the longest wooden pier in Canada, voicing his opinion that it had been voted down simply because Dave had suggested the obvious. It was nice to hear that Hardy had left politics behind to focus on hunting and fishing along with helping out with the inaugural Surrey R&G show. Say what you want about Mr. Staub, he is a colourful character who focused much of his time and energy into the city of White Rock over the years and I always enjoy his history lessons and quirky sense of humour.

On Friday afternoon we set up shop in the Show Barn with the smaller retails, gun store salesmen and those using the table space for something between a swap meet and garage sale. The Agriplex building featured curtained lined booths with show sponsors Wholesale Sports from Langley, the Firearm Training Centre, Willowbrook Chrysler and the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club here in south Surrey along with a wide variety of businesses from the Honey Bee Centre to the Conservative Party of Canada (Russ Hiebert not included). The Show Barn was the real high security area of this event with tables lined with a variety of firearms of every size and shape imaginable. Of course if you did not have the proper documentation, meaning either a PAL or POL license, you were unable to purchase guns or ammunition. Genesis Security guards, gun show staffers, RCMP firearm officers and surveillance video cameras kept tabs on the crowd to make sure that everyone was well behaved and that no firearms left the building in the wrong hands. As an extra measure of security, all firearms were equipped with trigger locks or secured in locked cases ensuring supervised handling prior to sale. While there were a couple of issues, for a first time event it ran quite smoothly with show executives taking detailed notes for future improvements.

The Friday afternoon four o'clock start time had hundreds of people waiting to get in the doors and they descended into the Show Barn looking for deals, snapping up firearms and equipment priced to move. Even the Canucks playoff hockey game against the Flames did little to thin the crowd of shoppers picking up new and used gear. If you ever go to one of these shows, I would suggest getting their early to take advantage of some of the great deals that were to be had. Saturday attracted large crowds that generated great sales for everyone involved including one veteran gun show salesmen beside us who said that it was the best day he had ever had at one of these events. While there were plenty of people from across the Lower Mainland and a fairly elderly male demographic to the crowd as one might expect, we did manage to sell quite a number of our Surrey Shirts apparel including to people from out of town who wanted a souvenir showing they had survived a night in Surrey. The talk about the recent plague of gun violence in Surrey was rampant and it was no surprise that on Sunday morning we heard about yet another shooting here, this time with a reported fatality in rootin', tootin', shootin' Newton.

Besides all of the merchandise available for sale, there were plenty of events and attractions to keep everyone entertained. A charity casting pond with magnets picking up coloured washers was set up with proceeds from the $2 tickets going to the Learn to Fish program run by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC. Unfortunately the big one got away with nobody hooking the 2015 Dodge pickup truck valued at a whopping $50,000. Retriever and dog first aid demonstrations kept pet lovers and their canine companions (dogs were allowed at the show) entranced and informed. A 3-D archery range area gave people of all ages the chance to use bow and arrows on life-like animal targets. The Thunderbird Fast Draw Club ( held live firing competitions using blank ammunition of course with the unburned gunpowder popping balloons in reaction times to draw, cock and fire a six-gun pistol measuring only a third of a second. I guess the Surrey RCMP had been notified because Air One and a dozen cop cars did not show up even with all of the noise. Door prizes were available from Bradley smokers to shotguns with the highly sought after plastic dingy being won by a five year-old girl much to everyone's delight. For those looking to take a walk on the wild side, the concession stand altered their menu slightly to include venison burgers, bison burgers, wild board pulled pork and wild boar brat wurst. Sorry, no vegetarian burgers here.

For me the highlight of the BC Rod and Gun Show had to be the presence of members of the Canadian Military Education Centre Museum who brought out a large number of Canadian military vehicles, weapons, uniforms and memorabilia for display. The CMEC is a nonprofit museum society that is a member of the Organization of Military Museums and recognized by the Department of National Defence (DND). It is funded by public donations and the support of the City of Chilliwack, being housed in the old Chilliwack Army base not far from Vedder Road. They brought out a troop transport truck, armoured personnel carrier, a WW2 motorcycle and jeep along with plenty of heavy weapons, machine guns and antique uniforms. They did not get to bring out the fully operational Sherman Tank named Caroline that by luck I had photographed only a month ago while driving through the Wack. On Sunday a Soviet T-155 tank was on static display and at the end of the show it fired up belching smoke as it clanked along the roadway outside of the Agriplex with a young blond girl and her Mom in the hatch at the top of the turret as it headed to a heavy lift trailer for transport. The CMEC is located at 45540 Petawawa Road in Chilliwack, open Fri., Sat., and Sun. from 10 am to 4 pm and online at If you're out in the Fraser Valley on a weekend this summer, definitely put them on your to-do list.

Oh, by the way; happy 4:20 everybody. Its not very often that April 20th falls on a TNT Monday!

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



April 13, 2015

The problem with small towns is that it seems everybody knows each other and deep seated grudges and resentments fester like a puss-filled boil. The transition of garbage pickup at businesses and multi-family complexes from public to private has certainly raised the hackles and anger of many folks in the usually laid back City By The Sea. What most people fail to realize is that this private waste disposal service of this nature is the norm is almost every municipality across the Lower Mainland including surrounding Surrey and nearby Langley and Delta. I must admit that the way this change was brought about certainly could have been handled much better but with the coalition partners voting in mass for approval it is basically a done deal regardless of the special meeting rescheduled for later this week. While the protests at City Hall were a welcomed exercise in democracy and free speech, recent developments have once again shown us how easy it is to personally target politicians in small towns if they happen to make decisions that bother some people.

Bill Lawrence was one of the council members who voted for the change in garbage disposal service and he is now feeling the backlash from a poster campaign targeting his businesses. As most people know, Mr. Lawrence runs the Sandpiper Pub on Marine Drive and the Sandpiper Liquor Store on Johnston St. only a block from city hall. Last week crude homemade posters were posted near the liquor store advising people to boycott the Sandpiper because of Bills public stance on the garbage issue. Rather than basing the information on facts, the person behind the poster linked it to a union busting campaign by Mayor Baldwin, even though this change will only affect two jobs at the works yard. Should the single-family home garbage collection be contracted out as was suggested by the previous council, I've been informed four more jobs would be lost to private contractors. With Bill seemingly being the focal point of the Garbagegate backlash, I am left wondering if there is the possibility of racial overtones since Bill has the skin colour in the winter that I work hard to get in the summer. I hope this is not the case but the hatred and anger the garbage issue has created is well beyond even the fencing off of the White Rock beach, which happened with barely a whisper of real protest from residents.

Whether or not you agree with the change in garbage collection or the way this decision was foisted on White Rock residents, I believe that the politicians homes and places of businesses are not the proper location for public protest. If you want to have meetings, wave placards, attend council meetings or attempt to rally the public, you have my blessing because this is the type of community involvement in the democratic process that I completely support. What undermines our political system is when people target politicians at their homes or extort their place of business trying to cause financial hardship. It was interesting to note that the posters on Johnston St. were not signed and carried no information identifying who was responsible for posting them, which I see as gutless. As if this were not enough, Mayor Baldwin revealed that employees at the Sandpiper have been threatened (even though they already pay for their own garbage collection), another councillor received threatening phone calls at home and the RCMP were asked to attend council chambers because of intimidation. Now you know why there is an "Only in White Rock" Facebook page where I hope they post these kinds of insane shenanigans.

This is not the first time that this kind of protest has raised its ugly head here in BC or White Rock for that matter. In 2013 Premier Christy Clark had a fake fracking rig erected on her front lawn on a Sunday morning while cooking breakfast for her 12-year-old son. Members of the Rising Tide Vancouver Coast Salish were responsible for this high profile event that brought attention to hydraulic fracking for LNG and its environmental consequences. At an unrelated news conference, Clark had this to say about the protestors,"To the extent that it affects my son, I am not really happy about it, but people have a democratic right to protest. If they want to do it at the office or outside, I think that is probably a better place to do it than on my front lawn." Closer to home, four years ago councillor Helen Fathers had her two family vehicles spray painted and three tires slashed in a vandalism spree that was focused on her private property. It is believed this cowardly attack was related to her vote on the tree bylaw that was also linked to several tree poisonings including a hundred foot Douglas Fir that mysteriously lost its needles and had to be removed. Ask yourself what kind of wing-nut does these kinds of things? See the Feb. 28, 2011 TNT titled "When Bullying Becomes Terrorism" for added reference.

Bill Lawrence is a well-known, well-liked and well-respected fixture in the town of White Rock and with now being voted onto council he is a pillar of the community. Those seeking to punish him for his support over the change in garbage services by targeting his businesses are not too far away from the lunatic fringe who stoop to criminal acts in the dark of night to try to intimidate or punish much more saner minds for their thoughtful decisions. The folks who have gotten their feathers severely ruffled over the garbagegate caper need to look at their own behaviour and question whether their actions and response to this change are appropriate. Bullying and harassment should not be tolerated in the work place and this also means the arena where mayor and council make decisions affecting their constituents. There are much more appropriate ways to get their attention and garner their support than by using threats and intimidation. At the end of the day, if garbagegate is such a great big deal, in four years you can wipe the slate clean and remove those responsible for this folly. My bet is that by then it will be forgotten unless someone happens to scroll deeply into the archives of the TNT in the White Rock Sun.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



April 06, 2015

They're Here...

No, not the malevolent ghosts from the Poltergeist movies but something possibly even more terrifying to gardeners and homeowners across the Semiahmoo peninsula. The European Chafer beetle that was imported into the Lower Mainland decades ago on contaminated sod products originating in Ontario has finally worked its way south and is now alive and well in our community. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the boulevard lawn in south Surrey where I first noticed these damaging pests last week. It looked like an industrial rototiller had been run over the turf, throwing chunks of dead grass and dirt all over the sidewalk and leaving the former lawn a brown muddy mess. Take a look at the accompanying photograph to view the extent of the damage.

I stopped by this house on 24 Ave. near 140 St. to talk to the homeowner about the destruction of the boulevard lawn. He told me that recently he had witnessed flocks of crows that descended onto the roadway lawn, picking and ripping at the sod apparently to eat insects they found there. Interesting enough, the lawns on the rest of his large property looked to be in good shape considering the war-zone found right outside his front gate. With his blessing I inspected what was left of the damaged turf and immediately found several small white curled grubs that I knew were European Chafer beetles from earlier coming across them in other local municipalities. In a single square foot of grass I easily located seven of these grubs without any actual digging and this was after the crows had been having a feeding frenzy on the damaged turf.

If you have driven through Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam and surrounding communities you have likely seen lawns destroyed by a variety of animals searching for this high protein snack. Chafer beetles lay their eggs in July where they hatch and grow into larvae that feed on the roots of the lawn. This weakens the plants, damaging the roots and causing browning out of areas that often appear drought related. As the grubs increase in size, they attract the attention of racoons, skunks, opossums and skunks that tear at the already weakened lawn so they can feed on the larvae. Much of this damage happens in the winter and spring until the adults hatch from the soil in late June as adult beetles. The plastic meshing used by turf companies makes it easy for animals to tear up large sections of sod with ease and I have seen signs that infested rolls of turf and composted soils may have been responsible for spreading this lawn destroying pest into Tsawwassen and North Delta. This problem is something that Environment Canada needs to look into and I will be contacting them about my suspicions relating to the spread of the Chafer beetle.

The best way to try to protect your lawn is to keep it lush and healthy. This means aerating in the spring, cutting the grass no lower than 2.5 inches and mulching where possible. A properly timed fertilizer program to keep the lawn thick and green will help keep adult beetles from laying eggs in the grass to begin with. Liming in the fall with dolomite lime and using iron moss-control in spring along with over-seeding with grass varieties that spread by rhizomes will help to thicken lawns. Proper irrigation during dry summer months will encourage stronger root formation and make the lawn less prone to beetle infestation. On shady areas where grass loses out to moss, consider pruning trees for more light or turning the lawn into landscaped beds. Other areas can be turned into vegetable gardens, allowing you to grow your own produce instead of mowing grass every weekend. Concrete pavers, gravel and other hardscape materials can also be used to decrease the amount of lawn on your property to limit the amount of turf that is available for attack. Unfortunately summer watering limits and our lack of winter snow pack will make for limited irrigation this summer when it is critical.

There are two treatment options available if your lawn gets infested with chafer beetles and/or destroyed by animals seeking these tasty grubs out. I should point out that these are preventative in nature and will not fix damage that is already done. While cosmetic pesticide use is generally banned, action can be taken where there is an infestation causing property damage and loss of land value. The insecticide Merit can be applied by a professionally trained applicator and has proven highly effective in controlling the Chafer beetle larvae in their infant stage. While it has relatively low toxicity, it is still a man-made chemical insecticide and you have to research whether it is worth applying this product to your residential lawns where children and pets often play. The other more natural option is to apply microscopic round worms called nematodes in late July. These live organisms infect the larvae, essentially eating them from the inside out. While they pose no danger to humans or animals, they are only 60-80% effective and the lawn must be watered daily for at least a week after application, meaning you will need a watering permit from City Hall.

Unfortunately the European Chafer beetle is now going to be an ongoing problem here and it will really be luck of the draw if you get this pest and the animals that rip apart the grass to feed on them. If you have a built in lawn irrigation system, it will be easier for you to keep your lawn healthy in the summer and to keep nematodes wet if you decide to try this preventative measure. For myself, I'm going to ensure that I keep my lawn as thick and healthy as possible using the least amounts of chemicals and fertilizers, hoping that the beetles find greener pastures at my neighbour's yards. If I do get a Chafer beetle infestation and subsequent animal damage, then I will look at my landscape and decide what the best options are at that time, realizing that this is likely to become an ongoing yearly problem. I'm also starting to thing that now might be a good time to look at investing in an astroturf company, many that are installing much more than backyard putting greens these days.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn




March 30, 2015

Movers & Shakers

While listings for the movers and shakers in the Semiahmoo Peninsula are usually reserved for the annual TNT Christmas Wish List in December, these two topics came to my attention last week and fit together like peas and carrots under their separate titles.


(clck here to view the interior)

When we moved into my current house at Crescent Park in south Surrey, we knew the little war time rancher next door day's were numbered. Sure enough, it didn't take long for the property to be sold for land value (a steal at a mere $750,000) and a Surrey special measured at 3,500 square feet but actually 5,000 sq. ft. with its half out of the ground basement to take its place. The demolition of the old house took only a day with an excavator turning it into a ball of splintered wood. The same process has been going on throughout the neighborhood with any house over 30 years old sitting on large land attracting builders and developers. In the past year, there have been eight houses bulldozed for redevelopment within earshot of our property with mansions sprouting like mushrooms. I'm now looking at our home wondering if it is worth putting money into renovations to bring it up to date or if these improvements will only end up in the back of a disposal bin in a couple of years.

Imagine my surprise when a small rancher around the corner from my home was spared the wrecking ball and instead of being crushed, was taken off its foundation and jacked high into the air. It turns out that the owner who is planning on building a new home on the lot couldn't stand the thought of their solid older home being destroyed. Instead of demolition, they contacted Nickel Brothers House Moving Ltd. in Poco who agreed to remove the home free of charge, put it on a trailer and take it away. It is scheduled to be moved in the middle of the night later this week to the Nickel Brothers holding compound on River Road in Delta beside the Fraser River. Since the owner does not want a lot of looki-loos around the property, I have agreed not to publish the address before the move date. The house will be put up for sale on the Nickel Brothers website ( that features a listing of recycled and used homes from $22,000 to $187,500. Many of these homes are then barged to properties on the gulf islands to serve as cabins or summer homes, avoiding the high cost of construction on these often remote location. Nickel Bros. are also supplying the four recycled homes that will soon be used in the locally produced handyman show, "Game of Homes."

It was interesting to read the Vancouver Sun this weekend and a story by Shelly Fralic titled, "The greenest house? A recycled one" ( Similar to the lady in my neighborhood, a couple in south Delta are looking to sell their 1,400 square foot A-frame house located in Beach Grove near the water. The asking price is one dollar but the new owner will have to pay for the structure to be jacked and removed from the property. It is described as, "Funky and airy and well-built, with post-and-beam ceilings, wood walls and floors and modern updated fixtures. With two bedrooms up, including a balcony, and a roomy bath, living and dini

ng rooms and kitchen on the main floor, the A-frame was a perfect fit for the couple and their two dogs." The four pictures accompanying this article show a beautifully maintained house that would make an excellent cabin on the right property. This home is almost idential to a friend's family A-frame that was used as a ski chalet at Creekside in Whistler, which they donated to the Boy Scouts in Squamish when their property was redeveloped a few years ago. If you have an older house that may still be serviceable, instead of demolishing it consider having it recycled rather than taking up room in our ever dwindling landfills.




Did you feel the earth move here on March 26th? Not just a little window-rattling tremor or the dreaded "big one" that geologists say is overdue on the West coast, but certainly some earth-shaking news coming out of the Semiahmoo peninsula on that day. Doug McCallum who was the former mayor of Surrey for nine years from 1996 to 2005 and the Chair of Translink for four years from 2002 to 2006 publicly announced he was voting "No" for the Congestion Improvement Sales Tax that is central to the transportation funding plebiscite. This certainly came as a surprise for me since I had personally visited Mr. McCallum at his sprawling Crescent Road property a week before while scrounging old election signs to use for my "NO" sign that I produced at the empty south Surrey Park & Ride lot the first day ballots were mailed. I asked him what he thought about the plebiscite and how he was going to vote and Doug told me he wanted to stay out of the fray and remain neutral. Too bad Mr. McCallum decided to jump off the fence not long after I left as I could have used the juicy scoop for the White Rock Sun. I'd like to think that I helped him to take a stance on Translink spending with my rather large No protest that was shown on Global TV (see video on YouTube under, "Translink Big Fat NO").

The question needs to be asked how anyone can support this transit proposal if the former Chair of Translink can't even hold his nose and vote for it? Talk about driving a thick rusty nail into the Mayor's Council plebiscite coffin. Not surprisingly with his knowledge of Translink's many issues and deficiencies, Doug has called for Translink to become more efficient and find internal savings instead of giving them even more taxpayer money. He is also on record as saying they need to consider other revenue sources, revamp their governance structure and become better organized. Not too surprising considering Translink is currently paying two CEO's salaries and have six board of directors on the payroll. Besides money from fares, remember that Translink already hauls in 17 cents per litre from the Lower Mainland Transit gas tax, a further 5 cents per litre from the federal gas tax, the 21 percent parking lot tax, $22.80 per year on your Hydro bill plus a share of property taxes that increase by 3 percent a year. The political elite that parasitize the public purse need to realize that people living in the most expensive place in Canada are feeling the economic squeeze, are already taxed to the max and can't afford to fund incompetence (did someone say Compass Card?). Translink executives, directors and local politicians have crapped the bed and it's their job to clean up this sordid mess once the ballots have been counted.

As far as the non-existent so-called Plan B goes should the No side win as expected, I got this gem of an idea from a family member while discussing this TNT at a weekend dinner party. Their concept was for the BC government to push ahead with their own marijuana legalization agenda similar to what the states of Washington, Colorado, Alaska and others in the US have done. The tax money derived from the sale of cannabis could then be directed to help fund public transportation once Translink has been restructured. No need for an increase in Provincial sales tax, no need for future road pricing, the possible lowering of bridge tolls and hundreds of millions of dollars from BC's biggest agricultural crop taken away from organized crime. With dispensaries popping up like weeds in Vancouver, I'm surprised that nobody at Mayor Robinson's Vision Vancouver party has suggested such an ambitious scheme. It sure beats Christy Clark's pipe dream of LNG rescuing our economy and padding BC tax coffers far into the distant future.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



March 22, 2015

Only in White Rock

BREAKING NEWS - In a shocking move last evening (Monday) at White Rock council a new motion by councillor Chesney to be more specific and have White Rock's pier designated as Canada's Longest WOODENpier, was defeated in a 4-3 vote. MAYOR BALDWIN, and COUNCILLORS SINCLAIR/MEYER and LWARENCE voted against the motion.


Me and my big mouth. For years before signing on to pen The Naked Truth in the White Rock Sun, I frequently wrote letters to the editor to help educate people to a different viewpoint and hopefully get the masses thinking about issues affecting their community. Besides may opinion pieces in the local PAN, Now and Leader, I also had great success in hitting the op-ed page of the Province and Sun newspapers, usually taking the coveted first letter position. It was actually one of the Surrey Now executives who suggested that I should get in touch with editor Dave Chesney and write for his online community newspaper. With the recent decision by White Rock City Hall not to accept the title of "Canada's Longest Pier" and instead give the title to a rock lined roadway in Quebec whose very name translates to "road to the dock", I felt that this ludicrous action needed to be questioned. Since I already had other subject matter for the TNT at that time, I decided to take umbrage with a March 4th story in the Surrey Now titled "White Rock pier comes up short." Here is the let-ed that was printed the next week in case you missed it.

Letter to the editor
It looks like we may need an "Only in White Rock" Facebook page to keep tabs of all of the petty and stupid decisions coming out of City Hall in the "City By The Sea."
Even by White Rock standards, giving away the title of Canada's longest pier to a town in Quebec with a rock and asphalt jetty half the length of the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal is beyond ludicrous.
Duncan, BC has the world's biggest hockey stick and puck. Hartland, NB has the world's longest covered bridge. The Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Ont. is the world's longest skateway. Tourists and their dollars flock to these attractions.
With property taxes a third higher in White Rock than Surrey it is becoming obvious that residents there are paying extra for incompetence. I'd suggest we say that White Rock, BC has Canada's longest "wooden" pier at 470m or 1,542ft.
A simple solution to this lengthy problem solved free of charge by a guy who lives in Surrey. I hope they remember to invite me to the ribbon cutting ceremony. Naturally yours, Don Pitcairn

I'm not sure if it was the weird pier decision, the cancelling of commercial and strata garbage pick up or my fanciful suggestion that we need an "Only in White Rock" FB page but apparently someone took this idea to heart and has opened the upstart "Only in White Rock." Likely looking to ride the coat tails of the very popular "Only in Surrey" FB page that has now attracted over 15,000 followers, the OIWR is "Dedicated to reporting on the crazy shenanigans that happen in White Rock BC. The good, the bad, and all the small town politics in Our City by the Sea." To quell any rumors to the contrary, I am not involved, have nothing to do with and don't know the people anonymously running these Facebook pages. Considering that the most common saying here at the White Rock Sun is "You can't make this sh*t up", it is likely the person behind OIWR will have plenty of stories to post in the near future. Here is a look at some of the more controversial posts that have been placed on the Only in White Rock FB page in the three weeks that it has been politically active.

Only in White Rock, March 10
Councillor Dave Chesney comes up with a brilliant idea to promote White Rock as having Canada's longest freestanding pier, which it does have, yet Mayor Baldwin and the White Rock Coalition is so determined not to let other people have good ideas that they enlisted city manager Dan Bottrill to waste his time debunking this excellent idea. Dan quickly found that Marina de Portneuf in Quebec is longer. While the Marina de Portneuf is in fact a causeway, and not a pier, our leaders were happy to ignore this fact in order to squash Dave's excellent idea to help draw tourists into White Rock.
Good work Mayor Baldwin and the White Rock Coalition! Now that you have killed another great idea to help local business, perhaps its time to chop down some more trees on Marine Drive or more the Farmer's Market out of White Rock! White Rock's Tax dollars are hard at work once again.

Only in White Rock, March 17
Why is White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin Smiling? Maybe Wayne is smiling at the thought of his 30% raise this year while Seniors on fixed incomes struggle to pay for private garbage collection which is equivalent to a 15% tax increase?
Could it be because Wayne just saved his rich friends some tax money by making Seniors and Retired people pay for their own garbage removal, and successfully spinning it as a tax savings?
Or is he smiling because just he got away with sticking it to the Union responsible for garbage pickup in yet another illegal secret city council meeting?
Breaking his promise of transparency in government must also make him smile. Voters are such suckers eh Wayne? What's next? Wasting White Rock citizen's money by holding meetings to convince them to vote YES to more taxes to pay for TransLink? You have quite the sense of humor Mr. Mayor!

Only in White Rock, March 20 shared rally "Trash White Rock's misguided unhelpful Waste Plan"
GarbageGate has begun! Let's throw out the trash White Rock!
Strata Owners have organized a Rally that starts at 12 o'clock Noon on Monday, March 23rd at White Rock City Hall. And the Mayor is so thoughtful that he will be holding a "In Chamber" secret meeting at 1pm to approve their new garbage plan that will force Strata Owners, Apartment Residents, and Businesses to deal with their own garbage and pay hundreds more in fees. That's about a 12% to 15% tax hike for you and me, but do not worry because Baldwin's friends with the multi-million dollar homes will save a few dollars.
After the rally, let's all walk over and tell Mayor Baldwin how much we appreciate his new garbage plan that saves money for his friends, but leaves the rest of us paying more once we scramble to find someone to take our garbage away.
Occupy BUENVA VISTA street anyone?!!

Only in White Rock, March 22
On April Fools Day, Wayne is inviting you to a meeting to hear why eliminating your Garbage Pickup service is so good for you, and why providing this service in the past was so unfair to his rich friends with multi-million dollar homes. Sure, some people on fixed incomes may need to skip a meal, but perhaps those rich friends of Wayne's can leave an empty extra wine bottle in their recycling box each week for us so we can return it for the deposit money? I prefer a nice Cabernet Merlot bottle to go with my cat food please.
The mayor will tell you that you will save money with this plan. Yup, I now get to pay $18-$21 more per month to have my garbage picked up. Good thing I will be saving almost $23 a year on property taxes! NOT.
You're so funny Mr. Mayor!See you on April 1st at the Understanding Solid Waste meeting! Cannot wait to hear what other jokes you have!

Date: Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: White Rock Community Centre

Ouch! Now you see why most politicians don't like social media or new age online community newspapers like the White Rock Sun that question their decision making process. They also don't like dangerous ideas like bringing bags of your house hold waste to the Match 23 trash rally to prove a point. Ditto for wearing paper garbage bags printed with slogans over your head like the "Unknown Comic" or fans at Toronto Maple Leaf games to the Understanding Solid Waste meeting. Even worse, endorsing the idea of having a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 1st (April Foods Day) at 9 am at the end of the White Rock pier to dedicate it as "Canada's Longest Wooden Pier", utilizing red ribbon emblazoned with the words "Cutting White Rock's Red Tape." Damn, there I go with my big mouth again! For those looking to learn more about the diverse community they live in, check out the following Facebook pages related to White Rock and Surrey and make sure to tell your friends in the Semi-pen and beyond about the White Rock Sun.

Only in White Rock, 22 Likes and rising
Save the West Beach Boat launch, 89 Likes
White Rock Connect, 149 Likes
Save White Rock Beach, 3,066 Likes
I Grew Up In south Surrey /White rock/Langley/Cloverdale/Crescent Beach, 1,500 Likes
Village Surrey, 113 Likes
Only in Surrey, 15,096 Likes
I grew up in Surrey, BC. So I remember when..., 4,179 likes

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


March 16, 2015

South Surrey Burglar Spree


It's not very often that you will find me fretting over the results of hockey games that don't include the Vancouver Canucks but the Ottawa Senators Philadelphia Flyers tilt on Sunday night was one for the ages, especially if you live in the Semiahmoo peninsula. In case you have not caught the buzz, 27 year-old south Surrey rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond's record since finally getting steady NHL action this year has been nothing short of perfect, with him backstopping the Sens to a 10-0-1 record while he's been in net. Of course this last game had to go into overtime and then be decided by a shootout with Hammond blanking all Flyer's shooters to record the 2-1 win. Andrew is only the second goalie in league history to allow two goals or less in their first ten starts (he's allowed 16 goals in those 11 games for a 1.45 GA) and is one game behind Hockey Hall of Famer Frank Brimsek who notched twelve starts with two goals or less during the 1938-39 NHL season which happens to be way back when my parents were born.

The reason why this should be news here is that Hammond was born in White Rock on February 11, 1988 and then raised in south Surrey. His on-ice nickname has evolved from "Hammie" and "Hambone" and is now the "Hamburglar" after the McDonalds restaurant's masked mascot whose image in the likeness of MAD Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman is painted on the side of his goalie mask. At the end of Sunday night's game, Hammond stopped to pick up a hamburger that a fan had thrown to the ice as he skated towards the bench, holding it high to the crowd that roared in approval with his latest win. He might be seeing plenty more hamburgers in the future as the father of his college coach when he played in the United States happens to own a bunch of McDonald's restaurants in Ottawa. It has been reported that Andrew's been told a special card has been ordered that will allow him to eat free food for life at McDonalds, although he may want to watch the movie "Super-size Me" before going on an eating binge. It hasn't always been a fairy tale for this undrafted goalie who twice considered leaving the game of hockey during the years he toiled between the pipes in the junior leagues.

Hammond's road to the NHL started with him playing junior hockey in the BC Hockey league with only one game appearance for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in 2006-2007 before he was cut. The next hear he began playing with his hometown Surrey Eagles but was traded mid-season to the Vernon Vipers. He finished the 2008-09 season there with a respectable .912 save percentage and a 2.30 goals against average as the Vipers won the Royal Bank Cup national Junior "A" Championship. Hammond then attended Bowling Green State University near Toledo, Ohio playing for the Falcons from 2009-2013. While amassing a dubious 30-68-13 record in 111 NCAA games, he was named as the teams Most Valuable Player for his final two seasons. In March of 2013 he was signed as a free agent by the NHL's Ottawa Senators to a two year entry level contract and assigned to the team's AHL affiliate Birmingham Senators. He was called up on Feb. 26 of 2014 to serve as backup when Sens goaltender Craig Anderson was given leave for the birth of his second child. The next day Andrew got his first NHL action against the Detroit Red Wings when starter Robin Lehner was pulled after allowing six goals in only 25 minutes of play. While Ottawa lost the game, Hammond managed to stop all eleven shots he faced that night. Forward fast nearly a year to Feb. 18 of 2015, Andrew finally got his first career NHL start against the Montreal Canadiens, stopping 42 shots in a 4-2 victory where he was named the game's first star.

It was the game against the storied Canadiens that started this overnight success which was nine years in the making. Three days later, Hammond stopped all but one shot in a 4-1 home-ice win over the Florida Panthers. Two games later he recorded his first career NHL shutout with the Senators beating the Anaheim Ducks 3-0 on the road. The very next day Andrew got his second consecutive shutout in a hard fought 1-0 win over the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. He then helped defeat the San Jose at the Shark Tank as Ottawa swept California for the first time in their franchise history. He became the first goalie in Sens history to win his first five NHL starts and on March 2 Hammond was awarded for his success, being named the NHL's First Star of the Week. With the latest win, the Senators have vaulted to 77 points, trailing the Boston Bruins by five points with a game at hand for the final wild-card berth in the East, making a previously unthinkable playoff run suddenly possible. The Senators are back in action Tuesday night as they head to Carolina to take on the lowly Hurricanes before returning home Thursday for a pivotal game against the Bruins. Regardless of the outcome, expect the Ottawa Senators to ride the wave of success that Andrew Hammond has had, hoping he will take them into the NHL playoffs after failing to qualify last year.

Movie goers across the planet where flocking to theatres this weekend to see Disney's theatrical remake of the classic animated film "Cinderella", with the studio raking in an estimated $70 million. It will be interesting to see if Andrew Hammond can continue his own Cinderella story, posting save percentage and goals against numbers that have some members of his team now calling him "Ken Dryden" because of his acrobatic stops and the positive calming influence he is having on the Senators hockey team. While eleven games does not a career make, if he can continue his stellar play and make believers of the other members of his team it is possible that the roll they find themselves on might be hard to stop. I can guarantee that the big bad Boston Bruins are now looking in the rear-view mirror with terror watching Hammond and his teammates pile up victories and all important late season points. If you are a hockey fan and enjoy watching the Vancouver Canucks, keep an eye on the Ottawa Senators and rookie goalie Andrew Hammond, cheering for this home boy from the Semi-pen as he makes his mark in the NHL.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



March 09, 2015


The Zoo For You


In south Surrey there is a very special establishment that cares for a wide variety of exotic animals, which have been unfortunately abandoned by their owners. In the same location that formerly housed the Reptile Refuge until its closing some nine years ago, the Urban Safari Rescue Society (USRS) now operates from their location almost two miles north from from the Pacific Border Crossing at 1396 176 Street. Their mission is threefold: To rescue exotic animals located in the Province of BC considered to be risk of abandonment, harm or death. To operate a rescue centre through which to provide food, shelter and veterinary care of exotic animals the Society rescues. To promote public awareness, education and discourse about the threat to sustain ability of exotic animal populations caused by their removal from their native habitat and to Canadian flora and fauna through the introduction of exotic animals to the Canadian environment. When you are finished reading this TNT, please take the time to visit their very interesting website at or like their Facebook page that lists their causes of animal shelter, educational organization and environmental conservation.

I had wanted to visit the USRS for quite some time, looking at its coloured murals of exotic animals in jungle scenes painted across the front of the building every time I drove by. From the moment I entered the door into the 80 degree F. temperature I was awestruck by the wide variety and assortment of creatures that they are caring for. They have a bug lab recently donated by the Honeybee Centre in Cloverdale, butterflies, tarantulas, stick bugs, and a variety of frogs and scorpions. If you suffer from herpetophobia (fear of reptiles), this place will either cure your fears or leave you with epic nightmares. There is a very big snapping turtle that is likely the largest in Canada, a sleek soft shell turtle that swims effortlessly in a large tank, plenty of painted turtles and tortoises varying in size from a dinner plate to three feet long. As you might expect there are a wide variety of snakes from corn and rat snakes, a poisonous rattlesnake, to large pythons and boas including a beautiful yellow and white albino boa. The same goes for lizards starting with small geckos to the shiny tegu lizard that looks beaded, long iguanas with nasty looking claws and spikes, up to a big savanna monitor lizard. There are no alligators or crocodiles as they were included in the Controlled Alien Species Regulations that were part of changes to the BC Wildlife Act in 2012 that covers over 1,800 alien and dangerous species.

While I was expecting to see plenty of reptiles, the "barn" section of the USRS contains exotic mammals that have found their way to this sanctuary. My favourite had to be the chinchillas, which look even better live than when made into an expensive high-fashion fur coat. A very tame ferret that loved to be handled was a big hit with the children who were there when I went for my tour of the facilities. The one animal I never got to see because of its nocturnal habits was a descented skunk that went by the rather apt name of Febreeze. There are a couple of pot-bellied pigs out back that squeal with delight when food is near and plans are to bring in some exotic goats and sheep and open a small petting zoo plus a pheasant run sometime this summer. The most bizarre animal of all had to be the strange looking rooster that went by the name of Rod Stewart with head plumage that matched this well-known rocker's hair. There is also a rodent room but the rats and mice there are not on display as they are grown as food for the snakes, two of which were eating an early dinner when I was there. The barn was also where the brand new classroom built by celebrity supporter Shell Busey along with donations from Remple Concrete and other companies now helps with everything from education classes to birthday parties.

The USRS was conceived in 2007 by Gary Oliver who owned and operated the highly respected Cinemazoo for 28 years. This was the very first Canadian animal agency to supply animal actors for movies, TV shows, TV commercials and print ads. If you remember the leopard gecko from the early Telus cellular phone ads, this was courtesy of Cinemazoo and this same famous lizard now lives at USRS. The USRS's current home in south Surrey opened two years ago and offers tours to the public from 11 am to 4 pm. seven days a week. In total there are over 300 animals under their care from 104 different species. Operating as a non-profit society it has a board of directors and is able to offer tax-deductible receipts for donations that help to pay for the creature care, educational and outreach programs. They sell yearly memberships for $30 ($15 for seniors), have individual animal sponsorships of $15 for 3 months, a large team of dedicated volunteers and accept generous donations from those who want to make a difference for the many rescued animals. Staff will give you a guided tour of the animals and exhibits for a donation of $10 for adults, children and seniors $6 and kids under three are free. Make sure you plan for plenty of time as there is lots to see and learn. I gave them $20 for the tour even though they wanted to comp me and I felt it was worth every penny.

Speaking of learning, educating the public is an integral part of what the Urban Safari Rescue Society is all about. They have a Nature Club for children aged 6-12 where for two hours every Sunday you can "send your child on a journey through the animal world." The USRS also holds Spring Break Camps March 9 - 13 for ages 6 - 8 years old and March 16 - 20 for ages 9 - 12 years old from Mon - Fri, 10 am to 3pm. Summer camps are also coming for the budding naturalist with dates and prices being announced soon. Junior Zoo Keeping courses for teens are also offered with hands-on animal care experience and training in basic zoo keeping techniques. For those looking for a career working with animals, the Adult Career Training Program is an intensive 24 week course where students learn basic zoo keeping techniques and animal husbandry. The USRS through the Cinemazoo program also books educational tours with exotic animals to schools, libraries, hospitals, daycares and other public venues. On the fun side, they also offer the most unforgettable birthday parties and special events, either at your house or at the rescue centre if you don't want to clean up after the kids. Full details about all of these programs and parties including booking info and costs are available on the USRS webite..., oops I mean website.

Besides being a great Semiahmoo tourist attraction and educational facility, the USRS performs a vital service for our community. Just before Christmas they rescued a boa constrictor that had been dumped and found on a trail in nearby Stokes Pit in freezing weather. Two weeks ago they received five turtles, two ducks and two budgies from the Department of Fish and Wildlife that had been confiscated from a drug house. The educational work the USRS performs might help to decrease the exotic animal trade into Canada that includes a man recently caught at the nearby Pacific Border crossing with turtles duct taped to his legs. Beyond being an interesting place to visit, the Urban Safari Rescue Society is deserving of our support by providing a safe and secure home to animals that have been abandoned, mistreated and neglected. While reptiles, amphibians, arachnids, insects, birds and small mammals may not be everyone's cup of tea, these animals deserve the care and compassion they did not receive from their original owners who thought they would make a neat pet. If you are an animal lover and can help or contribute to the success of the USRS, please do so. You can email them at or call 604-531-1100, telling them you got the naked truth about their little menagerie from the White Rock Sun.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



March 02, 2015

Democracy for $ale

The worst thing about having politically active friends is that when election time comes around its time to pay the piper and put your money where your mouth is, giving financial support to those willing to run for office. The last municipal election in November was no different with myself opening the wallet to folks from across the political spectrum to help fund their campaigns. My thinking is that it is easier and cheaper to help pay for others political ambitions rather than stepping up and taking a run for office with all that is required. When I pass the thick manila envelope stuffed with bills (yeah, right) over to those running, it is without expectations, without strings attached and without any favours expected. It is given simply because I admire the qualities of that person and believe they would make a great elected representative. With Elections BC releasing the facts and figures on civic election spending last week , we get to see who donated what to whom and get an accounting on the total spending. Now that the numbers are in the question I have to ask is when will the orgy of spending finally end.

Surrey First with Linda Hepner at the helm spent nearly $1.2 million dollars to finance their campaign, a marked increase from the $662,000 they spent in 2011 when they took every seat in council. Not surprisingly, with a war chest this size they dominated everything from street sign age to advertising and once again walked away with every available seat in a landslide. In comparison, Surrey First spent almost triple what their two closest rivals were able to scrape together. Barinder Raasode's One Surrey coalition spent close to $331,000 while Doug McCallum and his Safe Surrey group had expenses of a mere $92,000. It should come as no surprise that the bulk of Surrey Firsts bankroll came from corporations including a virtual who's who of developers that totaled over $900,000. Individuals donated a further $130,000 with trade unions chipping in $38,000. Two large contributors that certainly raised my eyebrows were the Surrey Firefighters Association with a smoking $32,700 and the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation were were all in at $22,000. In White Rock things were not much different with the White Rock Coalition spending almost $78,000 to bankroll their six candidates, four of whom were elected. I have to report that Dave Chesney dropped $5,000 in his successful councillor bid while top vote getter Helen Fathers spent a paltry $3,800 showing that having common sense, a down to earth personality and smashing good looks is more important than money.

What all of these numbers show is that it is time for the MLA's in Victoria to get serious about putting some limits on spending and eligible donors for civic elections. Unless a person is the reincarnation of Gandhi, it is now all but impossible for an independent candidate to be elected in Surrey, let alone a new coalition of independents or political slate. The sheer size of Surrey makes running a successful campaign an expensive proposition that is simply out of financial reach for most people. Without rules, the majority of contributors are development companies and corporations, unions representing municipal employees, and individuals who are looking for help from City Hall. Unless the political playing field gets leveled, expect well heeled civic parties to bulldoze all of the competition. The BC Liberals have resisted legislating limits on civic political contributions and capping spending by parties, individual candidates and third parties. In 2008, the municipal elections were described by minister in charge Bill Bennett as "the Wild West", which resulted in police investigations and charges related to election financing. In 2010 the government received almost 10,000 submissions from the public on how to make civic elections more fare with financing reform being the main suggestion but it was never acted on. In 2014 the public was once again approached for their ideas and when the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act was passed last spring, its main change was to ban anonymous donations of more than $50.

Civic campaigns are the only level of Canadian government without any campaign spending limits, which is scary when you realize the one where a small group of elected officials can easily deliver large financial benefits to those that helped to finance their campaigns. There needs to be a cap put on candidate and party spending, likely based on the number of people on the previous election's voter list, to stop the civic spending spree. Banning corporations, developers, unions, and groups from donating to municipal campaigns would democratize civic elections while reducing the likelihood of corruption. Individual donations need to be encouraged, possibly by making donations tax deductible as happens both provincially and federally, but even these donations need to be capped with $5,000 being the upper limit often suggested. Limits on third party advertising, donors who live outside of municipal boundaries and people living outside of Canada should also be considered. Democracy is not just for the rich and well connected and allowing this financial free-for-all makes a mockery of the premise of a fair election. The focus should be on candidates, policies and platforms, not who can afford to place 4' x 8' election signs on every possible street corner or flood your mail box with glossy election flyers.

The Minister of Community Sport and Cultural Development, the Honourable Coralee Oakes has promised that civic election spending limits will be in place in BC by 2018, the next time that we will have municipal elections. The all party Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits is examining legislating expense limit amounts for civic candidates. The final report on their findings and legislative recommendations should be tabled by mid June of this year. Surrey Panorama MLA Marvin Hunt is part of this committee and if you are concerned about how uncontrolled civic election spending and questionable political donations might be affecting decisions made by those in control of Surrey City Hall, I'd suggest you contact him. For those living in White Rock who would like to see limits on donors and spending, touch base with the always approachable MLA Gordon Hogg who represents the City By The Sea. Unless someone throws a bucket of cold water on this orgy of spending, expect campaign spending to balloon here to Vancouver-like levels that saw Gregor Robertson's Vision Vancouver party shell out $3.4 million to win control of City Hall there with total spending by all parties there likely to top $6 million when COPE finally reveals its finances.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



February 23, 2015






"It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."
Benjamin Franklin


In case you missed it, the heading for this TNT is written in code. Normally I preclude punctuation from the titles in this column except for the occasional parenthesis when I'm taking liberty with the English language or an exclamation mark for maximum effect when I'm really ticked off. In this instance, it's a shortened version of the term, "question period" that also stands as a simple call for people to question authority. Last week White Rock voted to kill their question period with Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Councillors Megan Knight, Bill Lawrence, Grant Meyer, and Lynn Sinclair acting as the four horsemen of the apocalypse to slay this uncomfortable dragon. It actually was rather anti-climactic because with previous rule changes over the past few years affecting question period, it had been neutered and made basically redundant (details on that later). The question period at White Rock City hall chambers should not be confused with that at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, which according to the House of Commons Compendium, "The primary purpose of Question Period is to seek information from the Government and to call it to account for its actions." Maybe Prime Minister Harper will follow White Rock's lead and abolish Question Period for the Federal Government as well.

The beautiful thing about question period in White Rock before it was gutted was that it gave people a public forum to express their thoughts and ask questions to their elected representatives during regularly scheduled Council meetings. Phone calls to the mayor of council, written letters, emails, or even talking to them on the street do not have the public component, which made question period a vital part of the democratic process in the City By The Sea. Now only months into the new four year civic term, question period is shelved in the Rock effectively eliminating one of the main ways that people could make grievances, ideas or questions about their local governance known to all. I'm lucky in that once a week I get the opportunity to voice my concerns in the White Rock Sun, something that I'm sure will cause White Rock Sun Editor and White Rock Councillor Dave Chesney migraine headaches in the not too distant future. For everyone else it looks like letters to the editors in the local papers are the only other option, short of opening one's own blog. The problem is that there's no guarantee your letter will be printed or edited for space. It is also quite likely that the few remaining community newspapers will soon merge this year, reducing opportunity for the expressing of viewpoints, not to mention that advertising revenue from City Hall pads their bottom line. That being said, kudos to the Peach Arch News for their editorial, "Time for one last question?" ( on the question of question period.

Former White Rock Councillor Margaret Woods was at the Council meeting where the question period was gassed and wrote a let-ed to the Now and PAN newspapers that unfortunately did not receive any ink. I received a copy of it and with her historical perspective on question period, I thought I'd give her the public forum that has now been taken away by City Hall. Here is her fiery letter in its entirety, unedited, unabridged, unadulterated and some would say unfit for public consumption.

To the Editor

Looks like democracy in White Rock went the way of the Dodo Bird on December 1st, the day the new council was sworn in.

First, let's talk about question period. During the term of Hardy Staub as Mayor and Wayne Baldwin, City Manager, Question Period was cancelled. The next council, under Judy Forster, reinstituted it under a commitment to openness and transparency. It continued during Catherine Ferguson's mayoralty and into Baldwin's first term when things started changing.

There was a time when the 15 minute Question Period was held prior to the council meeting and anyone could ask a question about any topic. Many people attended and asked many important questions, important to them anyway.

Then along came Mayor Baldwin who decided for some reason to move it to the end of the meeting. The result of this decision? the number of questioners dwindled. People having to get up early the next day to go to work, couldn't hang around all night waiting for a meeting that might never end.

But there were still some hardy folks who took the change in stride and continued to ask important questions. So Mayor Baldwin decided that only questions relating to items on the agenda would be allowed.

The same hardy folks persisted and continued to ask important questions. Somewhere along the way, Mayor Baldwin decided that the public, watching council meetings on Shaw Cable, should not be allowed to see or hear these important questions, so Shaw Cable was instructed to shut down the cameras before Question Period could proceed.

In the last few months, White Rock has moved into the 21st century and now our council meetings are streamed so that the public can see their councillors live and in action at council meetings.

Now you have to ask yourself, why is the Mayor shutting down Question Period? Maybe it's because he doesn't want the public to see that there are people out there who are asking important questions.

Mayor Baldwin stated that "there are three people, no more than that, who have ever made use of it". This is one of his favourite things - making statements that he well knows are not true; just like all the supposed complaints about the Farmer's Market.

Are you surprised that Councillor Sinclair thinks "it serves no purpose" and the Mayor says, "this does not seem to be of any value."

Well, Mr. Mayor, the value to the people of White Rock, was the opportunity to remind all council that they are accountable to the people who elected them. But then, do they care what the people think? I wonder as I learn that plans for our city for the next 4 years were made at a 2-day closed meeting disguised as an introductory session for new councillors.

How sad, that this council, at this early date in their term, have no compunction in breaking the law by having council meetings closed to the public and demonstrating their contempt for the people they swore to serve to the best of their ability.
Margaret F. Woods

White Rock, B.C.

You can still opt to apply to appear as a delegation in front of White Rock council and hopefully your application will be accepted for some time in the not too distant future. The same can be said for the City of Surrey, the bastion of democracy that is also without question period where every single member of Council and School Board are part of the Surrey First controlled slate. For those in White Rock who still want their voice to be heard, join in the new "Community Conversations" on the first Saturday of every month at the White Rock Library at 10 a.m. beginning on March 7th. (More info in the "Yell It Like It Is" column in the WR Sun). Consider coming out for the inaugural event for as famed jazz musician and educator Wynton Marsalis once said, "We always hear about the rights of democracy, but the major responsibility of it is participation." It should be worth the price of admission (its free after all) just to see which of White Rock's elected officials bother to show up.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



February 16, 2015


The Coldest Night of the Year


This year's west coast winter is one for the record books with abnormally high temperatures and an almost complete lack of snow on the local ski hills much to my chagrin. Back east its the opposite story with snow records falling with each passing blizzard. Don't let the double digit daytime temperatures and forecast sunshine in south Surrey and White Rock for most of the week fool you because I can tell you right now that Saturday, February 21st will be the Coldest Night of the Year. No, the capitals were not a spelling mistake, for this has nothing to do with temperature but instead has everything to do with helping raise money for the less fortunate in our community. The Coldest Night of the Year is a fun family friendly walk of varying distances that raises money for the hungry, homeless and hurting in 80 communities across Canada. Check it out online at

The Walk was created in 2011 by Blue Sea Philantrophy in Toronto, Ontario as a way to help those in need ( From its humble beginnings in mid-January of that year, in forty days a dedicated group of just over 400 walkers that included youth, families and seniors signed up to help participate and raised a total of $110,000. Seventy percent of these funds were distributed to the location partners, Ray of Hope, Yonge Street Mission and Sanctuary Ministries to help support their programs. In 2012, the CNOY Walk welcomed eighteen new charities from a further eighteen cities across Canada. This time with the strength of 3075 walkers and a giving group of volunteers, sponsors and donors, a whopping $668,000 was raised, far surpassing the expectations of all of those involved. The Walk expanded again in 2013 adding 20 new cities from across Canada with 8,200 walkers raising over $1.5 million for this passionate cause. As of last year, the Coldest Night of the Year Walk grew to 63 partner charities that raised over $2.5 million through the work of over 12,000 participants. In total, CNOY Walks have raised $4.9 million in only four years since its humble beginnings.

This will be the second year for White Rock being involved in the Walk with Sources Community Resources Society ( that serves people living with poverty being the local charity. Money raised from the Walk will be used to help fund Sources's homeless prevention programs that have recently lost $200,000 in important government funding. Last year, Sources two housing loss prevention workers helped 1,100 people avoid homelessness and they hope to raise $80,000 from this year's Walk, nearly doubling the 2014 total of $45,000. This event will see participants complete either a 2, 5 or 10 km walk along the White Rock beach promenade and Marine Drive after raising funds through donations and pledges. The Walk starts at Sources Community Resources Centre at 822 Maple Street with registration opening at 4 p.m., Opening Ceremonies at 5 and the Walk at 5:15 till 8 p.m. that also includes a warm light meal. For detailed information on how to participate, organize, donate or fund raise, plus view maps of the 2, 5 an 10 km routes, visit or the direct link for White Rock at

The big city of Surrey BC is also involved in the Coldest Night of the Year Walk with the Surrey Urban Mission ( being the partnered charity organizing the Walk in Whalley. Operating out of the SUM Place offices located at 10776 King George Blvd., the Mission is a community centre for Surrey residents serving people living with poverty. It offers an array of opportunities and programs to people of all ages and circumstances with a focus on offering hospitality, forming friendships and growing community. The Mission's variety of programs include serving community meals to providing Extreme Weather Response during inclement weather for neighbors who find themselves homeless. People's involvement in the Walk and the funds it generates for the Surrey Urban Mission impacts hundreds of lives in a positive way, helping build a bright future for the many residents that it serves. This Walk starts at the Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre at 107A Ave and City Parkway, with the 5 Km route going from Gateway to Holland Park via University Blvd and the City Parkway with the 10 km route taking a wider jaunt around the city centre. The timing for the Surrey Walk is the same as the one in White Rock. For detailed information on how to participate, organize, donate or fund raise, plus view maps of the 5 an 10 km routes (no 2 Km here), visit or the direct link for Surrey at

This year CNOY Walk organizers have set a fundraising goal of $3 million from 80 locations across Canada. They are currently at 48% of their goal including 17 in British Columbia that have signed up over 10,000 walkers to date along with 27,000 donors. While you would think that I would most likely be involved in the White Rock Walk, it turns out that Whalley is calling. I happened to meet many local residents at the Whalley Days Community Festival last year where my wife Sheryl and myself were selling our Surrey Shirts apparel. She has entered team "Surrey Shirts" and we will be walking with our "Surrey Strong" support gear on Saturday night. You can join her team or donate to the cause on the Coldest Night of the Year website by hitting their "donate/walker" tab and then searching for "Surrey Shirts." Searching the same area for "White Rock" yielded over 20 teams in the Semiahmoo peninsula that you can join or donate to. I'll be busy hitting the fundraising trail this week sending out notes to friends and acquaintances on Hotmail, Facebook, text or even by phone to help generate support for this cause. I'm hoping that White Rock Sun readers will do the same and try to help provide some warmth and comfort to those less fortunate when they need it the most.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



February 09, 2015

White Rock Rail Safety Task Farce

As always, the number one news story across Canada is always the weather. Whether (hey..., I didn't create the English language) it is back to back blizzards hammering the eastern seaboard, warm and dry weather in Saskatchewan, record snows in Northern BC last weekend or the incredibly mild weather here with no skiing on local mountains, it is always news. Personally, I watch the weather forecast and satellite photos for the Lower Mainland with dread during the fall and winter months, hoping that the "Pineapple Express" does not show up or that an "El Nino" year is not predicted as they bring heavy rains to this region. A few weeks ago when three strong pacific frontal systems combined into a giant storm stretching from Hawaii to here, I knew we were in for a drenching. I have a rain gauge in the back yard that is used to see when we eclipse the two inches per rain in fourty-eight hours mark, which is usually the precipitation level we need to initiate slide activity from the Ocean Park bluff onto the BNSF Railway tracks. As forecast, we received the torrential rain and to no surprise we once again had mudslide activity onto the waterfront rail corridor at the end of January.

A picture of one of these slides found its way to one of the local newspapers, which was printed with yet another story of White Rock's Mayor Wayne Baldwin calling for railway relocation away from this unstable slope that is a derailment threat. Lost in the copy was that there were three slides in the 1800 block of Ocean Park Drive in south Surrey, all of which originated at the top of the bluff at the edge of residential properties. Although Transport Canada warned in 2008 that the cutting of trees for views was the number one cause of slope failure in this region, I guess the folks living above the tracks want to get a good view of a derailment. Many of these yards have been landscaped far beyond the property line onto BNSF lands and the trees dropped, chopped or topped to create 180 degree views regardless of the slide threat. The hillsides broke loose below these properties, carrying hundreds of cubic metres of debris including boulders and entire trees down onto the rail corridor where they were later excavated onto the Crescent Rock Beach shoreline. As per American transportation rules, the Amtrak passenger train was cancelled for 48 hours while freight trains were allowed to roll once the debris had been cleared, possibly carrying dangerous goods. Why the BNSF is not holding homeowners above the tracks legally responsible for cleanup costs and train delays is unknown though they have threatened legal action in the past for this same circumstance. The City of Surrey continues to turn a blind eye to this problem even though the damage is easily viewed on the satellite image of the city's own COSMOS system or by patrolling the strip of Surrey owned easement land at the hill top.

Marine Drive crack

It is not just the Ocean Park bluffs above the tracks that are suffering from the effects of too much water and the force of gravity. Several years ago soil movement monitors were were placed into the asphalt surface of marine Drive on the Hump directly adjacent from a slide in the early 60's where half of the roadway slipped down the steep slope. A large crack with a noticeable depression of several inches has recently formed in the centre of Marine Drive directly across from one of these sensors. While White Rock seems to be overly concerned with the slide threat to trains in south Surrey, they continue to allow more and more tree removal from the steep Hump hillside that was the scene of four landslides the last time it was deforested in the early 1900's. They helped to facilitate the "vegetation control" in front of the "Top of the Rock" development not long ago that saw a total of 80 trees removed over two years including many that had previously been marked for preservation. The section of the Hump directly in front of the motion sensors also had many trees recently removed from both the top and bottom of the large metal wall that was erected the last time that the roadway collapsed. Of course the greatest debacle had to be when flail mowers were used to grind back branches and mow down trees near the Hump sidewalk that was made possible by the removal of the newly erected safety railing. The laughable rational was this was needed to look for signs of slope instability. Simply scroll back through these TNT's to see the evolution of this problem over the last five years. Note to Mayor Baldwin and WR Council: Keep cutting trees on the Hump and I guarantee you will get to see signs of slope instability above the BNSF Railway tracks and the Promenade.

Now here is where this TNT really goes off the rails. With the newly elected White Rock Council being sworn in, councilors attended a conference several weeks ago that is basically "Council 101" to learn the ins and outs of the process. They were asked for ideas that could be considered to help improve the City By The Sea in the future and I have learned from newly minted councillor David Chesney (Publisher of The White Rock Sun) that he was taken back when Councilor Grant Meyer offered, "Clear cut the Hump" as one of his suggestions. It would seem that there is a not too hidden agenda to continue to denude the Hump hillside of trees regardless of the known slide risks so that people living along Marine Drive get 180 degree unobstructed views of the ocean. What makes this even more despicable is that Councillor Meyer is chair of White Rock's Rail Safety Task Farce..., I mean Force. This is beyond having a fox in the hen house. You either try to stop the number one cause of landslides from the slopes above the tracks here, or you want to clear-cut every tree off the bluff for views. (original content edited) Meyer seemingly ignores the environmental benefits of the Hump forest providing shade, nesting and living space for wild creatures, cleaning of the air and oxygen production, absorbing excess water from the ground and so on. He should also check the City of White Rock's Regional Context Statement as submitted to Metro Vancouver in 2013 that calls for protecting green spaces as natural resources, retaining mature trees plus the tree canopy, and to minimize natural hazards from ravine lands.

If Mayor Baldwin is really concerned with rail safety in White Rock, he needs to axe Councillor Meyer as Chair and replace him with someone that doesn't want to add to the landslide threat facing passing trains on the BNSF Railway tracks. If Meyer is allowed to keep his position it makes a mockery out of the premise of railway safety in White Rock far beyond the idiocy associated with the fiasco at the West Beach boat launch. Beyond that, it is high time that the Hump hillside was given the same protection afforded to "Ravine Lands" and "Significant Stands of Trees" in their Tree Protection Bylaw. Someone on Council needs to take a stand (or maybe actually attempt to save one) and put forth a motion that the Hump hillside be given the same protection that is afforded to the other steep slopes above the tracks, even those from the end of West Beach to the White Rock border at Bergstrom St. (136 St.) If the city turns a blind eye to tree cutting on the Hump or helps facilitate the clearing there, then why should hilltop residents above the bluffs in White Rock or south Surrey for that matter be exempt from chopping trees for their own views regardless of the increase in slide risk to trains below? White Rock needs leadership with regards to rail safety and tree stewardship instead of being a continued part of the problem of deforestation and landslides onto the tracks in the peninsula. One last thing for our leaders to ponder; how about a new name for the Hump instead of a word that is slang for fornication? Of course, maybe this explains why much of the history about the Hump is so f*cked up.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



February 02, 2015

12th Man North

First things first, I have to clear the air and admit that I am a San Fransisco 49ers football fan. This may put me in the minority for Vancouver football fanatics but they were the close to home team of choice long before the trendy Seattle Seahawks were awarded their franchise in 1974. I got to enjoy the glory years of Joe Montana and Steve Young (five Super Bowls victories in total) while the Seahawks were building their credentials with quarterback Jim Zorn, future Hall-of-Famer wide receiver Steve Largent and running back Shawn Alexander who played when Seattle lost in Superbowl XL to Pittsburgh in 2006. I missed the wild antics of the last few minutes of the NFC semi-final game featuring the Seahawks and Green Bay Packers two weeks ago because I was flying back from Mexico and the satellite feed didn't work. I did make it home in time to watch the jaw-dropping highlights of this game that saw Seattle come back from a 12 point deficit in the forth quarter, Green Bay kick a field goal in the dying seconds to tie the contest and Seattle finally prevailing with a touchdown in overtime for the win. Sunday's Superbowl was a pickem' contest with a close hard fought game anticipated which lived up to expectations with the New England Patriot's Malcolm Butler's interception with only 26 seconds left cementing their fourth Superbowl Championship in a 28-24 victory over the Hawks. If you didn't watch these games, you missed watching the artistry and athleticism that is professional football at its finest.

The Seattle Seahawks "12th Man" is the home field advantage they gain from their rabid fans that have registered an ear-spliitting 136 decibels at Q-West field in Seattle and even recorded a 2.0 earthquake at a nearby seismic station known as the "Beast Quake" after their running back Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown in the playoffs several years ago. With the NFL Seahawks opening a satellite office in Vancouver in 2004, they have worked to cultivate the Canadian market into watching and attending Seahawk games. It certainly has paid dividends with them as approximately ten percent of their season ticket holders reside north of the 49th parallel in Canada. Merchandise sales have grown exponentially with Seahawks apparel flying off the shelves across the Lower Mainland during the playoffs. The twelfth man flag flew over the Victoria Legislature building this week, Vancouver City Hall, Harbour Centre, the BC Lions Offices in Whalley and even at some enterprising Tim Horton donuts shops in Surrey though not in front of Surrey City Hall (no surprise there). With the success of the Seahawks in Canada and BC Place holding 54,500 people for a football game, the question is now being asked whether an NFL franchise could work in Vancouver? Imagine if you will the rivalry that would naturally form with a team only two hours drive away down the I-5 highway. Kind of reminds you of Calgary vs. Edmonton doesn't it?

The main hurdle to such a utopian pipe dream has to be the Canadian Football league, the historic Grey Cup (awarded 102 times) and the BC Lions that just celebrated their 60th year of operation. The other has to be the Vancouver Canucks hockey team that represent the NHL along with the level of sports saturation in this market and amount of ticket money available. Naysayers automatically point to Vancouver losing the Grizzlies NBA basketball team, the Vancouver Canadians Triple A baseball team, Indy Car and PGA events that have been cancelled over the years. Also the failed experiment with the Buffalo Bills NFL team heading north to Toronto in the Rogers Centre where crowds dwindled until the Canadian date was cancelled after six years needs to be considered. The cost of an NFL franchise might also be prohibitive with the Dallas Cowboys value estimated by Forbes at $3.2 billion, the Seahawks at $1.3 billion and the cheapest team in the league coming in at a paltry $930 million. That being said it would not be the first time an NFL game has been played at BC place with a pre-season tilt involving Seattle and San Fransisco taking place in August of 1998 with the 49ers winning 24-21 (YES, with obligatory fist pump). This fall, Seattle's quarterback Russel Wilson also found the time to take in the Grey Cup game being held in Vancouver showing his interest in three down Canadian football.

When I was younger my Dad took me to several BC Lions when Lui Passaglia and Jim Young were just starting their careers that would eventually lead them both to various Sports Hall of Fame. In the mid 1980's I was lucky enough to work at BC Place selling souvenir merchandise, getting to watch every Lion's home game at the "marshmallow in bondage" for five years. Nowadays the BC Lions average 28,000 people in attendance per game compared to 68,000 in Seattle with an estimated 16,000 season ticket holders versus the secure Seahawk fan base of 63,000. While the Canadian Football league and the Grey Cup game are seen as an integral part of Canadian cultural and our identity, a recent Angus Reid poll found that more people were planning on watching the Super Bowl than the Grey Cup. The concerning part of this poll is that they showed that younger people (age 18-34) preferred the SuperBowl and the NFl by a two-to-one margin over their parents. With the majority of CFL football fans being aged 55 and older, the long-term popularity and longevity of the Canadian game comes into question. Whether this can be turned around or if the CFL will eventually become a watered down version of the NFL in the future remains to be seen.

The BC lions are the "pride of Surrey" with their offices and practice fields in downtown Whalley and hopefully fans will continue to support them and Canadian football long into the future, even if the NFL comes knocking. It will be interesting to see how quickly the fickle Vancouver fans jump off the Seattle Seahawks bandwagon now that they did not repeat as Super Bowl Champions. While I've got plenty of orange and black merchandise in my closet for the Lions, I will continue to hold the red and gold of the 49ers close to my heart while cheering for the Shyhawks as long as they are not playing San Fran. It was refreshing to see Seattle fans abandon Pioneer Square soon after the shocking loss, rather than rioting in the downtown core as happened when the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup in 2011. With ten percent of Seattle's fans being from the Lower Mainland, you had to wonder if the 12th Man North would show up and start burning cop cars and looting stores. Fortunately with the recent sharp decline in the Canuck buck and the game being played in Scottsdale Arizona, most of the Canadian Seahawk fans stayed north of the border ensuring that a new "Battle of Seattle" did not break out.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn




January 27, 2015

Social Media and Street Justice

Stompdown Thieves


I was not very impressed when I found out from one of my friends, who happens to be an amazing graffiti artist, that the Ephin store at Guildford in Surrey had once again been targeted by thieves. Ephin was started over ten years ago by a group of friends in a Fleetwood high school who wanted to establish a line of Surrey clothing inspired by graffiti, rap music, street cred and a sense of family. They really hit the big time when their distinctive Stompdown Killaz t-shirts were banned for a short time from Surrey schools until the Principals and School Board realized that they were not a criminal gang but a collection of street artists plying their craft while running a legitimate business. Over the years Ephin has evolved out of Surrey into a world-wide phenomenon due to the power of the internet, their dazzling website (, edgy Facebook page (Stompdown Killaz (Official)) and plenty of YouTube video's showcasing everything from graffiti art to music videos from an assortment of rap artists that tour across North America in the SDK bus. My buddy who is part of this crew makes a living designing apparel and selling stickers, t-shirts, hoodies, hand-painted model trains plus artist canvases to an audience across the planet from his home in south Surrey.

On Friday morning at 5:30 am at least two men dressed in baseball caps and hoodies approached the Ephin store on 103A St. just behind the Guildford ICBC. They broke in through the front door of the shop and quickly made off with a sizable amount of clothing from the front area of the store. This is not the first time that Ephin has been targeted for its edgy clothing line with a previous robbery targeting the rear door on May, 2013 being caught on security camera of a young couple prying at the door with a crow bar and making off with an armload of shirts. With the first robbery, instead of calling the Surrey RCMP, they put the footage on YouTube ( and posted it on their Facebook pages. With the distinctive truck and its large Tidy Tank in the box, it did not take long for the word to get around Surrey and for the perps to be identified and located. It is my understanding that the people involved in this crime have wisely chosen to move away from the city as they basically have been black listed after realizing that between the Stompdown and Ephin Facebook pages they have over 62,000 "Likes" meaning that they are well connected into the community and its subculture. Ripping off Ephin gets the Stompdown community breathing down your neck which is sure to be a rather uncomfortable feeling.

The thieves in the most recent robbery were thankfully stupid enough to be filmed by security cameras which provided the Ephin owners with photos of their smiling faces. Because of the success with solving the previous robbery, these pictures were also posted to social media including the Ephin, SDK, Surrey Shirts and the recently contentious "Only in Surrey" Facebook pages that total over 77,000 Likes allowing contact with all of these people instantly. Within hours not only had they generated several leads but CBC television even showed up at their door requesting an interview about the robbery. I used a similar technique when my work truck and trailer were stolen from my driveway several years ago. Waking up in the morning to a very empty driveway, I quickly cobbled together a news release about my loss, requesting news media broadcast information about the hard to miss trailer. Within half an hour, I had two people contact me telling me the location of my rig, one who saw a picture of it in the White Rock Sun and the other who heard about it on News 1130. To show you how small a world it is, the one person who called was a friend of editor Dave Chesney while the other was the son of a gardener friend of mine. I phoned the Surrey RCMP to report my good fortune and managed to get there long before the police cruiser showed up in Ocean Park where the truck had been dumped with the trailer and its contents still secure.

While the RCMP have media liaison officers, it is time they get with the program and start to harness the power of social media to help solve crime and assist with investigations. With almost everyone these days having a cell phone and most with smartphone technology, there are plenty of eyes and ears on the street. They've figured out part of this by utilizing the Amber Alert system dealing with child abductions but this is only the tip of a large crime fighting iceberg. In Sept. of 2013, Tammy Sinclair of Sinclair Motorsports in Guildford had acid thrown in her face by a trio of attackers who fled the scene in a small green car. The Surrey RCMP sat on surveillance footage they had for five months before asking for public assistance in this case in Feb. of 2014. While they may want to hold the cards close to their chests, making this video public as soon as possible would likely have brought quick and tangible results rather than months later. Ditto for the recent Christmas time car-jacking in Surrey near 184 St. and Fraser Hwy., for instead of flooding Surrey with cruisers from other jurisdictions, it would have helped to put out an immediate plea on social and regular media for the public's assistance in finding the stolen vehicle with the missing child inside. Fortunately the car was located with the baby unharmed but with half a million people in Surrey and many carrying cell phones that are internet connected, it seems stupid to ignore this resource. Did you know the Chevron near Crescent Beach and another gas station in south Surrey were rammed with vehicles and robbed late last year with video surveillance of criminals taken at both locations? Of course you didn't because the cops didn't bother to tell you, the media, or share the pictures that they have.

The White Rock RCMP are the most glaring example of a police force seemingly out of touch with the community they serve. It is nearly impossible to get them to answer questions about almost anything that happens within the small confines of the City By The Sea. News releases from the White Rock detachment are almost non-existent or far too late, especially when it comes to the White Rock Sun who have the annoying habit of asking too many questions. The same treatment is extended to White Rock's Mayor and Council who often learn about criminal activity in their town either through local media or Facebook instead of the cops that eat up a sizable portion of their yearly budget. The uptown location of the HSBC bank was robbed on Wed., Jan. 21 and yet this only came to light because of Facebook posts from where it was then reported in the White Rock Sun on Jan. 24 along with photos of the perp that were finally released. In the case of a shot up car found on the 15300 block of Columbia Ave. on Jan. 19, you'd think the RCMP would have alerted the public and politicians to the presence of rifle toting officers and to the closed off streets but again this wasn't the case. The attempted abduction of a child from White Rock Elementary on Jan. 16 raises plenty of questions as to why this was not immediately reported to police, either by parents or apparently the school when letters were sent home the following Monday. The White Rock RCMP press release on this incident finally went public on Tuesday, Jan. 20, four days too late and to date nobody has been arrested.

People have a right to know about criminal activity and public safety issues ongoing in their community. The brass at the White Rock detachment needs to be dragged onto the carpet for their lack of openness and accountability to the people they serve. Unlike a municipal force, they seem more concerned with their masters back in Ottawa than those at City Hall who pay their wages. Mayor Baldwin needs to play hardball with his RCMP and ensure they promptly alert both City Hall and the media with public safety concerns affecting area residents. If that does not work it is then time to start putting pressure on Ottawa to force more compliance, consider cancelling the policing contract and creating their own force, or having the Surrey RCMP detachment take White Rock under its wing. Utilizing social media it is highly likely that the Ephin robbery will be quickly solved in house and their merchandise recovered. If the store owners had simply gone to the police and left it in their professional hands, they would have only gotten a file number for insurance purposes. As for the thieves, if they were smart they'd return their stolen goods immediately as there are now thousands of Surrey residents looking to collect a reward actively out hunting for them across the city and beyond.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



January 20, 2014

Black and White and Red All Over


I think that its rather fitting this column was written on what was known as "Blue Monday", dubbed by many mainstream media organizations as the most depressing day of the year. Considering that it comes at the end of our mid-winter break from reality known to most as either a vacation or holiday, you would think that I would feel its effects the most but that was not the case today while soaking up a few more rays on our sun deck this afternoon with one last cerveza in hand. I'd hoped our jaunt to an amazing all-incusive Mexican resort named Punta Serena near Manzanillo would be a refreshing break from reality, with our cell phones and laptops being left behind and an agreement with my wife for me to not pick up every newspaper I could lay my dirty ink-coated hands on. What I found out that even in an out-of-the-way laid back eco-resort, it is almost impossible to avoid the news of the day that beams in from the far corners of the planet. It seems the more terrifying, the higher the body count and the more bloody the attack, the harder it is to not hear about these savage world events.

We left for Mexico as the world was watching in rapt horror as gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles stormed their way into the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing a total of 12 people including four political cartoonists whose crime deserving of execution was to draw cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. Soon after that, reports of French Police engaging two gunmen suspected in the massacre holed up in a printing press building, killing both of them while another armed jihadist believed to have been responsible for the killing of a female police officer takes hostages in a Paris bakery, dying in a hail of bullets along with four innocents. Next it was Belgium's turn with anti-terrorism units raiding apartments in the town of Verviers near the German border, killing two suspected gunmen and wounding a third who fought back with assault rifles and hand guns. There is no escaping the global media blanket when planes now have satellite TV screens built into the backs of every seat and with wifi and cell phone coverage in the most remote locations ensuring that CNN alerts are broadcast to the waiting masses including those you are sharing far-flung tourist resorts with.

While I realize that the White Rock Sun is not the New York Times and that it is highly unlikely armed gunmen will attempt to quiet my weekly rant even if I were to insult someone's religious deity or imaginary friend (oops) the bloodbath in a newspaper's office and the targeting of their editorial staff is chilling and brings back memories of assaults on newspapers right here in Surrey. It was in August of 1988 that the editor of the Indo-Canadian Times, Mr. Tara Singh Hayer was shot several times at his office because of the strong position he took against Sihk extremists responsible for the Air India bombings that occurred in June of 1985, which murdered a total of 331 people. Harkirat Singh Bagga, the 17 year-old son of a prominant member of the Sihk in Canada plead guilty to attempted manslaughter for shooting Mr. Mayer several times in the arm and twice in the back leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. This attempted assassination took place several years after an explosive device was defused by the RCMP bomb squad outside of the Indo-Canadian Times printing shop. When his injuries finally healed, Mr. Hayer returned to work for the newspaper, continuing to write editorials critical of Sihk militants and terrorists actions until the age of 62 when he was again targeted for execution and gunned down in the garage of his Surrey home on Nov. 18, 1998 while getting from his car into his wheelchair in a crime that remains unsolved to this day.

After this assault on democracy, freedom of speech and journalism, in 1999 the group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression ( named its press freedom award in Tara Singh hayer's honour, with it being given to the Canadian journalist who has reenforced and promoted the principle of freedom of the press in Canada or the world. In 2000, Hayer was added to the Canadian News Hall of Fame and also selected as one of the International Press Institute's 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the last 50 years for paying the ultimate journalistic sacrifice. In a rather interesting twist of fate, this weekend former BC premier Ujjal Dosanjh received the inaugural Wallenberg-Sugihara Civil Courage Award in Vancouver for speaking up against violence and for democracy. Like Mr. Hayer, Dosanjh spoke out in the media against sihk extremism in the early 1980's, getting severely beaten with a metal bar in a parking lot only months before the Air India bombings, receiving a broken hand and cuts requiring over 80 stitches. Four years later on Boxing Day he was targeted again while serving as an MLA with his constituency office burglarized and a burning Molotov cocktail gasoline bomb left sitting on a table. Sectarian violence often targets the media and outspoken social activists promoting democracy that clashes with their hateful or twisted beliefs, thinking that quieting them through whatever means necessary including murder is justifiable for their cause.

While it has been decades since the inaugural White Rock Sun newspaper closed its doors, it too was the victim of violence by someone that wanted to silence its stories and editorials. I do not have the exact date except for being told in the late 1950's, the offices had their front window smashed and a gasoline bomb thrown inside which caused serious damage to the building. Even for a small-town newspaper like the original White Rock Sun, it shows how sometimes you can quickly go from reporting violence to becoming the victim of it as criminal elements, thugs and extremists try to control freedom of expression, justice and democracy. In the end, editor Tara Singh Hayer paid the ultimate price for his belief in freedom of the press right here in Surrey but even with his death the Indo-Canadian Times continues to publish today to the South Asian community. Last week's editorial in this newspaper not surprisingly featured the Charlie Hebo massacre in Paris, hopefully showing how the word can overcome the sword. While the Hayer family including son Dave Hayer who worked for his father's paper and went on to become a long-serving Surrey MLA can take solace in this thought, justice still needs to be served and the shooter charged in this murder that will always be linked to the deadly Air India bombings.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



January 12, 2014

Only in Surrey You Say


Its funny how sending out letters to the editors turns into issuing news releases and finally writing weekly columns for the White Rock Sun. I've had a fairly long association with various members of the local media due to my charming personality, sarcastic wit (get it), history of community activism and knowledge that constant forward pressure will eventually lead results. Still it surprises me when a reporter or editor phones me out of the blue to ask me my opinion on the topic of the day. Such was the case a almost a week ago when I received a call from the Global TV news room asking me if I had ever heard of the "Only in Surrey" Facebook page. Likely it was a fishing expedition to see if I had anything to do with it (I didn't) or if I knew who was behind the anonymous page that is seemingly dedicated to the dark or twisted side of Surrey (I don't). I admitted to the reporter that I had been told of it by an employee but had never bothered to check it out since I'm not a Crackbook addict like most people I know. While it would seem that Surrey Shirts "Better Safe Than Surrey" and "The Future Dies Here" designs about our city's gun and gang problem were likely inspiration judging from early posts, it would seem that now anything is fair game.

Surrey was often the target of off colour jokes years ago and if you remember any of them I must admit that some were deserved, with others simply made to make people in surrounding burbs feel better about themselves. As Surrey has grown with a population that topped a half million last year, these zingers have lost their luster and many don't make any sense given the current times. I call Surrey B.C. the "Big City" because of its overall size, room for growth and development and the people that constantly move here at the rate of over a thousand people per month. With that growth and the young population that comes along with it, social ills follow as they do in any other major metropolis. You look at Vancouver and realize that it is not a great distance from Shaughnessy mansions to the downtown east side. With gentrification and development pressures in Vancouver's poorest neighborhoods, some of these people are jumping on the Skytrain and heading east, depositing them into the heart of Whalley, I mean Central City. Still others are moving out into other neighborhoods like Newton and Fleetwood with even stoggy old White Rock now beset with petty crimes and break ins. With people living from paycheque to paycheque it does not take long to rack up debt when a job is lost, become homeless, fall into despair or mental illness and get addicted to drugs as an escape mechanism. I know of many good people with solid family lives that have gone down this road without anyone being able to stop their downward slide onto the mean streets.

It was only on November 30th, 2014 that "Only in Surrey recorded its 1,000 "like" on Facebook. When Global phoned me a week ago it had 3,400. Three hours after Global TV broadcast a story about it, the total topped 5,000 and it continues its dizzying rise in popularity clocking in at over 7,000 the last time I checked. Of course this Facebook page attracted the wrath of business leaders with the CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade Anita Huberman speaking out against its content showing crime and drug use in the city. While questioning why "Only in Surrey" focuses only on the negative, she missed out on some of the positive and humorous posts about life as experienced by those in Surrey who are not executives or community leaders. Karen Reid Sidhu, the Executive Director of the Surrey Crime Prevention Society got herself blocked for allegedly spamming the "Only in Surrey" FB page but this only created a broad public discourse about the purpose of this society and how it is attempting to curb crime in Surrey. As a bonus, it brought much needed attention not only to their society but their website and Facebook page (with only 5% of the likes that Only in Surrey has). The social commentary from over 50 people from all walks of life in Surrey is actually quite revealing with some great ideas including putting portapotties in areas with homeless people so they don't have to defecate on the street. While remaining anonymous, the creator and moderator of this page defends their actions by stating, "...I started the page as a reality check to those who think we live in a safe and beautiful city." Could it be that with the issues identified and dealt with on this Facebook page that Surrey might be made a better and safer place?

The Global TV story about "Only in Surrey" also included commentary from local Surrey bus driver and singer Amrit Bains who has posted his song "Super Sweet City (Surrey) on YouTube at He joins others like Deepak Heer with his legendary "Sh*t Surrey Jacks Say" (parts 1 & 2 no less), rapper 666DLA999 with his dark "Better Safe Than Surrey" video and the documentary "Crackass: A Surrey Movie" as just some of the postings about Surrey you will find on YouTube. At the end of the day, every city will have its high points and its low lifes, with everyone having their own personal experiences and perceptions of the city in which they live. You will never find perfection as it turns out there were even a couple of rotten apples in the Garden of Eden. The great thing about social media is that it allows freedom of expression, the exchange of ideas and a platform for public discourse. Whether you agree, disagree, take a cheap pot shot or simply stir the pot, Facebook pages like "Only in Surrey" allow people to show sides of the city others may know nothing about and get residents engaged in their community. The beautiful part is that if you dont like it you dont have to visit or join and can quietly go about your business as if everything is wonderful and there is not a problem in the world. It will be fascinating to watch how this Facebook page evolves and changes over time as its members increase, similar to what has happened in Surrey since it was incorporated back in 1869.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



January 05, 2015

Another Dropped Ball

If the Amazing Kreskin could see the future, then why did he need glasses?

photo Curtis Kreklau


It was only four months ago that the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor project was completed with the opening of the Mufford Crescent overpass in Langley. It marked the completion of nine different infrastructure improvement projects built over the past few years to separate rail and road traffic at many crossings that now have overpasses above the CN/CP Railway mainline in Delta, Surrey and Langley. A news release from the federal Ministry of Transportation & infrastructure on this project announced, "It is designed to improve the safety and efficiency of the road and rail network, and enhance quality of life for residents of communities through which rail traffic travels to and from the Deltaport terminal at Roberts Bank in Delta." At a cost of $307 million dollars, it is surprising that the overpasses and roadways were opened when glaring safety problems created by the this mega-project were not corrected beforehand. It is even more concerning that safety problems brought to the government's attention have still not been addressed which have recently resulted in a train/car collision (fortunately without a derailment) that they were previously warned about by yours truly.

Last July I sent an email to Transport Canada's John Horbay (Manager Rail Safety)and Dennis Maskell (Railway Safety Inspector) informing them about a variety of problems with the level grade crossing at 160 St. near Colebrook Road in Surrey. These included sightline problems created by encroaching vegetation, holes appearing under the roadway asphalt near the tracks and the lack of safety drop bars with flashing lights and bells as is usually the norm in busy locations. Besides several full-colour photos that I included with the text, here is the main body of the email with the prediction I made at that time now underlined.

"With the 152 St. overpass above the CN Railway tracks in Surrey now open, 152 St. no longer crosses the tracks north of Colebrook Rd. As of last week, the railway crossings lights and drop bars were still on location with one still standing and another laying on the ground nearby. With these no longer needed at this spot, I would suggest that they be relocated a mile east to the 160 St. crossing just north of Colebrook Rd. and a couple of blocks south of #10 Hwy. This railway crossing is now attracting much more traffic as drivers use 160 St. to access Colebrook road, #10 Hwy. and King George Blvd. While there is a stop sign at the railway crossing, many drivers do little more than slow for the tracks. Sight lines at this location are also obstructed by trees and brush on either side of the road. To improve safety and utilize these important railway safety devices, they should be repositioned at this crossing if it is going to remain open for the foreseeable future. This would greatly reduce the chance of a level grade crossing accident and possible train derailment at this location."

Besides the two gentlemen at Transport Canada, I also forwarded this safety concern to our local MP Russ Hiebert, area MLA's Marvin Hunt and Stephanie Cadieux, Mayor Dianne Watts and Surrey Council plus the Surrey Engineering Department. It must have struck a nerve as I received over a dozen responses back as it bounced from desk to desk like a proverbial hot potato, finally ending up with the B.C. Safety Authority (who you say?) that have final say over this stretch of track which is under provincial and not federal jurisdiction. To their credit and my amazement, railway crews were on scene the very next day to cut down brush and trees that were blocking site lines for drivers at the 160 St. crossing. The BC Safety Authority Railway Safety Manager Eric Samuelson wrote back to inform me that the tree work had been done and that the City of Surrey were to start a major roadway repair at this crossing in the upcoming weeks (which started on schedule and has since been completed). He also forwarded a note from the railway operator with a promise that track contractor PNR Railworks would have signals and gate crossing arms installed there in the fall. The last time I checked my calendar it is now winter and over five months have passed since this safety warning was released to the powers that be. During that time the signals and crossing arms from 152 St. have been removed along with another set only a mile down the tracks that were made redundant with the Colebrook Road realignment where the road formerly crossed the rail corridor just east of Mud Bay Park. As to what happened to these important safety devices, no one knows but my bet is that they are sitting under a tarp in a works yard somewhere.

On Monday, Dec. 30, 2014 at 3:00 in the afternoon, a Hyundai Sonata crossed the tracks heading northbound on 160th St. just past the infamous Colebrook Road in Surrey. The car failed to yield for the stop sign and was struck by a two-car train that was heading westbound, wrecking the automobile while miraculously leaving the driver with only minor injuries. Vehicles heading east on Colebrook Road usually do a complete stop at the T intersection at 160 St. but with the very short distance between the two stop signs they often roll past the second one that guards the tracks where drop arms should instead be used. The final correspondence I received from Mr. Samuelson is now funny when viewed in hindsight as he wrote;

"One last note. Please do not be surprised at the quick responses provided by any of the stakeholders in railway safety. Regulators and railways are extremely responsive to LEGITIMATE safety concerns and reports brought to their attention. As proven by the prompt action of the railway yesterday in dealing with the sight lines after we brought it to their attention." The "legitimate" was bolded, showing he likely did not understand the danger posed on 160 St. by not upgrading the crossing before changing the traffic flow. Considering the various levels of government and rail safety agencies that were made aware of this problem, it is disturbing to know that nothing was done to prevent this inevitable collision that I refuse to call an accident The only blessings are that nobody was killed and that the train did not derail. Hopefully now that there has been a crash the BC Safety Authority will put some heat on the railway to finally have the missing crossing arms and lights installed at this location as was promised last year. As proven by the prompt action of the railway yesterday in dealing with the sight lines after we brought it to their attention." The "legitimate" was bolded, showing he likely did not understand the danger posed on 160 St. by not upgrading the crossing before changing the traffic flow. Considering the various levels of government and rail safety agencies that were made aware of this problem, it is disturbing to know that nothing was done to prevent this inevitable collision that I refuse to call an accident The only blessings are that nobody was killed and that the train did not derail. Hopefully now that there has been a crash the BC Safety Authority will put some heat on the railway to finally have the missing crossing arms and lights installed at this location as was promised last year.

Now it is time for me to test my ability to once again to safely see the future like Johnny Carson's "Carnac The Magnificent." The Roberts Bank Gateway Project also included the realignment of Colebrook Road to the north of the tracks west of the King George Boulevard. Don't worry, they have flashing red signal lights and drop arms at the crossing next to the "Birdie's and Buckets" golf complex ensuring that this railway crossing is safe. The issue is that the new north Colebrook roadway goes straight for a long distance and then does a wide turn where the man-made waterway links into an existing stream just west of the crossing that was removed at 131A St. There are no street lights on most of this rural road (which is why it is a favored dumping ground) and no signs warning about the bend in the road or any reflective markers on the guardrails. I predict a car speeding late at night, likely in fog or rain, will lose control at this spot and either crash into the metal barricades or skid into the deep water-filled ditch. If the occupants are lucky they will only be slightly injured in the crash but there is the possibility anyone in the vehicle will be drowned if unlucky enough to flip into the ditch. I was right about the chances of an empty BNSF coal train hitting a vehicle in Abbotsford with a young man killed there this summer on a foggy night. I was correct again with my safety assessment of the 160 St./Colebrook Road railway crossing and the recent car/train crash there. They say that bad things come in three and I'll take your money if you want to bet about this dark and dangerous corner on Colebrook Road north. It will be interesting to see if this problem gets fixed before or after the "accident" that I'm now predicting as this column will be circulated to those who 's job it is to keep us safe.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



December 29, 2014

Joe Cocker and the White Rocker

I'm usually in great spirits right before Christmas, enjoying the winding down of yet another year while refusing to get caught up in the shopping frenzy and the desperation that manifests itself in people fighting over parking spots or getting into car accidents while thinking about gift lists instead of the task of driving. When I do hit the mall, it is usually with a red and white Canada Olympic hockey jersey, black jeans and a red Santa hat (the rum and egg nog in a travel mug is optional). It definitely gives me a Claus kind of look though it will take a few extra years, a lot more white for my beard and plenty of body fat to do the jolly old guy justice. Unfortunately the joy of the holidays was muted somewhat when on Dec. 22 it was announced that legendary blues/rock singer Joe Cocker had lost his battle with lung cancer and died in Colorado at the age of 70. While not quite the punch to the gut that I got when I heard that Stevie Ray Vaughn had died in a helicopter crash in Aspen, Joe's passing made me stop and reflect on one of the most iconic singer/performer in rock and roll history.

Known for his soulful and raspy voice, this former gas-filler from Sheffield England who started singing at age 12 began his music career in English pubs and small clubs before a cover version of the Beattles "A Little help From My Friends" went to number one in the UK in 1968 and made him a star. If you have not seen his performance of this tune live at Woodstock during the 1969 music festival, it is worth visiting YouTube for a peek. His spasmodic body movements, twisted air guitar mixed with drums often seemed at odds with his vocal control that could fluctuate between gravel gritty to soulful smooth. While his cover of "You Are So Beautiful" reached number five in the US, it was his "Up Where We Belong" duet with Jennifer Warnes that hit the number one spot in the top 100, garnering him both a Grammy and an Academy award in 1983. Other notable hits from his 23 albums include "Unchain My Heart", "When the Night Comes", "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" and the stripper anthem "You Can Leave Your Hat On." In his later years Joe Cocker received the Order of the British Empire at Buckingham Palace in 2011 for his contributions to music. Through it all he remained humble and with a great sense of humor, even appearing on Saturday Night Live with John Belushi as his twin in one of this show's funniest musical segments.

Now I'm not much of a Boxing Day shopper having already spent enough time getting retail therapy but just after Christmas I was driving through a relatively deserted East Beach when I rolled by a shop that would catch my eye every time I passed. Taking advantage of winter parking rates, I decided to finally stop at 55-55 Marine Drive (actual address is 15555 Marine Dr.) and check out the vast collection of shells and ocean gifts that were enticing to a beach bum like myself. Once inside I was surrounded by an array of what is billed as "Canada's largest selection of seashells" along with other ocean gifts, home decor, artwork, books and photography. There I met the owner Tim Lawson (artist at large) who introduced himself and helped me through his collection while answering questions about the products. Besides the beach brick-a-brac there were rows of CD's for sale, several framed posters of famous musicians and strangely out of place, a single electric guitar hanging from the back wall. I probably would not have paid much attention but the union jack painted on it was hard to ignore. The guitar was signed by non other than Joe Cocker and a host of other musicians and had the words "Shefield Steel" in his handwriting, the name of one of his records from 1882. With a hefty $1950 price tag, a piece of rock and roll history is currently on display and for sale at the beach in White Rock.

Mr. Lawson explained that a friend who collects music memorabilia was so saddened by the passing of Mr. Cocker that he did not wish to have it as part of his collection and gave it to him to sell. While Tim is not as well known as recognizable as Joe Cocker, it turns out that he is a quite the notable musician in his own right, being the singer/songwriter for the Tim Larson Band (TLB) who have recorded eight albums of their own over the years with fans from tours across Canada and Europe. After a successful business career in his family's publishing business, Mr. Larson changed course and returned to his first love, becoming a philantrophic musician in the soft-rock/folk genre who uses his songs to fund charitable causes around the world. Not long ago he packaged a four CD set of his music, with $10 from the sale of each CD donated to a selected charity with genetic research, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Royal Canadian Legion through his album "Lest We Forget" being the benefactors of the man who blends music with social responsibility. To give you an idea of the power of music, donations from TLB CD sales have generated over $50,000 for HIV/AIDS and $75,000 for the Canadian Legion. The band's motto, "To harmoniously help make the world better" speaks volumes about what they are accomplishing with their songs and talents.

Its funny how Joe Cocker and the White Rocker (actually Tim is from Langley) came together for me last week but with the loss of one musical legend I now get to be entertained by another one living much closer to home. Mr. Lawson gave me a copy of the TLB's "At a Loss For Words" CD and in return I told him I will supply the store a century plant, which are featured on the cover art for the album. If you wish to look into The Tim Larson Band they are on Facebook, the shell store with plenty more is online at or simply drop by the hard to miss East beach shop. If you have a couple of grand left over after the consumer orgy that is the Christmas spending spree, you might want to pick up a very cool one-of-a-kind guitar. It is retail outlets like this that are needed to help attract folks into the Rock 12 months a year and it is people like Tim Larson that make living in the Semiahmoo peninsula such a rewarding experience. I leave you this week with a rather apt tongue twister taken from the back of a 55-55 brochure that will likely be as hard for you to recite, as it was for me to type, so late in the night.

She sells seashells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I'm sure she sells seashore shells.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



December 22, 2014


Christmas Wish List – 2014


If there's one thing I love about Christmas it's the annual traditions and in the White Rock Sun the year-end TNT is always special. Here's the list of naughty and nice gifts we hope Santa leaves under the tree for the movers, shakers and decision makers from the Semiahmoo peninsula, listed alphabetically so as not to offend anyone.

Kelly Breaks & Juanita Moffat - For the co-owners of the Blue Frog recording studio, a visit by Mike Holmes from the TV show Holmes on Homes who will ensure contractors "make it right" when building their new living quarters on top of the best pace in White Rock to see live bands including Vancouver's 54-40 who recently recorded an acoustic album there in front of a very receptive audience.

Dave Chesney - Not that he's been a bad boy this year but the editor of the White Rock Sun will find an empty stocking hanging from the mantle this year as he got his present early being voted in as councilor for White Rock on his sixth attempt at getting elected. For the folks living in the "City By The Sea" you get a gem of a man that has White Rock's best interests at heart.

Mark Donnelly - Skating lessons for the well known Canadian anthem singer after he took a hard tumble, tripping over a red carpet laying on the ice at a Penticton Vees junior A hockey game. The present he won't be getting are singing lessons as he didn't miss a single note even after making a snow angel at centre ice. See the hilarious YouTube video at

Tom Gill - DVD copies of "The Grinch" and "Scrooge" movies as this Surrey First councilor and chair of the city's finance committee announces just before Christmas that homeowners can expect a whopping 10% increase in their taxes for next year. Funny how this was not on their election platform that featured the slogan "Look how far we've come, imagine how far we can go", which aptly describes Surrey's estimated $245 million debt racked up during Watts's nine year spending spree.

Russ Hiebert - A copy of the H. G. Wells science fiction novella "The Invisible Man" which basically sums up how many of his constituents felt about the Surrey/White Rock/Cloverdale MP who has announced that he will not be running for re-election next year. With Dianne Watts taking over as the Conservative candidate, expect better public relations and plenty of well scripted media events in the near future.

Linda Hepner - For Dianne Watts's hand-picked successor, the new mayor of Surrey gets a model train set as she promises LRT trains across Surrey by 2018. Did anyone else notice that Linda's excited screams of "whew..., whew..., whewww" during her "Surrey has spoken" acceptance speech on election night sounded a lot like a locomotive whistle? Also receives a copy of the "The Litle Engine That Could" children's story with its famous phrase, "I think I can, I think I can."

Dennis Maskell – For the Transport Canada railway inspector who has suddenly taken an interest in rail safety here in the Sem-pen, rolls of rusty barbed wire and a couple of menacing guard towers to complete the Stalag 13 look of White Rock that has seen access points to the beach welded shut and industrial black chain link fencing added to the safety railings that now stretch across the entire waterfront next to the BNSF Railway tracks.

Gus Melonas – A sooty lump of US thermal coal for the BNSF Railway spokesperson as their American train engineers continue to serenade White Rock with a melody of blaring train whistles at all hours of the day and night. If he can silence the 130 decibel air horns before Christmas, he instead gets the keys to the city while everyone else living in the "City By The CN" finally has a good night's sleep.

Barinder Rasode - Mud flaps for a four-wheel-drive monster truck as the "One Tough Mudder" and former Surrey councilor drives around the big city of Surrey looking for a new job after stepping away from the Surrey First slate and then finishing a disappointing third among mayoralty hopefuls as her One Surrey team failed to have even one candidate elected to city hall.

Beau Simpson, Lance Peverly and Paula Carson - A game of musical chairs for these three local newspaper editors to see who survives the amalgamation of the Surrey Now, Surrey/North Delta Leader and Peace Arch News after Black Press (who owns the Leader and PAN) announced acquiring the Now from Glacier Media in a cross-Canada newspaper swap. For the losers including other staff members, expect pink slips in the New Year :(

Gerry St. Germain - For the now retired Conservative Senator, a map book so he can know where the municipal boundaries are after endorsing the White Rock Coalition in the recent civic election, mistakenly sending robo-calls on their behalf to thousands of people across south Surrey even though he has now moved to a new home just across the border in the township of Langley where his trademark stetson fits in very well.

Dianne Watts - For the queen of Surrey who has now stepped down as mayor, a marble bust of herself to grace the front of the new "Watts-Mahal" ivory tower/white elephant city hall building in Whalley that is likely to cost well in excess of $150 million especially when interest is added and all of the pending lawsuits by unpaid contractors are finally settled.

Merry Christmas everyone and have a happy Nude, I mean New Year.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Editor's Note - DON'S friends here at the White Rock Sun put our heads together and came up with what we believe is the perfect gift for our senior columnist.

Wear it in good health DON, and thank you for lighting the way year after year for all of us that call the Semiahmoo Peninsula home.


Publisher/White Rock Sun



December 15, 2014

A Bridge Too Far

Anderson Creek/South Surrey

Years ago when I could only dream of affording to live in south Surrey near the beach, the first house I ever owned was in the beautiful treed neighbourhood of Brookswood in Langley. We lived on a quiet culdesac that backed onto a deep wooded ravine where Anderson Creek flowed north into the Nicomekl River. It was a tranquil location with schools of spawning salmon in the river, herds of black-tailed deer strolling by and bald eagles that flew majestically across our back yard. While I was quite aware of Chantrell Creek, Fergus Creek Elgin Creek and other small tributaries in the Semiahmoo peninsula, there is a tiny creek which wanders across south Surrey crossing the King George Boulevard between the Choices Market and the Timberland Motel near where the Holy Smoke Coffee tee-pee sits. It is also named Anderson Creek and while it is only a metre or two in width, this small waterway will soon be costing taxpayers millions of dollars with federal government environmental regulations increasing construction costs for other levels of government.

This week tenders will be put out by the city of Surrey inviting contractors to bid on the construction of the KGB from Crescent Road south to 33 Ave., widening it to four lanes plus a centre median (possibly for future LRT commuter trains) and the shoulders. Currently a small culvert exists taking Anderson creek under the KGB, where it flows from west to east as it heads downhill to flow into the Nicomekl River. The present culvert that travels under the roadway has been determined to be too small to handle future flow rates and because of this, when the KGB is widened the culvert must be replaced and lengthened into the area where the current stream bed sits reducing aquatic and shoreline habitat. Because of this it triggers the Water Act and the Department of Fisheries and Ocean's "No Net Loss" (NNL) policy with habitat compensation in the peninsula being required on a 2:1 basis. For the KGB widening, this means that land capable of supporting fish habitat would have to be purchased double that of the area being impacted and if you know anything about real estate here, you realize this is a pricey endeavor. Interestingly, the existing culvert on either side of the KGB has recently been upgraded which is surprising since it will be replaced in 2015.

I discussed this project with Scott Newan, the City of Surrey's Manager of Design and Construction who gave me the estimated costs associated with this project and the rational behind them. Anderson Creek was surveyed for the road widening and three types of culverts and a bridge option were considered. It was estimated that it would cost $1.2 million to replace the existing culvert with one that would be expanded and lengthened under the new roadway. The DFO's habitat compensation requiring land purchase in south Surrey for the bigger culvert was then given a price tag of a cool $1 million. With these costs considered together, the bridge option that was the most expensive proposition became economically feasible. Instead of a bigger culvert that would require a land purchase elsewhere, a $2.4 million six lane concrete bridge over Anderson Creek will now be part of the KGB widening project. It will be 30 m. wide and only 8 m. in length, leaving room underneath not only for water flow but for a wildlife corridor. The six lane deck is designed to handle future LRT trains down the middle and possibly dedicated bike lanes on either side. The total cost for the KGB widening including the Anderson Creek bridge will be approximately $8 million (a third of this money from Translink) with construction scheduled for March to October of next year.

There is one small problem with all of the plans being made to widen the KGB south of Crescent Road including the proposed six lane bridge over Anderson Creek. Mr. Newan informed me that the long awaited replacment of the "temporary" bailey bridge over the Nicomekl River has quietly been shelved by the provincial Liberal government. This relic that dates back to the late 1970's was installed to help with traffic flow at the time until a more permanent bridge could be constructed. It currently leaves us with only one southbound lane and two northbound lanes, with the right hand bailey bridge lane that sounds and feels a lot like the old wooden roller coaster at Playland when you drive over it. If you are a passenger crossing the Nic northbound on the bailey, try closing your eyes and holding your hands up and see if this brings back memories of the PNE. Apparently the plans for a new Delta to Richmond bridge to replace the George Massey tunnel have stalled the Nicomekl bridge replacement due to lack of funding. While we will have a new four lane KGB and a six lane bridge over Anderson Creek, the old pinch point at the Nicomekl will remain for the foreseeable future. With the amount of traffic turning on Crescent Road, I hope I'm not the only one thinking it would have been wiser to replace the antiquated bailey bridge across the Nicomekyl River first before spending millions to cross a stream that I can easily step across.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



December 08, 2014

Pitfalls on the Promenade

Ever since the train disaster at Lac Megantic in Quebec on June 13, 2013 and the unfortunate death of 42 year-old jogger Anita Lewis on the BNSF tracks in White Rock a day later, Transport Canada has suddenly become much more involved in public safety with respect to railroads in Canada. While I endorse reasonable safety upgrades, any changes or repairs must be done without endangering the public. This was not the case earlier this year with the debacle at the West Beach boat launch where temporary gates were installed that swung open into the middle of the tracks (TNT - Gate Crasher, June 18, 2014). Under direction from Transport Canada and with the blessing of the BNSF Railway, the city of White Rock is currently having a fencing contractor install black wire chain link mesh onto the existing safety railings along the promenade from the pier to the west end of East Beach to help keep people off the tracks. Besides this work, the safety railings are being extended along the entire East Beach waterfront and then covered with the same black mesh fencing. While they work on this important safety project, simple steps need to be taken to keep people from the area under construction and that is presently not the case.

A friend of mine came over to our house for some Christmas cheer this weekend and he told me about the sad state of affairs along East Beach where the safety railings were being extended. To be honest, I hard a hard time believing what he told me he'd seen along this busy waterfront walkway. I went down to the promenade on Sunday afternoon and was shocked to see the dangers that this project was exposing people to as they walked by on the promenade. The black chain link fencing had been attached to the existing safety railing from the pier down to the Totem Plaza where the old railings formerly ended. From this point eastward, crews had been working digging holes and dropping off five foot long metal poles to be cemented in as posts for the new railing. Approximately every eight feet, a one foot wide by two foot deep hole had dug directly adjacent to the promenade's brick pavers. Lying on the ground next to this long line of holes were the many metal posts left lying on the ground. While most construction sites next to busy sidewalks use temporary metal fencing to protect people and keep them away from hazards, there were only a couple pieces of it in use near the end of the railing and by one of the pedestrian crossings.

Instead of safety fencing there were a few tall orange traffic dividers along the promenade with some yellow caution tape several feet off the ground but this was only for a short distance. From that point, a long strand of red "Danger Do Not Enter" tape had simply been run along the ground next to the deep holes and the steel pipes. To make matters worse, the tape had been folded in half, reducing its visibility and making reading the warning virtually impossible. There were plenty of people out for a walk on the promenade this weekend with some stepping only inches away from these unprotected holes. Add young children running around, elderly people walking with canes, joggers stepping around people, not to mention everyone texting or looking at cell phone screens and you had a recipe for disaster. The holes were deep and wide enough to allow a leg to go in right up to the knee, making it likely that a twisted ankle, damaged knee or possibly broken leg bone would be likely. The black metal poles were not only a tripping hazard but great weapons just waiting to be picked up or possibly thrown onto the tracks. Rocks and chunks of concrete dug up from the post hoes littered the site along with piles of dirt, ensuring that anyone who ventured off the well beaten promenade path was stepping into a virtual mine field.

There is a right way and a wrong way to protect the public from these dangers and apparently Rite-Way Fencing Inc. who won this $47,785 contract feels they don't need to properly secure their work site. With the weekend approaching, workers should have focused on completing sections of fencing so as to not leave open pits alongside of a busy pedestrian walkway. The metal pipes that will become the railing posts should not have been dropped off and left on the ground alongside the promenade. At the bare minimum, proper orange traffic delineators with yellow caution tape attached to them should have lined the edge of the entire construction site. A more appropriate safety measure would have been to install temporary portable fencing that you see being used at construction sites throughout the city to separate pedestrians from possible hazards while the work is in progress. Instead much of this East Beach job site was left unprotected with the public at risk because of a complete lack of common sense or thought about safety. Considering that this job is being done as a safety project to keep people off the train tracks, there should be a high standard of safety conduct while the railings are being installed. It is surprising that no one from White Rock city hall, their engineering department or the BNSF Railway noted the glaring safety problems associated with this work.

With plenty of more safety railings to be installed this week, lets hope that someone grabs the bull by the horns and ensures that no one is hurt by the many dangers only inches from the promenade along East Beach. Besides posting this TNT to the White Rock Sun, I'll ensure that I send a link to the mayor and council of White Rock, spokesperson Gus Melonas from BNSF Railway, executives from Transport Canada, job site inspectors at WorkSafe and the local office of Rite-Way Fencing. I'm sure the members of the local railway safety group SmartRail will also not be impressed to learn how once again that a rail safety project in White Rock has gone off the rails. It's bad enough having a busy industrial railway along the main marine recreational site for a million Fraser Valley residents but creating hazards alongside a public walkway that is used by thousands of people a day is totally unacceptable in this day and age. Hopefully the next time a safety project proceeds along the BNSF tracks or the promenade, someone will be given the responsibility of ensuring job site safety and checking for obvious hazards. Public safety is everyone's job and if you notice a dangerous situation such as currently exists on the promenade, make sure you take the time to report it to the proper authorities so that it can be addressed before somebody gets hurt.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



December 01, 2014

Anniversary of Terror

Robert Pitcairn


Last Saturday, November 29th, was the fortieth anniversary of a rather notable event both in Canadian aviation history and the flight career of my father Robert (Bob) Pitcairn. While he is best known for being one of the finest target rifle shots this country has ever produced, it was an incident in Saskatoon back in 1974 that is still producing newspaper headlines across Canada this weekend. That is what happens when you are the pilot of plane that is involved in an attempted hijacking involving a knife wielding attacker. I remember the day vividly, coming home for lunch from elementary school to meet my rather upset mother Kay who was just getting off the phone. She looked at me with reddened moist eyes and said in a rather unsteady voice, "You'll never believe what happened to your Dad today?" My simple response was, "What", wondering what he'd done to make her so upset. "He was hijacked" she informed me, her lip trembling a little as she gave me the news. It's funny looking back into the mind of a twelve year-old when I answered, "Oh neat", thinking about the great story I would have to tell my grade seven friends when I went back to school. That night after my dad had finally gotten home, we watched TV footage on CBC of him walking a wounded stewardess across the tarmac away from the plane. The next morning the story was front page news across Canada including the Vancouver Sun newspaper since a senior member of the Canadian Press was on board to witness the entire incident as it unfolded.

After earning his wings and spending ten years flying a dozen different propeller and jet powered planes for the Royal Canadian Air Force, Bob and my Mom Kay moved west from the Prairies in 1966, settling in Richmond where he started working for CP Air. Starting off as a First Officer flying the DC-6 passenger plane, he moved up to the DC-8 as a 2nd Officer before being promoted to 1st Officer. From there he became a Captain on the workhorse DC-3 doing new pilot assessments for the company before moving onto the Boeing 737 passenger jet in the fall of 1973. On Nov. 29, 1974 Bob was piloting CP Air Flight 71 from Montreal with scheduled stops in Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and then Vancouver. The flight left Winnipeg with a new passenger, Turkish born Naim Djemal seated in the back row who had paid cash for his one-way ticket. Looking nervous and upset, he quickly caught the attention of stewardesses Lori Quartz and Lena Madsen, especially when he begins making frequent short visits to the nearby washroom. Purser Gayle Fortt and even Captain Pitcairn both take time to visit the rear of the plane to inspect the troubled man with the dark staring eyes. It was hoped that the rum and coke he ordered plus meal service would help him to settle down and enjoy the flight. Unfortunately this would not be the case as the plane flew along at cruising altitude above Yorkton, Saskatchewan.

With the seat trays all down for meal service keeping fellow passengers restrained Djemal makes his move, picking up a stainless steel CP Air cutlery knife from his plate. Stepping into the rear galley he grabs 21 year-old Madsen from behind as she is making coffee, stabbing repeatedly at the side of her neck. Her blood curdling screams bring Lori Quartz running back from mid-cabin where she grabs him by the shoulder before seeing the knife in his hands and backing away for her own safety while yelling at him to stop his attack. "Cyprus, go to Cyprus" Djemal keeps shouting while jabbing the knife into Madsen's face over and over as she tries to fend off the blows. It turns out that two of Djemal's Muslim friends had recently been killed in Cyprus during the Turkish invasion and he wants to go there to avenge their deaths, repeating "they killed my friends" over and over. Depression about their deaths coupled with insomnia, self-starvation and overuse of sleeping pills is likely behind Djemal's violent attempt to get to Cyprus by whatever means necessary. Purser Fortt checks out the surreal scene of Madsen covered in blood and the knife in Djemal's hand and quickly makes her way to the cockpit to alert the pilots to the emergency in the back galley. Having recently taken a two-day course on what to do in the case of air piracy, Captain Pitcairn walks calmly past the 80 passengers to confront the hijacker, leaving his First Officer to fly the plane.

Keeping his distance from the highly agitated man, Pitcairn speaks to Djemal in a calm and steady tone, explaining that the small 737 airplane could not fly all the way to Cyprus without refueling so they would need to land in nearby Saskatoon to fill the tanks before carrying on. In actual fact, the 737 does not have the capacity to fly intercontinental routes even with max fuel aboard. After some convincing Djemal eventually agrees to the plan and the Captain returns to the cockpit, alerting air traffic control by radio to contact the RCMP and telling passengers on the intercom to prepare for an unscheduled landing. On the descent into Saskatoon, the hijacker pins his knee to Madsen's chest and holds the knife to her throat while hitting her several more times. With the ground approaching, Djemal suddenly regains his senses and rather strangely offers to give up his weapon to the wounded Madsen who is too battered to respond. Upon landing at the Saskatoon airport, stewardess Quartz asks Djemal, "What do you want us to do?" and is stunned by his reply of, "Get the police." Going back to the galley, Captain Pitcairn is surprised to learn that Djemal has given up, indicating he wants to surrender while handing over the bloody knife whose blade is now twisted at a 30 degree angle. The First Officer, Forrt and Quartz work quickly to remove the other passengers as quickly as possible from the plane for their protection.

Naim Djemal is lead off the plane by Captain Pitcairn and escorted across the tarmac to the terminal building on a bright sunny day. Near the terminal is a baggage tractor with three men sitting on it wearing white coveralls with Air Canada badges. It turns out they are not baggage handlers but RCMP officers in disguise who jump Djemal and arrest him. Lena Madsen is taken to a local hospital where her facial wounds are stiched up and several hours later after the plane has been cleared for bombs, Pitcairn takes to the skies to finish the rest of the flight, this time with Madsen as a passenger. Following two other airplane hijackings over Canada in 1971 including one that was diverted to Cuba, air piracy became an offense, one that would eventually see Mr. Djemal receive a 14 year sentence of which he served 8.5 years in a federal penitentiary. The flight would be Mrs. Madsen's last as she was too traumatized by the assault to continue working for the airlines. My dad's career continued with him flying the 737 until 1988 where he transferred to the Boeing 767, DC 10 and finally the 747 Jumbo to end his commercial flying career 16 years ago in 1998. Our family even had the privilege of going with him on his last flight into Hong Kong before he retired. My buddies in school thought this story was pretty cool at the time and forty years later I hope this TNT still hits a nerve even in the post 9-11 era.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Editors Note: Click here for a link to the story in the National Post.




November 24, 2014

Things are Hopping at the Pad

As much as I love music, there is nothing that takes the place of hearing and seeing it performed live. In my younger years before the age of computers, if you wanted to get front row seats for a concert you simply lined up overnight at the old Concert Box Office on Richards Street in Vancouver. The very first time I did this I got great floor seats to go see Foreigner at the Pacific Coliseum who were touring on the strength of their "Foreigner 4" album. Hooked on seeing such a great band up close and personal, not to mention getting a great view courtesy of my 6' 6" tall frame, I spent many a Friday night after that with a lawn chair and sleeping bag parked in front of the CBO doors to get the coveted front row centre tickets. I've had the pleasure of watching AC/DC, Aerosmith, Van Halen, the Kinks, Queen, the Police, Pink Floyd, the Who, the Rolling Stones and many more holding on for dear life to the barricade at the front of the stage. When ticket sales switched to call centres and online, I practically fell into a part-time job hawking souvenirs at BC Place which allowed me to not only see every concert that went on there for a five year span, but to make great money selling t-shirts. By far, the best shows I've ever witnessed were always great bands in small rooms, including Stevie Ran Vaughn several times at the Commodore and the Tragically Hip in a Gastown bar that held no more than 200 people.

This weekend was a show for the ages with the Lower Mainland's long-running local band 54-40 taking the stage at the Blue Frog Studios on 1328 Johnson St. in White Rock. In case you have never been to the Blue Frog, it is a beautifully laid out recording studio with tall ceilings and wonderful acoustics. It's rather hard to miss with the large colourful mural on the north exterior wall featuring a beach scene with a leaping blue frog painted by local artist Elizabeth Hollick. The thirty-five foot wide stage inside will accommodate up to an 80 piece orchestra with floor seating for 100 audience members. Besides serving the music industry, Blue Frog has expanded their business allowing people to book private events for everything from business meetings and seminars, movie shoots and music videos, art showings and other special events. Run by Kelly Breaks and Juanita Moffat, the Blue Frog is making a name for itself as the premier venue in the Semiahmoo peninsula for seeing live bands due to its great sound, beautiful setting and cozy confines that ensure there is not a bad seat in the room. Their website is which has plenty of information about upcoming shows that you might want to check out or gift cards to give for Christmas presents. With White Rock Sun editor and councilor elect Dave Chesney emceeing the Friday, Saturday and Sunday night shows, I managed to snag a couple of hard to find tickets. Trust the "Music Man" to be there for the band who performs a wicked bluesy song of that very same name.

What made this trifecta of shows so amazing was that 54-40 was at the Blue Frog to record tracks for a live unplugged CD and an accompanying music video with 16 different digital cameras filming the action. Originally formed back in 1981 in nearby Tsawwassen, the band takes their name from the political slogan "Fifty-four forty or fight!" that came from a U.S./Canada boundary dispute in 1844 which eventually lead to the 49th parallel being used as the border. Over the years from their humble beginnings as part of the 1980's post-punk scene in Vancouver, 54-50 has released a total of 16 albums with one going gold and three others hitting the platinum level for sales in Canada. Their extensive song list includes such hits as "I Go Blind", "Lies to Me", "love You All", "One Day in Your life", "She La", "Since When" and "Ocean Pearl" that you will likely know from radio air time. Originally formed as a trio, founding members Neil Osborne (vocals, guitar) and Brad Merritt (bass) have been joined by Matt Johnson (drums) and newest member Dave Genn (guitar, keyboards, vocals). The shows at the Blue Frog were a bit of a homecoming for the Juno Award winning Genn as he graduated from none other than Semiahmoo Secondary while living in Crescent Beach with his famous landscape painter artist father Robert Genn who passed away earlier this year.

The Friday night show started with an explanation about the rules for the evening's performance so as not to interfere with the filming or audio recording. After that the band took the stage with a decidedly different look and sound with acoustic only instruments. Matt Johnson's usual drum kit had been pared down to a glorified bongo drum set and a small bass that he played standing up through the entire set. While I knew that Dave Genn was an excellent guitarist from his time with the Matthew Good Band, when he took to the Yamaha baby grand piano it turned an unplugged night absolutely electric. To help fill out the sound, multi-talented Daniel Lapp joined the group playing violin, sax, alto sax, trumpet, banjo, xylophone plus a couple of other odd-looking instruments that I'd never seen before. Three female back up singers were on stage, adding their voices similar to how they were used for the "Heavy Mellow" double live album that is one of my 54-40 favorites. It was obvious that the band had done lots of practicing before the sessions as their performance was polished and musically superb. Every song ended with strong applause from the small crowd along with plenty of whistling before settling down for the next in the set list. The show featured the shortest intermission ever, with the musicians leaving the stage for the cameras and then immediately returning to continue with more filming and recording. Besides their usual hits that have made 54-40 music icons here in Canada, they also played a couple of new songs including the very well received "Walk Thru Hell." While not set in stone, Neil Osbourne revealed a title being considered for the new unplugged album is, "Playing With Numbers."

As much as I enjoyed Friday's show, I wish I was in Mr. Chesney's shoes and got to see all three nights of the performances by 54-40 this weekend. That being said, I felt blessed to have been a part of yet another historic gig at the Blue Frog. Needless to say, when the unplugged CD is released I'll add it to my collection or download it to my phone to enjoy on the go. I've now subscribed to the Blue Frog's email listing where they promise you'll, "be the first to know" about upcoming concerts that often sell out instantly. Of course the WR Sun always carries alerts plus listings in the weekly "Night Owl" entertainment guide that has become an essential tool for navigating the live music scene here in the Semi-pen. If you live in this wonderful corner of the world there are some rather unique shows that should not be missed, especially in such personal settings such as the Blue Frog Studios. The White Rock Blues Society ( website is also a treasure trove of great concerts including many held in the Rhumba Room of the Pacific Inn Hotel (aka the Pink Palace). The legendary Powder Blues band will be there for New Years and I'm thinking they're right when they say, "Its everything, just to hear that guitar ring."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



November 17, 2014

Crushed by Slate


"I'm crushing your head."
"I'm crushing your head."
"Like putty in my hands."
Mr. Tyzik, aka the "head crusher" played by Mark McKinney, Kids in the Hall Comedy Troupe


You have to wonder how the pollsters got it so wrong yet again. Heading into the civic election, the race for mayor of Surrey was said to be "too close to call" with Linda Hepner (Surrey First) and Doug McCallum (Safe Surrey) tied at 33 percent with Barinder Rasode (One Surrey) close behind at 30 percent. I was actually looking forward to some political drama and intrigue when the polls closed and returns began to be posted, hanging out at the Central City Plaza between the Surrey First and One Surrey camps on election night. Almost instantly Linda Hepner took a commanding lead and never looked back with the party starting early at the Central City Brew Pub. Over at the SFU auditorium, the assembled One Surrey faithful stood around in disbelief looking at their smartphones for the latest election numbers. When the final results were in it was a Surrey First slaughter, with Hepner taking 48% of the public vote for the mayor's chair. Even more astounding, her 50,782 votes were nearly double that of her closest rival Doug McCallum at 27,982. If you added McCallum's votes and third place Barinder Rasode's at 21,764 together, they still fall more than 1,000 votes short of what Hepner received.

There will once again be no opposition on Surrey Council with Surrey First completing the sweep for their slate members with all the incumbents and a couple of new faces joining council. The same Surrey First slate sweep also occurred with them taking every school board trustee positions. A review of the results shows a dramatic difference in the number of votes going to Surrey First candidates than all of the other candidates. Quite simply, if you were not running under the Surrey First banner, you were wasting both time and money as they steamrolled the competition. While Surrey First champions itself as a coalition of independents, the way that Barinder Rasode was shuffled to the wings and removed as chair of the Police Committee should serve as a warning to anyone thinking of breaking ranks with Surrey First doctrine. If lucky enough to be asked to join the hand-picked Surrey First slate, you'd better be a team player and toe the party line or else you will find yourself ostracized and out of a job at the next election that is now four years away. How this will affect decisions at city hall and democracy in the city of Surrey remains to be seen.

I'm now questioning what it will take for the Surrey First machine to ever grind to a halt. Crime and public safety were supposed to be the most important issues in this campaign, so much so that McCallum even named his party "Safe Surrey." After 2013 with a new record for the number of homicides (25) ending with the death of Julie Pascall in Newton, I would have thought there were would have been a public backlash against Surrey First's dropping of the ball with ignoring the steadily increasing levels of violent crime and the low levels of charges being laid by the overworked RCMP. In an Insights West poll before the election, half of Surrey residents believed that criminal activity in the city had increased, 53 percent feared becoming a victim of crime and 48 percent of Surrey residents felt unsafe walking alone in their own neighbourhood after dark. While both Rasode and McCallum had comprehensive public safety plans, voters chose to stick with the party that helped to create the unofficial "Better Safe Than Surrey" motto. While Dianne Watts is moving on, it appears that Surrey still has a love-in with her party that does not appear to be ending anytime soon regardless of the crime rate in this city.

While most of the election coverage was centred on the non-existent battle in Surrey, the really interesting results were to be found in nearby White Rock. To no one's surprise, Wayne Baldwin retained his position as mayor, garnering nearly double the votes of his only rival David Bradshaw. The White Rock Coalition slate started to show a few cracks though as they did not generate the clean sweep that Surrey First enjoyed. Common sense independent councilor Helen Fathers who has developed quite a loyal following in the past few years came out atop of the heap receiving 2457 votes to lead all those running for council. The next four spots went to WR Coalition members Grant Meyer, Lynne Sinclair (returning to council after a failed mayoralty attempt last election), newcomer Megan Knight and Bill Lawrence. The real eye-raiser of the evening had to be the election of WR Sun editor Dave Chesney to council after previously running in three civic elections and two by-elections, finishing just out of power on several occasions. The White Rock Coalition's two failed candidates were Doug Hart who finished eight and Cliff Annabell who was well down in eleventh place. Al Campbell's association with Imperial Paving may have paved his departure from politics as he finished tenth, one spot behind feisty former councilor Margaret Woods who was ninth.

This week will be a busy one for everyone involved in the elections, cleaning out temporary offices, collecting signs from boulevards across the city and getting out of election mode. Newly elected councilors will have to make room in busy schedules for their new jobs and the many demands that go with their position. A big thank you to all of those people who decided to throw their hat in the ring in both Surrey and White Rock to be part of the democratic process. Ditto for residents who took the time to research the candidates, their backgrounds and positions before making an educated decision and their mark in the ballot box. A special thanks to Dave Chesney for putting his head on the chopping block six times before finally being elected to White Rock Council. I'd like to think that Canada's first on-line newspaper, the White Rock Sun, had a lot to do with Dave finally getting elected and I trust he will show the same passion for his job at City Hall that he does in producing this wonderful community forum. The next civic election is now four years away but you can expect the upcoming federal election next year to be entertaining with now ex-mayor Dianne Watts coming to town to represent the Conservative Party. For those who expect a cake walk, remember there are still plenty of unanswered questions about her late-night car crash in south Surrey in April of 2010 and the civil case that followed which was quietly settled out of court earlier this year.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



November 10, 2014

Coal Trains Kill


I'm usually not the one to say atodaso, but you know what? "Atodaso, a fricking atodaso"
Quote from Ricky (Rob Wells), Trailer Park Boys


I'm not a clairvoyant or related to the Amazing Kreskin but apparently I can see into the future using a mixture of common sense and knowledge of Murphy`s Law. My June 30 TNT titled "Coal Train Traffic Cut in Half" (scroll down to read) revealed how the BNSF Railway had made plans to divert empty coal trains away from the Semiahmoo peninsula through downtown Abbotsford on route to the Sumas border crossing. This was done to give American track crews more time to work on rail and bridge improvements near Burlington in Washington State. At that time I gave the following warning about the obvious danger associated with this idea: "Because of the low train traffic in Abby, many of the level crossings do not have flashing lights or drop bars with vehicle traffic being halted only by a stop sign. While (BNSF spokesperson) Mr. Melonas is on record saying that 'safety is the number one priority' it might have been a good idea to upgrade the crossings before letting long coal trains pass through the city." The train diversion was supposed to have ended by now but it has since been extended until the end of November with Fall's inclement weather and longer hours of darkness upon us.

Early last Saturday morning at 3 a.m., a Volkswagen Jetta crashed into the side of a southbound BNSF coal train in the 33000 block of Townshipline Road of Abbotsford during foggy conditions. A 36 year-old Abbotsford man died at the scene from critical injuries sustained in the collision. The force of the impact drove the end of one of the empty coal cars off the rails apparently without the train crew realizing that anything was wrong. It was then dragged from the accident site a further two miles through the city before hitting a rail switch that sent it further off the tracks. Subsequently several more coal cars derailed, setting off the emergency air brakes and alerting the crew to problems in the 125 car unit train. The derailed cars swung off the tracks knocking over a hydro pole that caused a power outage for 8,000 people. It took until later that day to clear the debris, repair the tracks and reconnect the electricity before everything was back to normal. The identity of the person killed or whether speed or alcohol was believed involved still has not been announced by Abbotsford police who continue to investigate.

In April this year, the City of White Rock sent a litter to Federal Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt, asking that dangerous goods be rerouted away from the City by the Sea through downtown Abbotsford and the Sumas crossing. They claimed that the densely populated seaside community was too hazardous to transport toxic chemicals through, going so far as to state that, "a dangerous goods derailment would be calamitous - making the Lac Megantic incident look inconsequential by comparison." Abbotsford councilor Henry Braun who was the former president of railroad contractor PNR RailWorks went on record as saying, "this would simply be shifting a problem to a different jurisdiction." Researching this story, I came across a media comment from Ken Wuschke who is currently running for Abbotsford council that shows I'm not the only one with foresight: "Ironically BNSF's right of way through White Rock is better in terms of avoiding serious accidents causing derailments. Other than a few pedestrian crossings, there are no road crossings in White Rock. As for Abbotsford, most likely BNSF would connect to the CPR line from Sumas to Matsqui Village. This route involves at least 16 level crossings greatly increasing the chance of a train hitting a car."

Since early July there have reportedly been 237 coal trains that crossed through Abbotsford without incident until this fatal crash. While saving time for repairs on their existing infrastructure, the BNSF Railway was taking a risk increasing rail traffic on a little used line where the level crossings were not protected by drop gates, bells and flashing lights. Those calling for dangerous goods to be rerouted along the same rail corridor need to consider the hazards involved. Thirty-four pedestrians have been hit on the White Rock tracks over the years with 19 fatalities, but these accidents do not threaten a derailment. Fortunately it was only empty coal cars involved in Saturday's crash but what if the unit trains consisting of 120 tanker cars of Bakken field crude oil that are now rolling through the Semi-Pen were also rerouted towards Sumas? This is the same highly flammable petrochemical in the thin walled DOT-111 tanker cars that incinerated Lac Megantic in July of 2013, killing 47 people and destroying the city centre of this quiet Quebec town. Even worse would be running tankers of inhalation hazardous gas like chlorine or anhydrous ammonia that are also shipped through White Rock on a frequent basis. Abbotsford may not have the population density of White Rock but it does have nearly double the number of residents that live in the Semiahmoo peninsula.

Landslides from the Ocean Park bluff or wave erosion of the track bed are the most likely cause of a derailment here but every route has its own challenges and hazards as this weekend's crash in Abbotsford has shown. Rerouting dangerous goods away from the waterfront BNSF tracks here may not necessarily mean they will be transported any safer in a new location. Exposing trains to multiple level crossings without proper warning signals or suddenly increasing freight traffic on little used rail lines greatly increases the likelihood of an accident, regardless of the BNSF Railways stated priority on safety. The nine overpasses that were built across Surrey and Langley as part of the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor cost over $300 million but improved rail and traffic flow plus safety. As long as dangerous goods are allowed to roll through White Rock or downtown Abbotsford, it will still be playing a game of what I call "railway roulette." Relocating the BNSF rail corridor away from the shores of Boundary Bay to a safer inland location will come with a very high price if it ever occurs. Until then, it is likely that dangerous goods are going to remain a part of White Rock and surely as late night train whistles.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



November 03, 2014

The Death of Halloween



Slowly but surely, I've seen signs that Halloween just isn't the holiday it used to be. Gradually over the past few years the number of kids coming to our door for free treats has decreased to the point that we considered not buying candy this year. As it turns out we bought some on sale last minute and actually did get to hand some out. At almost 8:30, the door range once (one on what we call the "ding-dong scale") with three young teens making off like tycoons with the haul from our place. I used to put up a Halloween display at the front door complete with black light, strobe light and carved pumpkins but realized there was no point if nobody was coming by to enjoy it.

When I was a kid, Halloween night was a busy time with kids flooding the neighbourhood going from house to house in droves. Believe it or not, the four best treats to receive were candied apples, carmel apples, carmel popcorn balls and rice crispy squares, all that were home made. While the parents took the young tykes around, those old enough to fend for themselves were left to wander the streets into the night. Fireworks filled the night skies from many front yard fireworks displays or even community ones where several families on one street would pool their resources to buy a veritable arsenal of pyrotechnics. The ever present crackle of firecrackers, bottle rockets, and improvised ordinance echoed and resonated like in a war zone with the lingering smell of gun powder wafting in thick clouds that drifted hauntingly through the trees. By morning the streets would be littered with firework remnants and pumpkins that had been swiped and either smashed in the road or blown up with pounded down Screecheroos.

All of this fun did come with a risk and a price. Both myself and my sister had a pocket full of firecrackers go off unexpectedly, burning holes in our clothes fortunately without injury to ourselves. Messing with altering fireworks to get more bang for our buck, my friends and me had near misses that involved too short or too fast of fuses, devices detonating way to close for comfort, getting blast damage on fingers and minor shrapnel wounds. We had Roman Candle fights, shooting burning magnesium stars at each other, bounding them off our jean jackets and laughing when one burned a hole in a friends down jacket leaving him trailing feathers. On a particularly dry fall, sparks from a firework accidentally started a bush on fire and I have seen entire hedges burnt in this way. It was because of the dangers associated with this type of use and the horrific injuries to young people that many fireworks were banned, put under strict control or instead left to professionals. Surrey banned the sale of fireworks in the city in 2007 except for professionals and those with a proper permit even though it is hard to believe during Diwali celebrations and to a lesser extend on Halloween in many neighbourhoods.

Over the years there started to be too many stories about candy being stuck with pins and pieces of razor blades or tained with drugs and poison. This ended the opportunity of finding the few houses that were giving out the homemade treats that we found way more appealing than the simple store bought candy. I have to admit, one year while living in Crescent Park I made and gave away a full fox of candied apples, being able to do so only by writing our name and house address on the popsicle stick. Nowadays the police still warn parents to inspect the candy for tampering before the kids get to eat it. Marijuana infused candy legally produced in both Colorado and Washington state are also on the radar for possible treats given as a trick. I'd like to think that movies like Halloween and its many sequels have frightened some from letting their kids go enjoy the holiday but it is likely that real monsters like Clifford Olsen and his like including those responsible for the Michael Dunahee disappearance are more to blame. Now parents instead go to the mall where it is dry and warm, getting treats from the retail businesses. There are also Halloween themed parties for groups of small children where they can play and enjoy themselves safety in a secure environment. Considering the dangers we encountered and troubles we caused when we were kids, this probably isn't that bad of an idea.

Halloween has now become big business with people across North America dropping an estimated one billion dollars on everything from candy to costumes. Frightening and often bloody displays now cover people's front lawns with zombie hands rising from the ground under gravestones to life-like bodies hanging from a gallows noose out of a nearby tree. Instead of waiting until Oct. 31st to install these gorenaments (you heard it first here), people often put them out a month early, turning a one day event into a twisted fall festival. While the kids are becoming less involved, Halloween is turning into an adult party with adult themed costumes. While movie monsters and creatures such as the Wolfman, Dracula and Frankenstein used to be hot, now it is the one time a year you can dress ultra sexy without being concerned about social implications. I must admit I'm guilty of this having gone to a Halloween bash at the Star of the Sea in White Rock dressed as a Hall of Flame calendar fire fighter (no shirt, suspenders and baby oil) accompanied by two very revealing Catholic school girls in uniform who were both in their 30's. The most interesting costume I've ever seen had to be the young lady dressed in a nun's habit, with her top consisting of the white fabric apron and black body paint. I can't help thinking she's going to hell for that but its warm and she'll probably know people.

Time will tell what Halloween will morph into but I welcome the reduction in fireworks even though I love them so much. The possibility of serious injury and the many fires they have caused over the years is what got them banned in the first place. I know our dog doesn't mind less Sonic Booms going off near the house as she would normally be a drooling panting wreck from all the explosions this time of year. With the record number of shootings and murders in Surrey over the past few years, hearing loud noises usually get people on edge thinking it might be gun fire, which adds to the community fear and stress level. Changing demographics and ethnicities should further erode Halloween's importance while concerns over healthy eating and the intake of sugars will make some parents question the availability of bowls full of free candy. Expect business to further commercialize on the Mardi Gras atmosphere by promoting Halloween parties and extending them into a week long celebration. In case you missed it, The Sandpiper Pub in White Rock took out a whole page ad in a local newspaper this weekend promoting nightly Halloween events and even inviting people to bring minors in with them subject to daily time limitations.

I just hope they weren't giving out liquor filled chocolates to the children.

Since this TNT falls on Nov. 3 and because I know she reads it every Monday morning, Happy Birthday LA

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

EDITOR - The Huffington Post in a recent article summed up perfectly the difference between Halloween today and the one we remember from our childhoods in the 50's,60's and 70's.

(read it here)




October 27, 2014

Stop Signs


It was getting ridiculous before but now its approaching the level of insanity. With Surrey's civic election upcoming on Nov. 15, election signs have appeared en mass throughout the city at levels that are becoming dangerous. Years ago people would flaunt their political ideology and preferences by placing small signs for the party or person they favored on their front lawn. Now the small signs are rarely seen, if they are even available, with large boulevard signs being paid for by wealthy individuals or corporate donors being all the rage. At the last election, the first 4'x8' signs appeared with Dianne Watt's developer friendly Surrey First slate planting one of these monster signs at every major intersection across town. Up until then a half sheet of coreplast measuring 4'x4' was the largest signage that you would encounter. Three years later and now the three most likely mayoralty hopefuls, Linda Hepner, Doug MacCallum and Barinder Rasode (in alphabetical order) and their respective teams of councillors all utilize the full size signage with some even being placed side by side, creating a 4' tall by 16' long monstrosity. The way things are going, a dozen years from now you'll be able to watch a drive-in movie on the backs of these ever growing election signs.

In Surrey there are 7 people running for mayor (quick, name them all off the top of your head), 23 running for the position of School Trustee with 6 to be elected and 36 running for the 8 councillor seats. While it is doubtful that each and every candidate could bankroll the outlandish display of full colour printed coreplast that we are seeing almost every block, imagine if even half of those running for office put out 100 signs apiece (math is 3,300). As it is, the election signs that have been erected are blocking sight lines, creating a visual distraction at a time when distracted driving is already a problem, plus blocking driver's vision at corners and crosswalks. Previously we have been witness to the fine art of carpet bombing, where hundreds of small signs are placed one after another along road sides in an attempt to squeeze out rivals. Now this technique is being attempted with large 4' x 8' signs that are seemingly placed every block, rather than just the main intersections as before. In south Surrey, it looks like Linda Hepner's Surrey First team drove through town with a semi-truck full of signs, dropping them on both sides of the major arteries at spaced intervals. I've been informed by one of the candidates that 50 Surrey firefighters helped install them over a four day period. If you find this unsettling, imagine if 100 RCMP officers from the Surrey detachment threw their weight behind one of the pro-safety candidates? I'm not in support of those on the public payroll working as a team for their candidate of choice, especially when the politicians sign their contracts.

It is interesting to note that while Surrey puts almost no control over election signage, even then city bylaws are being ignored. Surrey First jumped the gun and began putting out their signs days before the 30 day period ahead of the election. Large signs are also banned from city street boulevards, yet if you travel on King George Blvd near Hwy. 10 you will see many of the full sized coreplast signs for Surrey First, Safe Surrey and half-sized ones for Team Surrey. In ever trendy Whistler, the eleven candidates vying for council have all agreed to not post any election signage because of its environmental footprint, amount of waste, cost and the hassel involved in erecting, maintaining and disposing of these signs. Vandalism is also an issue which has reared its ugly head here in Surrey involving racism with several Indo-Canadian's having their names spray painted out in black from their party's signs across north Surrey during a one night rampage. Surrey First defector Barinder Rasode has seen a targeted campaign against her election signs with derogatory statements spray painted on them nightly across the region (I won't repeat them here). Because the messages are the same or similar, but painted in various colours and different handwriting, dirty tricks are suspected. It appears this is the work of many people working in a concerted effort in the middle of the night to corrupt the election. If this vandalism can be traced to one of the other electoral teams, they should be kept from power because if they endorse this kind of criminal behaviour, one can only imagine what they would do if given the keys to city hall.

The strong fall windstorm last Tuesday night exposed a weakness in the rush to erect all of the new 4' x 8' signage on streets across city. The frames and supports were not strengthened to support the doubling in surface area and with 100 kmh winds, almost all of the large signs were blown apart or twisted like pretzels. This has since exposed another major flaw with allowing unlimited large signage. When the winds were at their height, pieces of plastic coreplast went flying through the air, sometimes with 2x3's or 2x4's attached. I know of a lady who swerved her car and almost lost control on the rain soaked streets when one blew into her window near the corner of 24 Ave. and the KGB. The broken and pulled apart frames are now laying on the ground on sidewalks, at the road edge or in tall grass. There are countless sharp screws and multiple nail heads sticking out from the ends of almost every piece of lumber. These pose a hazard to drivers and their vehicle tires along with being a serious threat to anyone who might inadvertently step on them. I hate to say it but a chunk of 2x4 with a bunch of nails poking out of the end makes a rather vicious weapon on the streets of Surrey. Should all this garbage not be located or recovered, it will also play havoc with the lawn mowing equipment that maintains the boulevards and sides of the road. The remnants of hurricane Ana is predicted to hit the coast here on Monday or Tuesday with heavy rains and high winds. Any of these big signs still standing or already repaired are likely to be destroyed if the forecast is correct leading to more dangerous debris.

Having run for office in South Surrey/White Rock and personally installed and maintained election signs, I would love to see them banned for many reason. First they are an eyesore and a terrrible waste of resources as not many candidates recycle them for future campaigns as I have done. Secondly they allow well funded slates to run roughshod over independent candidates, meaning that their chances of becoming elected are slim to none as they simply get overspent and overwhelmed. Dianne Watt's Surrey First spent $662,000 the last election with $42,300 on signage and printing for example.

After having to repair or replace over 50 signs because of the targeted vandalism spree against her, Barinder Rasode is now in favour of banning election signs in Surrey, except for the small lawn signs on private property and space on electronic signs available to all candidates. I believe the city should be advertising for people to get informed and vote in the upcoming election on Nov. 15, drawing residents to the candidate's personal profiles posted on the website. Having the candidate's political affiliations listed there would be helpful as this is currently missing for reasons unknown. If you want to vote for a team, wipe the slate clean or go for an independent, this vital information needs to be shown for all Surrey constituents to see.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



October 21, 2013

Poor Engineering & Bad Government Kills People

It's too bad that I was away last weekend shooting 1,000 yard target rifle in 45 mph winds at the dreaded Rattlesnake range in Kennewick, Washington. If I'd been home I would have heard the bad news earlier and got this story off my chest instead of sitting on it all week burning my ass like an itchy hemorrhoid. In case you missed it, last Monday turning heavy fall rains there were five people killed in local traffic accidents, including two who were involved in a five car crash on the Hwy. 10 hill between Hwy. 91 and 120 St. in North Delta. They were 17 year-old high school sweethearts Chantal MacLean and Cody Kehler from Surrey who were on their way to a Thanksgiving dinner with family when they lost control, crossed the centre line and were broad sided by an oncoming vehicle, killing both of them instantly.

The sad thing is that these tragic deaths should have never happened and the BC Liberal Government's lack of action is to blame. After a previous head-on crash at the Hwy. 10 hill two years ago on July 25, 2012 involving three vehicles that injured three people with two hurt seriously, I alerted the BC Minister of Transportation (then Blair Lekstrom) to the well known hazards of this stretch of Hwy 10 and the need for concrete median barriers to stop these dangerous spin-out crashes on this long curved hill. These should have been installed when the Alex Fraser bridge first opened way back in 1986 resulting in instantly increased traffic flow. Delta and Surrey councils were also forwarded this safety information along with local MLA's to ensure they were aware of the problem and the risks involved. Fortunately I archive letters to government and below is the context of the e-mail sent to Min. Lekstrom at the end of July in 2012 with its rather chilling final line that I have underlined for emphasis:

"Highway 10 in North Delta between Hwy. 91 and 120 St. (Scott Rd.) snakes up a steep hill with a sharp curve. There are no concrete barriers in this location to keep oncoming traffic separated, even though this is a major commuter route with heavy commercial truck traffic and high rates of speed. By comparison, the nearby Nordel Way hill in North Delta has large concrete barriers separating the two lanes in what is essentially the identical layout.

Unfortunately last Wednesday, July 25 at 7:20, a vehicle reportedly travelling eastbound on Hwy. 10 crossed the centre line in the 11900 block and struck a westbound vehicle head-on, also involving a third vehicle. This crash resulted in three people being taken to hospital, two of them with serious injuries. The highway was closed in both directions to all traffic for six hours before the eastbound lanes reopened, followed even later by the westbound lanes. Needless to say, this snarled traffic throughout the region for most of the day including much of the morning and afternoon commutes.

This major transportation route linking Delta and Surrey needs to be upgraded before more accidents like this one are allowed to happen. With the current traffic flow, vehicles in the left turn lane headed north onto 120 St. often back up far down the #10 hill, with other vehicles changing lanes on the hillside at the sharp curve. Whether this had any role in this accident that is still under investigation by Delta police remains to be seen. Regardless, heavy concrete barriers need to be installed along the middle of the roadway that is currently protected only by a solid double yellow line painted on the pavement.

I would appreciate you directing Ministry staff to look at this potentially deadly problem and decide if traffic flow and vehicle speed on this main arterial road justify the installation of these life-saving barriers. The possibility of a crash at this location like what happened last week has been on my radar for some time and I wish I had brought it to your attention before this serious accident. Hopefully steps will now be taken to protect the safety of the travelling public and ensure that this type of head-on collision never happens again at this dangerous corner."

Rather surprisingly, I received a reply back from the Minister only 15 days after sending my e-mail to their offices, likely because I was the Green Party of BC Transportation Critic. Here is the lightly edited version with the important details of that correspondence:


Dear Don;

Thank you for your e-mail of July 30, 2012, recommending median barriers for Highway 10 in North Delta. I shared your observations about this highway with ministry staff, and I understand local Operations Manager Ashok Bhatti contacted you to discuss your recommendation in detail. I hope you were pleased to learn that we are currently reviewing options and determining costs for adding concrete median barriers on this section of Highway 10 between the Highway 91 Interchange and Scott Road. The review will take into account engineering considerations such as sight lines and highway width and is expected to be completed in a few months. I have asked Mr. Bhatti to follow up with you to discuss our findings.

Sincerely, Blair Lekstrom, Minister.


You need to realize that I have a bit of history with number 10 Hwy. Years ago a family friend was seriously injured at the intersection of Scott Road and Hwy. 10 and we drove by the horrific crash scene that included his vehicle so badly mangled that we did not recognize it, especially with all four wheels snapped off. He never fully recovered and died from complications within a year of the crash. That same corner was also the site for an accident involving several students from my school that resulted in the death of a childhood friend and the serious injury of two other young men including one that suffered a life altering brain trauma. Only two miles away, three other chums all lost their lives at 136 St. when they missed a stop sign and drove in front of a full loaded semi-truck while out celebrating a 19th birthday. It is interesting to note that when the large Hwy. 10 and King George Blvd intersection was upgraded several years ago, the sweeping corner coming into this area was separated by concrete median barriers, blocking cross street access on 136 St.

The Ministry of Transportation that has authority over Hwy. 10 in North Delta reviewed the hill leading to Scott Road and I saw engineers surveying the roadway in question. Inexplicably, while they have laid the groundwork for this important safety upgrade, obviously it has not been given high priority and this project stalled for the last two years. I've had discussions with Delta Police officers who informed me that this hillside is dangerous in the rain and a guaranteed accident site when it snows from cars spinning into oncoming lanes. Now that we have had two deaths that I previously warned might happen, hopefully the Ministry of Transportation will finally find the money to complete this project and save more lives into the future. Stephanie Cadieux was the MLA for Surrey Panorama at the time of the last big crash in 2012 and Marvin Hunt has now taken her place. It is up to Mr. Hunt and the Councils of Delta and Surrey to ensure the BC government finally gets this work done before anyone else is injured or killed.

Until then, drive like I do and stay out of the left lane on this dangerous hill, no matter which direction you are travelling.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



October 14, 2014

Bring Back the Beaver


Since 1869 when Surrey was first incorporated, the beaver has played a vital role in this region. In fact, it was the forested hills and swamps with many beavers and their dams resembling the landscape in Surrey, England that lead to this namesake being given to Surrey B.C. Over the years the iconic beaver has been utilized as a logo for the city of Surrey in many forms, playing an important part in the development of the heritage of the city. A large wooden carving of a buck toothed beaver atop a rocky cairn formerly graced the front lawn of the now old city hall. Giant wooden freeway signs sandblasted from planks with a stylized beaver welcomed people to Surrey at all of the main freeway and border entrances. The Surrey coat of arms that was used with the catchy green slogan, "The City of Parks" prominently featured a beaver in its intricate design. Even the previous flag of Surrey (I actually have one) featured the beaver centered in it flanked with five stars above resembling the main city centres with the Peace Arch monument below.

Mayor Dianne Watts and her Surrey First slate, or should I say "coalition of independents" as they like to call themselves, decided a few years back that the historic use of the beaver to represent the city of Surrey should come to an end regardless of its heritage value. Unfortunately it was quite likely that yours truly played a vital role in this decision by pointing out to them how the freeway signs had been neglected and through a lack of maintenance been allowed to deteriorate to the point that they needed repairs. With their quest and zeal to rebrand Surrey as a modern futuristic city with developer friendly policies, it was decided that a new image and motto was suddenly needed. The symbol of Surrey for over a hundred years was quickly thrown into the waste basket of history along with the environmentally respectful "The City of Parks" logo without any community consultation. What replaced it was a couple of concrete Whalley towers along with the equally bland, "the future lives here" slogan.

Sorry to say but this is right up there with White Rock's "The Silver Beach" or "The Island of White Rock" concepts trotted out a few years ago before they settled on the overused and vanilla flavoured, "The City By The Sea" slogan. The slogan that I offered free of charge was "White Rock – Bordering on Spectacular" which sums up its location and vistas rather well I believe. The new Surrey logo and slogan look like a cheap rip-off from the city of Toronto that has an image of the tall city hall building on the left side followed by the city name in capitals. Simply google search the images of each city to see how close they resemble each other while trying not to imagine that Surrey is just like TO. Lucky for Surrey First that they didn't use the outline of the Balmoral Towers in Whalley as one of the buildings to showcase where our city is going. With spending $150 million to move city hall downtown to help their developer financiers sell condos there, was it really necessary to rebrand the city with what looks like a cheap and tacky real estate ad?

Doing our part to preserve and promote the city of Surrey, my wife and I have created Surrey Shirts that features a line of pro-Surrey apparel. Prominently featured in many our designs is a beaver that pays homage to the one that was used for decades to represent our city. We have "Surrey Girl – Dam Proud of it", our "Surrey Retro" featuring the "City of Parks" slogan and plenty of other designs showcasing the formerly proud beaver. Even our Surrey Shirts corporate logo looks suspiciously like the old wooden freeway signs that used to grace the entrances to the city welcoming visitors and residents alike. We have avoided jumping on the band wagon and supporting the new Surrey First endorsed city logo and slogan, instead utilizing it for more controversial themes. The first was our notorious "The Future Dies Here" design that brought attention to Surrey's ongoing gun violence problem and homicide rate (we are Canada's 2013 murder capital in case you are not aware). More recently we got involved with the Pride flag flap, creating our colourful "The Future Lives Queer" design complete with rainbow.

There is a civic election coming next month and this will be a time to pick the leaders that we want to represent us at Surrey City Hall now that Dianne Watts is finally stepping down. Besides addressing the glaring public safety issues we have here and other topics like school overcrowding, green space destruction, social ills, secondary suites, lack of public transportation and rampant development, this is also a time to decide how we want Surrey to be viewed. Do we want to keep true to the history and heritage of the settlers and townsfolk who helped to create Surrey and retain the iconic beaver logo? How about keeping the environmentally friendly "The City of Parks" slogan that so many residents were quite proud of? Maybe I'm on the fringe and people actually like a couple of concrete monoliths with "the future lives here" attesting to the direction we are now taking? It is important to find out where the various candidates for mayor and councilor stand on this issue in order to make an informed decision on whether you should consider them on the ballot.

It's interesting to note how several of our neighbouring cities have chosen to represent themselves. Richmond uses a stylized image of the Great Blue Heron often found in its dikes and marshes with the descriptive slogan, "Island City By Nature." The Corporation of Delta with its mud flats and world famous Burns bog recently rebranded itself with a bulrush featured as the letter T in the word Delta keeping their historic, "Ours to Preserve by Heart and Hand" slogan. The two Langley's "Nothing Without Effort" and "The Place to Be" mottos may not be very catchy but at least they have some history behind them. I say that we should remember our heritage and honour the natural places of Surrey, putting the beaver logo and "The City of Parks" slogan back where they belong representing the city of Surrey and its half million residents.

While most of the signage featuring Surrey's beaver symbol have now been removed, there is one at a busy intersection close to Langley that can't be destroyed since it is cast into a tall concrete retaining wall. Overgrown by trees, shrubs and weeds, it is hard to see and could definitely use a little sprucing up. Since it is the last remnant remaining, I'm planning on visiting the site, pruning back the foliage, trimming the shrubs, pressure washing off the algae and planting some flowers. At the very least it would be nice to have at least one relic of our past preserved rather than simply erasing them from view. While some would want you to believe that, "the future lives here", it is our past that helps us to plan a prosperous future. Destroying our heritage simply to assist with trendy real estate marketing plans is a disservice to the entire community. The city belongs to the people who live here not offshore developers and it's time to bring back the beaver to the City of Parks.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



October 06, 2014

Tears For Pamela

It has been twenty years since 16 year-old Pamela Cameron died an early death at the hands of a sexual offender who had been released from jail to once again prey on the innocent. On Saturday a flower laying ceremony in her honour was held at the Forever Garden in south Surrey next to the arena that serves as a youth memorial even though the names of the many victims over the years are not actually dedicated. While two decades is a considerable time, there were plenty of people showing raw emotion, tears and even rage, especially with the recent murder of Serena Vermeersch in Newton that appears to be eerily similar to the Cameron case. White Rock realtor Bonnie Moy who sold the Cameron's their home in south Surrey when they moved to town has been a family friend since that time and spoke to the assembled crowd. Rather than give the Coles Notes, I thought it was fitting to simply post her words here so that they would be received by a broader audience. Try not to be moved try not to be angry, and try to imagine such a terrible thing happening to someone you love.

"Hello, thank you for being here and for remembering Pamela Joy Cameron in the beautiful and very special Forever Garden created in her memory. I'm Bonnie Moy, a friend of the Camerons. Twenty years ago, on a bright sunny clear day, Pamela was raped and murdered walking home from school. We are all here only because of this terrible tragedy that took place two decades ago.

Pam was walking home from Semiahmoo Secondary School which she had recently started attending. She was just 16 years old. After some study time at the Muffin Break, she started her final walk home along 152 Street on that sunny day in the afternoon. Between 21 and 22 Avenues, she was grabbed off the street, dragged into an area of overgrown bushes, raped and murdered by a repeat offender.

The killer had served ten years for raping another woman, she survived. Let out of prison free and clear after 10 years…, within months he raped again and this time killed. He had 26 prior offences and as one community member said 20 years ago, "what's the difference between Tues. or Wed., Tues. he's in jail, we are safe, Wed. he's out, we are not save as offense number 27 is just around the corner." In 20 years we are very, very sad to acknowledge that nothing, really nothing has changed. And that is enough on that.

We want to remember our lovely Pamela who had just moved from Ontario, already had a job and great friends! The Cameron's described Pamela as feisty, a super strong throwing arm in softball, a rugby player, lively fun, kooky and a bit of a clothes hound looking for designer labels and special watches. Paul Cameron nicknamed her "the Viper" as she targeted what she wanted and went for it. Twenty years after, we still feel the pain of the softball games never played and the goals "the Viper" will never achieve.

There are those who always remember and those who were captured by Pamela's spirit. Today faithful family friends Carol and John Short, and Val Lebee are here to lay flowers for the 20th year of missing Pam. A very special welcome to RCMP Sergeant Jet Sunner, District Commander South Surrey and Sergeant Marc Serle, District Commander Newton and his family plus Special Constable Susan Caley, Community Safety Officer. Let me say a few words about Marc Serle, we call him our ANGEL. A few months before the 10th anniversary of Pam's death, Sergeant Serle came across the Forever Garden, he did not know anything about her or the garden but it captured him. The garden was rather shabby looking as he investigated (as a good officer would) what was the story behind it. At that time, the Forever Garden was maintained by volunteers and volunteers get tired and, well more tired, and things get well shabby. We the Cameron's friends were trying to figure out how to get the garden cleaned up for the tenth year anniversary of Pamela's murder when all of a sudden we saw a picture of Constable Serle cleaning up the garden with students from the Semiahmoo Secondary School (remember that was 10 years after her death and these kids wouldn't have known Pam).

We arranged to meet Marc and he not only helped to get the City of Surrey to take over the maintenance of the garden, he arranged the installation of the memorial arch to tell Pamela's story, letting all know why the park was created. The Cameron's attended the dedication of the arch and enjoyed the garden created in honour of their daughter. Marc uses the Pamela Camerson story as the corner stone to support a safer community. We love Constable Marc Serle and his huge, huge heart, we think he really is an angel! Thanks you Sgt. Jet Summer, Sgt. Marc Serle and Special Constable Susan Cayley for attending and remembering. Thank you to the City of Surrey and the Parks Board support for making the park a beautiful fall display for this 20 year remembrance, you have done a beautiful job and we will send photos to Marilyn Cameron and her family in Ontario.

As we remember Pamela, I would like to acknowledge her legacies. One of them is the program called Realty Watch. When Paul Cameron went looking for Pam on the fateful day she did not come home, he called me (the realtor who sold them into their new home) to page others to come and help find her. By that time, she had been found. This untapped resource…, realtors that can be paged to help very quickly and help find missing people… was presented to the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board. By 1996, the board had formed a very unique alliance with the RCMP and when they need eyes and ears to find people or suspicious cars, realtors throughout the Lower Mainland are now notified with messages on cell phones or by email. We have over 10,000 eyes and ears available. This program has been adopted in other areas all over Canada and the US.

Then there is this very special and unique Forever Garden… this is Pamela's legacy to all youth, a place to sit and let be, and those who want to remember those lost before their time. What a wonderful legacy Pamela Joy Cameron… The Cameron family friends will put flowers in place and Carol Short will read a poem to remember and honour Pamela Joy Cameron. Thanks to all of you for attending."

I left the ceremony with a heavy heart and a knot in my stomach after realizing her killer's 25 year sentence will be up in 2020 and he will again be eligible for parole. Let's hope that this dangerous man is never released from prison and stays there till his dying day. It won't be long before the next Surrey memorial as the 20th anniversary of the kidnapping and murder of 23 year-old Melanie Carpenter from a tanning salon in Fleetwood will happen exactly three months from now on Jan. 6, 2015. Just like Pamela, a paroled offender with a history of violence was believed to have been responsible for her disappearance and death but he was never charged, being found dead by suicide after an extensive manhunt.

The quote, "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" should be considered when parole boards are looking to release untreated violent offenders into Surrey or White Rock. If the police have to issue media warnings that a person is a "high risk to re offend", then we need to have a way to extend their prison sentences until they are not deemed a danger to the public. I never knew Pamela but I remember the shock waves through the community when she died and for me the memories that may have somewhat faded are now crystal clear after seeing the devastating effects of this heinous crime 20 years after the fact.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



September 30, 2014

Same Old Surrey 20 Years Later


This TNT is dedicated to the memory of Serena Vermeersch, Julie Pascall, Pamela Cameron, Melanie Carpenter and others who have been the victims of violent offenders released into Surrey.

Instead of relaxing at beach or doing yard work in the early fall sunshine last Sunday afternoon, I took the time to attend the "Rally4Change" anti-crime rally being held in Newton. This community gathering was largely due to the recent death of 17 year-old Serena Vermeersch, allegedly at the hands of a recently paroled rapist who has now been charged with her murder. Besides this rallying cry, there were plenty of other concerns voiced from those in attendance from rising crime, unsafe streets, bylaws being ignored, recovery houses proliferating, lack of police resources and response plus others. It should come as no surprise that public safety is now the number one election issue with people all voicing their fear of what is happening to their neighbourhoods. Surrey mayoralty hopefuls Barinder Rasode and Doug MacCallum were both in attendance showing their support and paying attentionto the grievances being expressed.

Notable Panorama Ridge resident Bob Campbell acted as the emcee for the gathering, reading a short statement from the Vermeersch family in which they expressed their gratitude for the community support and the need to take back the city and make streets safe so that another family would not have to be suffering the same grief. Their family friend Gizelle Salmon spoke, calling on the government to "make it safe to walk our streets" and then asking for a minute of silence to honour Serenna. Mr. Campbell then went on to ask why infrastructure and social programs are not keeping up with development in Surrey, targeting transition houses as "centres of crime." He focused on the lack of community consultation from those in city hall along with the loss of greenspace, trees and agricultural land. Bob went on to explain his own personal experience with having his car stolen in Surrey, comparing the Delta Police forces "No Call Too Small" slogan with the one he suggests for the RCMP which is "No Call At All."

The Surrey RCMP were allowed to respond with several officers working out of the District 3 Newton office taking the stage to explain that their drug squad had been targeting crack shacks and closing them down. They called for community engagement telling the overflow crowd of over 200 people that there was strength in numbers and that it was important for residents to "not only be safe, but feel safe." Rally coordinator Naida Robinson expressed concern that flying bullets and dead bodies being found in cars were becoming a frequent occurrence in Surrey. Her call for "family, safety, security" was followed by complaints of flophouses, inefficient bylaws, overcrowded schools and rampant development that all foster crime. Environmentalist turned community activist Liz Walker explained how the Surrey Remand Centre, federal and provincial parole offices, recovery houses, Welcome Home and even Newton Slots all help attract undesirables and addicts to this part of Surrey. Her statement "Eyes on the street don't beat boots on the ground" was met with strong applause. Darlene Bowyer from Surrey "Assn. for Sustainable Communities brought down the house with statements "Stop the revolving doors of justice", "High risk to reoffend must not be released", and "This is our call to action - we have had enough", calling out the provincial and federal justice minister's Suzanne Anton and Peter MacKay to not release violent criminals into Surrey.

I realize that there are many people in south Surrey and White Rock who feel isolated from the problems in Newton and Whalley but the sad reality is that the death of Serenna Vermersch is errily similar to a violent murder that rocked the Semi-pen twenty years ago. In that case on Oct. 8, 1994, 16 year-old Pamela Cameron was dragged off 152 St. into the bush near 20 Ave., sexually assaulted and strangled to death with her body buried under leaves. This brazen attack happened at four in the afternoon with ten people hearing noises but nobody calling the police to investigate. Her absence was reported half an hour after she disappeared but it wasn't until the next day that officers with a dog found her naked body, retrieving her clothes from the nearby Dairy Queen. Mitchell James Owen who had previously been convicted of rape and robbery of a woman at the Woodwards parking lot in Vancouver in 1982 plead guilty to 1st degree murder of Pamela Cameron and is suspected in the murders of four other women. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole and remains in a maximum security federal institution. Just three months later, 17 year-old Melanie Carpenter was kidnapped from her work at island Tan in Fleetwood, sexually assaulted and murdered, allegedly by another released high-risk offender who committed suicide before he could be arrested and charged for this crime.

The current parole system in Canada is creating victims in our community by allowing prisoners who are deemed a "high risk to reoffend" to move here to prey on innocents. We need to make changes to ensure that the most violent and dangerous convicts are kept incarcerated beyond their original sentences if they are believed to be a danger to the community. Warning people about these twisted individuals does nothing to improve public safety, especially months or years after they are released. Since these dangerous people cannot be followed every minute of the day to ensure parole conditions are being followed, if and when they are released they need to be fitted with the new age electronic bracelets that monitor their movements with GPS technology. In this way they can be tracked and possibly tied to parole violations or unsolved crimes, ensuring they are returned to jail where they belong. Our so-called justice system needs to refocus its attention on the protection of the rights of victims and the public instead of trying to rehabilitate those criminals whose behaviors cannot be changed.

On Saturday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m. there will be a flower laying at the Forever Garden just east of the South Surrey Athletic Centre (14600 20 Ave.) to mark the 20 year anniversary of the passing of Pamela Cameron and other victims of violence in Surrey. This garden and its broken archway was created to honour Pamela and to ensure that the details of her untimely demise at the hands of a dangerous predator were not forgotten. If the level of violence in what is unfortunately Canada's Murder Capital of 2013 disturbs you and you wish to support efforts for a safer Surrey, then plan on attending to show your respect. Expect plenty of real estate agents to be there as the death of Ms. Cameron was the pivotal event that helped her father Paul Cameron to create Realty Watch ( Originally formed to help find missing persons, Realty Watch has since grown to become a community crime prevention program operating across the Lower Mainland from Hope to Whistler with over 14,000 realtors keeping an eye out for crime.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



September 22, 2014


Silly Season Starts Safely

The six months before an election is what we often call, "silly season" when politicians and their hopefuls begin non-stop news releases, social media campaigns, attacking their rivals and getting on the campaign trail. This year's civic election in Surrey and White Rock already look like they will be barn burners, hopefully resulting in a healthy voter turnout rather than the rather abysmal returns we are becoming accustomed to seeing. While there are a myriad of causes that could be championed by those vying for public office, it would appear that this time around, safety is job one.

Since Transport Canada finally woke up after being asleep at the switch for years, railway safety has been on ongoing issue along the BNSF tracks through the Semiahmoo peninsula, especially on the White Rock waterfront. Mayor Baldwin appears to now be leading the charge for railway relocation away from the beach to an inland location, vowing the tracks can be moved in five years. While there is no one who would like to see the tracks moved than me from a purely safety perspective, it is much more likely that Wayne will be gone from White Rock long before the BNSF ever pulls up their rails. As if the millions of dollars spent replacing 20,000 railroad ties, installing continuous track and shoring up wave defenses weren't enough, the BNSF is building a massive new concrete trestle bridge across Mud Bay that is estimated to now cost $15 million. A new bridge over the Little Campbell is supposed to be installed by a gantry crane from the rails very shortly while the trestle and swing bridge at the Crescent Beach marine is also on the drawing boards for replacement. Even if the tracks could be moved here, who is to say our US neighbours would want to reposition their tracks south of the border? At least the talk about trains will hopefully quiet the ever growing complaints about increased density, concrete towers and development approval outside of the vaulted White Rock OCP.

Surrey First mayoralty hopeful Linda Hepner has also jumped on the safety bandwagon, appearing in Crescent Beach with longtime councilor and Surrey First convert Judy Villeneuve. Echoing sentiments expressed by Mayor Baldwin, Mrs. Hepner also promised that "Public safety is my number one priority", pledging to work to have the BNSF Railway rerouted off the waterfront and away from Crescent Beach where trains are interfering with passage in and out of the village. What is interesting about this is that it was Surrey First who did not put safety first, turning down the concept of building a tunnel underneath the BNSF line allowing unfettered access to Crescent Beach and the 1,200 residents who live there. The price tag for the tunnel was $4.5 million, roughly one percent of the $350-$500 million needed to relocate the BNSF tracks. While public safety seems to matter in regards to the passing trains, it was Surrey First who were in charge at City Hall during the 2013 shooting gallery when Surrey earned the dubious distinction of becoming Canada's murder capital while setting a new homicide record. Lots of money for the new city hall in Whalley but no bucks for RCMP boots on the ground was partially responsible for this debacle.

Former Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and his Surrey Safe Coalition that sounds as if might have taken its name from the notorious "Better Safe Than Surrey" t-shirt has also jumped on the safety bandwagon. With Surrey Now editor Beau Simpson who has taken a leave of absence from his newspaper job, Doug is promising that his slate will clean up the mean streets of Surrey with his get tough on crime stance and actually hire more RCMP to patrol the streets. While politicians hope that people have short memories, it was then Mayor McCallum who kicked then Councilor Dianne Watts off the Police Committee for her questioning of his authority, an act that turned around to bite him in the ass when Watts gave McCallum the boot during the next election. There are also the old accusations that McCallum attempted to muzzle the Surrey RCMP into withholding bad news about crime stats in the city at the time when it was the car-theft capital of Canada. Great way to clean up crime; turn a blind eye and pretend that it doesn't exist. Unfortunately this technique won't work well with murder which still are happening far too frequently in the big city of Surrey BC.

This weekend Councilor Barinder Rasode unveiled the worst kept secret in Surrey, that she was running for the mayor's chair after breaking away from Surrey first earlier this year. The straw that broke the camel's back for her was when Mayor Dianne Watts dumped her as the chair of the public safety and police committee. Now following in Dianne Watt's footsteps, she appears poised to take over Watt's old job, showing that history might indeed repeat itself. Rasode's twitter hashtag "One Tough Mother" signifies her focus on public safety in Surrey. Showing her broad community appeal, Barinder has recruited the support of former mayor Bob Bose, the NDP's Moe Sihota, B.C. Liberal mastermind Mark Marissen, celebrity chef Vikram Vij (mmm..., My Shanti), and my personal favorite former Conservative Senator Gerry St. Germain (Gerry.., Gerry..., Gerry). No chance of Dianne Watts going down in flames as she also announced this week to no one's surprise that she will be running under the Conservative banner in south Surrey White Rock under the public safety/railway relocation mantra that is the flavor of the weak.

Speaking of Watts and safety, there is a little bump in the road that might become a problem for her in the next election. That is the serious car crash that her and then hubby Brian were involved in on April 23 2010 at the corner of 24 Ave and 128 St. in south Surrey. Many nearby residents aware of the timing of the demand light questioned the RCMP's findings that the lady who was t-boned by the Mayor's SUV was at fault. The seriously injured Shawnene Redekopp took the Watts to court for damages, claiming that Dianne was at fault along with a raft of other accusations from driving to fast to being impaired. Miraculously, this civil case was settled out of court this spring with confidentiality clauses keeping the results concealed from public eye. If this court case was settled in favour of Mrs. Rededkop, it brings validity to her claim and serious questions about the conduct of both the Mayor and the RCMP who have a rather cozy relationship. Until this messy affair over who was actually responsible is cleared up people need to consider whether Dianne should be trusted with their vote. Watch to see if the mainstream corporate media even mentions this car crash and court case.

It is safe to say that safety is going to be the main plank in many candidate's campaigns, likely deflecting criticism of past performance by the incumbents. There seems to plenty of talk on the streets for change at city hall whether it be in Surrey or White Rock. Many people are tired of developer financed politicians currying favour to their paymasters while pushing densification and bulldozer development. The cracks in the facade are starting to show as social problems are growing, neighbourhoods are breaking down and people no longer feel safe in their homes. The slates are beginning to lose their luster and many are looking for independent candidates to fill the void or at least break the grip of one-party control over municipal affairs. It is less than two months before the Nov. 15th civic election and I'm sure by the time its over you are going to be sick of hearing about safety as right now it appears to be the only game in town.

Safely yours,
Don Pitcairn




September 15, 2014


A Passion For Compassion

The Caines on the White Rock waterfront

It's amazing how a person as relaxed, empathetic and intelligent as Randy Caine can be so misconstrued, misunderstood and victimized by those in a position of power. In case you don't know him or remember the headlines, Mr. Caine is the owner of Hempyz ( that opened on Marine Drive across from the pier in White Rock in May of 2012 after Council failed to unanimously vote against giving him a business license (Councillors Helen Fathers and Louise Hutchinson voted in favor after rejecting dubious safety and security concerns). Hempyz also operates at two other locations in Langley; #101 - 20505 Fraser Hwy. which opened in Oct. of 2008 and their superstore at 106 - 19925 Willowbrook Dr. that started operations on Canada Day in 2010. Langley Council was even more brutish in their efforts to battle Mr. Caine with Councilor Rudy Storteboom and Mayor Fassbender playing important roles in having the Langley RCMP raid his Langley Medical Marijuana Dispensary in June of 2011. Two years later charges criminal charges were dropped and Mr. Caine received an absolute discharge after agreeing to quota violations under his Health Canada license. His statement after the court case, "If they think this was funny and I'm going to roll over and ignore it, they're in for a surprise" will be remembered this fall when he plans to run for mayor of Langley city.

Randy Caine along with his 35 year-old daughter Tara opened the Releaf Compassion Centers ( in June of this year at #106 – 20505 Fraser Hwy. as an intake location in Langley that is tailored to providing people information about the legal reality of marijuana legalization, medicinal guidance, the understanding of various strains, medicinal qualities and dispensing costs. Their main focus is on harm reduction, along with providing an established brick and mortar location that serves as a safe environment for physicians, nurses and health care workers to support the sick without being concerned with harassment or arrest. The centre is completely transparent with patients being referred to them by doctors and then getting paperwork to take back to their physicians for prescriptions for medicinal marijuana. Releaf Compassion Centers don't charge for their services, not wanting to profit from the backs of the sick while providing an alternative to regular prescription medication. Instead the centre is funded by Randy as a private citizen who adamantly supports public health care in Canada instead of the for-profit model. Most so-called compassion clubs want $300-$500 for a medicinal marijuana license then charge street prices for pot from a related dispensary. Through his Langley Medicinal Marijuana Dispensary, Randy charges a dollar a gram dispensing fee on top of herb cost (done at cost recovery basis), with the prices ending up being half of what is currently being charged in Vancouver. It is the minor $1 dispensing fee that helps to finance the Releaf operations and pay for the mobile door to door delivery that is essential for sick and elderly clientele.

Tara Caine's involvement in Releaf is quite interesting when you realize that she originally did not agree with her father's pot activism and crusade for marijuana law reform. In fact, Tara didn't smoke marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes or utilize it in any of its available forms. What happened to change this was a serious back injury that occurred as a result of her occupation as a health care worker. She hurt her lower back, herniated a disk and strained muscles, ending up flat on her back in severe pain. Resorting to walking with a cane, Tara popped pain killers and anti-inflammatories from her doctor while trying acupuncture and visiting chiropractors to relieve her symptoms. As a last resort she finally listened to her dad, utilizing a vaporizer and some edibles to help wean herself off pain medication while improving her health. As a result of utilizing marijuana to help with her bad back, she also found relief from her gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This chronic digestive disease results in acid reflux problems affecting the upper stomach and esophagus. Compounding this problem, she also suffered from achalasia which weakens the esophageal muscles and nerves resulting in difficulty in swallowing, chest pain and the regurgitating of foods and liquids. Tara found that a specifically designed tincture taken orally allowed her esophageal muscles to relax and for food to drop into the stomach. She reports an 80% improvement in her condition since taking five drops of this herbal liquid four times a day with no impairment or noticeable side effects. With these experiences and her training as a health care professional, Tara Caine has now joined forces with her father to help bring medicinal marijuana to the masses including people with chronic diseases, cancer and terminal illness.

A second Releaf Compassion Center is now being planned for the Semiahmoo peninsula with the Caine's looking for location near uptown White Rock to open by Oct. 1st. They are hoping to find an appropriate spot for an office with a waiting room for rent at reasonable rates, possibly attached to an already existing naturopath office or clinic. The White Rock office will be open by appointment a couple of days a week with the Langley office available for the remaining time. Randy told me that he is looking for a landlord who is receptive of the concept of his hemp delivery system, looking for "courageous people" who are open to helping those in need. Tara will run the office while performing the duties of care worker and patient advocate with her father legally working to dispense the prescribed meds to the homes of the approved customers. With the aging demographics of White Rock, the Caines believe they will receive a receptive response from those people looking to live out the last days of their life in comfort, in their own home and out of the hospital. While there is no cure for life, with it being a sexually transmitted terminal disease after all (joke), through Releaf Compassion Centers Randy and Tara are hoping to provide people in White Rock and south Surrey with a better quality of life. If you know of a location near Johnson St. where they can set up shop or possibly have space for rent yourself, please contact them at Hempyz or Releaf at the websites previously listed above.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

EDITOR'S NOTE - Read the Coles Notes presentation David Hutchinson & Joy Davies, medical marijuana supporters, made to White Rock Council earlie this year.

(click here)



September 08, 2014

A Better Surrey Is Just A Click Away


This title was meant to be misleading for there is no way that the many problems and challenges facing Surrey could easily be dealt with the simple click of a computer mouse. Often though, it is easier to take on the small challenges which when reported by residents from across the city often add up to become a large problem. An attempt was made several years ago when city hall adopted the SeeClickFix mobile phone app that was designed to make it easy for residents and business to report problems and submit service requests. It was hoped the app would simplify the reporting process, improve customer service and ensuring that city of Surrey work crews could locate and fix problems in a timely manner. While the SeeClickFix service did work, the system was found to be complicated and unwieldy, with changes to the basic programming being impossible as the system was utilized for many cities across North America.

After realizing the limitations of the off the shelf SeeClickFix platform, Surrey engineering decided that what they needed was a system tailor made for the big city of Surrey BC. The SeeClickFix contract was ended with little fanfare as computer technicians began devising a similar program that Surrey would own, control and modify. The end result was the creation of the "Surrey Request App" that can now be downloaded onto any smart phone and used to alert the City of Surrey about problems or to request services. These include animal control, graffiti, unsightly properties, transportation inquiries, building inquiries, waste collection, trees, secondary suites, sewage, traffic signals, street lights, noise complaints, parking, parks and a host of other issues. By utilizing the Surrey Request App, city hall is empowering residents and businesses to become its eyes and ears to problems across Surrey, similar to how the RCMP uses tips from its Crimestoppers program to solve crime.

The beauty of this system is that is allows users to take and attach photos of the request, showing the problem in detail allowing it to be prioritized. The Surrey Request App also automatically provides people with a GPS location map of the request that can be used to exactly pinpoint the problem in question, making it easier for work crews to locate when out in the field. The system also makes for greater accountability from city hall as it provides feedback on the status of requests and alerts as to when the problem has been rectified. This is a component of the city's "Smart Surrey" strategy that utilizes technology and innovation to improve the city's future plans, programs, services and infrastructure. While I still like the former "The City of Parks" motto, it makes you realize that the new "The Future Lives Here" slogan may be more than just a catch phrase as Surrey continues its transformation to a thriving metropolis.

Use your iPhone, Android or Blackberry smart phone to go online and download a free copy of the Surrey Request App and then keep an eye out for issues and problems as you navigate around the city. The app should only be used to report non emergency problems you locate that can also be sent from your home computer or laptop to the "Report a Problem" website at For more pressing concerns such as downed stop signs or broken water mains, report these directly by calling 604-591-4152 and for broken traffic signals or streetlights call 604-521-4338. Outside of city hall hours, use Ecom 911 for emergencies and the Surrey RCMP non-emergency line at 604-599-0502. The city wants residents who previously downloaded the former "SeeClickFix" app to delete it from their phones as it no longer links to Surrey and therefore is useless.

As a bonus, if you download the new Surrey Request App before October 20, you can enter to win a free iPad. Since the motherboard of my iPhone 3 fried the other day, I'm hoping to be the lucky winner as I need to reinstall the Surrey Request App on my new cell phone . Technology does amazing things but when it goes wrong, you sure notice how you miss modern innovations that have become essential for communication in our new wired world.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn



September 02, 2014

BC (Beyond Corrupt) Hydro Bully

The lights are still on in my house as I write this TNT but it is hard to say how long that will be the case. Our home is under threat of being cut off from electrical service by BC Hydro, not because we haven't paid the bill for the electricity we have used, but for our steadfast refusal to pay the exorbitant and extortionist so-called "Legacy Meter" charge. As if the forced implementation of the billion dollar smart meter program wasn't enough to force down the throats of B.C. residents, Hydro wants an additional $32.40 a month to read our old analog meter, even if they don't actually come onto the property to check the device. Needless to say, we don't want a smart meter for many reasons and refuse to pay for services that are not provided. The main issue here is the loss of personal freedom that is being destroyed by a greedy monopolistic crown corporation that ignores and tramples on people's fundamental rights. We supposedly live in a democratic society here in Canada but BC Hydro shows that in some ways it is akin to a fascist dictatorship.

My wife Sheryl has taken up the fight against BC Hydro enlisting help from friends who are also hold outs against digital smart meters. The website has a treasure trove of information about legal documentation that can be forwarded to BC Hydro to help protect property rights and refuse the draconian forced implementation of the smart meters. The "Coalition to Stop Smart Meters" Facebook page and the website are also helpful in the fight against Hydro bullying. We have a stack of paperwork including notices of default, refusal of BC Hydro's alleged "Meter Choices Program", lawful claim of right for electrical code compliance, lawful claim of rights over stewardship of land and many others that have been sent by registered mail to Hydro's head office. Unfortunately it is likely that BC Hydro will ignore legal tactics of those people who are opposed to this digital invasion of privacy, concerns about EMF radiation and the danger of house fires and simply make life uncomfortable for any remaining holdouts.

You need to realize that the provincial Liberals are responsible for this debacle as they are the ones who passed the Clean Energy Act and Smart Meter and Smart Grid Regulation in the first place. These required BC Hydro to install smart meters across the province while specifically exempting their approval from BC Utilities Commission oversight. Hard to believe that the BCUC is the "independent regulatory agency of the Provincial Government" when they could be muzzled and hogtied so easily by Victoria. Because of this sleazy tactic, the Commission could not hear submissions from concerned citizens on the negative economic, safety or health impacts related to smart meters. Christy Clark's henchmen then sweetened the pot, requiring the Commission to approve charges allowing BC Hydro to collect money for the Meter Choices Program, with only the folks who did not yet have smart meters being eligible. As of April 25th, BC Hydro charges $32.40 per month for an analog meter, $22.60 set-up charge and $20 per month for a radio-off meter, plus they can charge $65 if they find an obstruction of the existing meter at a customer's premise. If you don't think that these fees are draconian and outrageous, consider that the $32.40 a month Legacy Meter charge represents 50% of my last electrical bill. Not to worry though, with upcoming BC Hydro rate increases in November and likely time of use billing in the near future, the Legacy Meter charge will be chump change soon enough.

Things are starting to heat up in the Smart Meter debate with the Province of Saskatchewan suddenly pulling the plug there on smart meter installation. It turns out they had eight fires directly linked to the new smart meters that were being put in place by SaskPower. Now 105,000 of the units supplied by the Sensus Corporation are being replaced at an estimated cost to tax-payers of $9.5 million. Here in BC, the spokesperson for BC Hydro is on record stating that while there have been fires, none of them were due to smart meter failure, blaming the flames on faulty base plates, homeowner wiring and other related defects. A week ago the Province newspaper's Mike Smythe reported on a utility pole fire in Prince George that the property owner blamed on the installation of a new smart meter that has since mysteriously gone missing. FOI request filed by the Coalition to Stop Smart Meters show there have been fires at a Sparwood post office along with Coquitlam, Langley and in Abbotsford where a newly installed smart meter allegedly began smoking before shooting off the wall. To see the extent of this type of damage, simply Google "smart meter fire" selecting the images tab, or check out the smart meter electrical fire video on Youtube at "Smart Meter Fire – Just how safe are they again? This footage of a house on fire is quite shocking to say the least.

We will see this week if BC Hydro is stupid enough to send their crews to my house in order to cut off the electricity because of our refusal to be blackmailed into paying the Legacy Meter charge. If you think blackmailed is too harsh of a term, consider they have informed us that if the power is turned off, there will be a whopping $350 reconnection fee that includes the installation of a new smart meter. Oh yeah, and we will still have to pay the $280 for the Legacy Meter paperwork that is somewhere between sham and scam before they flick the switch back on. This is just another example of how the BC government continues to gouge the electorate with ever increasing fees, fines and taxes from their state controlled monopolies. Over the next three years the Liberals expect to siphon $8.9 billion in dividends from Crown Corporations years including $1.23 billion from BC Hydro. Don't expect this rate to drop with the recent appointment of Jessica McDonald as President and CEO of BC Hydro, who formerly was deputy minister to the Premier, cabinet secretary, head of the public service and a director of ICBC, the government's other bloated cash cow.

We'll have to figure out whether to pay the ransom for the so-called Legacy (read analog) Meter, resort to going postal on any BC Hydro line crew that shows up, or go off the grid utilizing candles for light and the fireplace for heat as summer turns into fall. I'm thinking it might be worth $350 bucks to let Hydro cut off the power and then invite TV camera crews into the darkened house to show the freezer full of rotting food and us cooking with a Coleman stove. Too bad that the Canadian Mint abolished the penny as it would have been fun to push a wheelbarrow full of copper coins to BC Hydro's Corporate headquarters and dump them on the marbled front office floor in front of their startled executives. It will be interesting to find out just how many other residents of BC are now being intimidated by the threat of disconnection notices from BC Hydro for rejecting the ridiculous Lunacy…, I mean Legacy Meter charge. If they try to pull the plug here at our house, I promise you that sparks will fly.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



August 25, 2014

Top Shots in Connaught

DON PITCAIRN (front & centre)


Thirty-four years is certainly a long time in anyone's life as I realized after finally making my way back to the Connaught Range in Ottawa for the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association (DCRA) annual Full bore Target Rifle Championships. While I have remained passionate about my sport of choice and the pursuit of long-range marksmanship perfection, the Canadian championships have been elusive due to my constraints of education, work, marriage, children and business. It is amazing to think that the last time I shot at the Connaught ranges I was not yet of legal age to consume alcohol, even though I must admit that I'd already acquired a taste for malted beverages.

The DCRA was founded back in 1868 the year after Canada became a country and when black powder rifles were the state-of-the-art firearm for that era. This year's shoot in Ottawa was the 134th annual competition, meaning that it is likely I have a 100th Anniversary pin at home somewhere in my collection of badges, medals and trophies. During the little more than a third of a century that I've been competing, equipment and ammunition quality has improved with technology resulting in an ever shrinking bulls-eye that now measures 24" wide on the DCRA 1,000 yard target, which will soon be replaced by a new 20" size. As if that wasn't enough, some evil masochist developed a V-bull that is half of the diameter, giving the world's best a 10 inch circle at well over a half mile away to aim for. Unfortunately wind and rain (plus lightning and thunderstorms) still play havoc on the flight of a bullet, ensuring that over an eight day shoot, there are plenty of opportunities for some of the world's top marksmen to drop points.

The Connaught ranges are an all-encompassing shooting facility run by the Armed Forces where Regular Forces, Reserve Forces, RCMP, elite commando units, security details and civilians all practice firearms training. Last week the Canadian F-Class (high-powered rifles with optic sights) Championships were held along with the Canadian Black Powder Championships and next week the military weapons take over with the Canadian Service Rifle and Pistol Championships. The DCRA matches attracted international teams from Great Britain, the USA, Caribbean and Japan, with individual shooters from across the world. While there are plenty of young cadet and under-25 junior shooters, the DCRA is a magnet for the so-called "heavy-hitters", men and ladies who shoot perfect scores with great regularity, read wind from flags and mirage with ease and who fire shot after shot with precision utilizing iron sights from the prone position.

Just like the last time I was in Ottawa, I had the pleasure of sharing a room with my father Robert who is a Life-Governor of the DCRA and who's shooting success over the years has already landed him in the PEI Sports Hall of Fame. Target Rifle shooting is a life-long sport and even at age 76, he is still in regular contention while now qualifying for the senior division. After recently winning the BC Rifle Association Provincial Championships yet again, Bob finished 6th in the Canadian Target Rifle Championships, making his record 45th Bisley Team that travels to England every summer to compete in the UK Championships. My shoot went very well with many "possibles" or perfect scores sprinkled with a few wind shots and dropped points that left me high in the results but without any of the hotly contended for silverware. With the calibre of shooters (pun intended) that the DCRA matches attracts, "possibles" with high V counts are needed at most ranges in order to win both matches and aggregates.


In the end, I finished in third place for a Bronze in the Canadian Target Rifle Championships, following the Ontario brothers Des and Pat Vamplew. White Rock's Jim Paton, competing after his double silver medal win in TR shooting at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland finished at 12th place in a match he has won multiple times over in the past. In the two most highly prized competitions, American Kent Reeves won both the MacDonald Stewart Grand Aggregate and the Governor General's Prize, dropping only two points in the Grand (653-87v out of 655-131v) and a single point in the Gov's (299-41 v out of 300- 60). Jim Paton finished a very respectable 5th in this match that sees the winner chaired off the firing point on the shoulders of their teammates. The high powered British team managed to win the Canada and Commonwealth team matches that were shot with near record scores while a team from the Ontario Provincial Rifle Association cleaned up on many of the concurrent team matches on their home range.

This TNT was written at 35,000 feet above Canada while I jetted home to the Semi-pen with a rifle-toting friend of mine from Washington State. More target rifle competitions are planned for the fall on both sides of the border including 1,000 yard shooting at the dreaded Rattlesnake Range in the desert at the Tri-Cities. After that, shooting goes indoors for the winter in .22 ranges and utilizing SCATT computer simulation training systems to improve accuracy. Next on the agenda for me is joining the Canadian Palma Team for the NRA US National Championships and ICFRA World Long Range TR Championships at Camp Perry, Ohio in 2015 that I hope will be a stepping stone to being one of the two marksmen selected to represent Canada at the next Commonwealth Games being held in Brisbane, Australia in 2018. I'm hoping Jim Paton from White Rock can join me so that the two top shots from the Semi-pen can bring home some more medals to our little corner of Canada. For more info on international fullbore target rifle shooting, visit the DCRA (, BCRA ( websites.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn.



August 19, 2014

White Rock Love Locks

With the renewed interest by Transport Canada in railway safety and continued problems with trespassing on the BNSF tracks along the White Rock waterfront, it is likely only a matter of time until more fencing is erected along the Promenade. The moronic teenagers laying on the rails playing chicken with a BNSF coal train likely didn’t help the case for more fencing beside the tracks.  The Railway recently had six foot tall black chain link fencing installed at the western end of West Beach in an attempt there to persuade pedestrians from accessing the tracks on the way to the Coldicutt Ravine trail.  This is similar to the fencing now encircling the Semiahmoo Reserve land by the WAG, which is also scheduled to soon be installed along portions of East Beach.

While this heavy industrial fencing possesses a certain gulag or prison yard look and feel to it, there might be a way to soften its hard edge and possibly make it a future tourist attraction.  There is a phenomenon happening across the planet where fences, railings and other structures are adorned with what is known as “love locks.”  Couples, lovers or sweethearts adorn a select bridge, tower, fence or gate with padlocks to symbolize their love for each other.  Names or initials are usually written onto the locks with indelible felt or engraved right into the metal to ensure longevity.  The concept is to symbolize unbreakable love with the keys often being tossed into local waterways, thrown from towers or buildings, properly recycled or disposed of. 

The history of this practice is at least 100 years old and dates to a Serbian tale involving the Bridge of Love.  Legend has it that a local school mistress was scorned by her army officer fiancé who fell in love with a woman in Greece.  When she died of heartbreak, other young women in the town started writing their names and that of their loved ones on padlocks and attaching them to the railings of the bridge where the former lovers had often met.  Early this century love locks started making their reappearance in Europe in different locations and on various structures.  The 2006 book “I Want You” by Italian author Frederico Moccia is credited with the appearance of love locks on the Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome.  Closer to home, love locks have begun to appear in Vancouver on the Burrard Street bridge, on a section of fence along False Creek and a lookout point along the West Coast Trail in Uculet. 

Even with its noble intentions, this phenomenon is not without its problems and controversies.  In Paris the attachment of thousands of locks to local bridges are interfering with maintenance and heritage appreciation.  On June 9th of this year, the weight of the masses of padlocks on the Pont Des Arts Bridge there led to the collapse of a portion of the parapet railing.  Councils in towns across Europe have opted to remove love locks from bridges citing concerns over the weight of the tons of metal, inability to perform routine maintenance such as painting, denting and scratches from the locks plus damage from when they are cut off.  Other jurisdictions are encouraging love locks in select locations by creating purpose built sculptures where the locks become part of the display, keeping them from becoming a nuisance while attracting tourists and their dollars.

I think it would be interesting to have a designated love lock location along the romantic White Rock waterfront where people can come to attach their personal symbol of commitment to each other.  The very first love lock on the fence at the west end of West Beach past the boat launch has now been attached (see picture) and it is hoped that plenty more will follow once the news hits social media.  In this way we can create a community focal point for amorous couples to show their public affection while also creating a mosaic of shiny colour on some otherwise dull and drab black fence panels.  Not only will this bring White Rock some free advertising and much needed publicity, it is likely to attract hordes of visitors on a year-round basis, something I’m sure the restaurants and businesses along Marine Drive would appreciate.  Whether White Rock Council supports this concept or allows the love locks to stay remains to be seen but hopefully they will see its advantages instead of blindly sending work crews out with bolt cutters to nip this idea in the bud.

While I appreciate the artistic appearance of thousands of glittering metal locks with sentimental messages attached to rather mundane chain link, there is a rather sinister long range goal to this plan.  Hopefully over time enough love locks will be attached to the BNSF’s new fence that eventually it will collapse under its own weight, freeing the beach from this obstruction that will never stop trespassers or morons from walking on the tracks, interfering with safe railway operations or putting their lives in jeopardy.  Already there is a well worn path between the fence and the blackberry bushes, allowing pedestrians to walk from Marine Drive straight down onto the rail corridor and the beach.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



August 12, 2014

Dave's Got My Vote

I knew it was coming but it was still wonderful news to hear White Rock Sun editor Dave Chesney announce that he will be running for the position of city councilor in White Rock during the upcoming civic election in November. This will be Dave's sixth election run with three previous elections and two by-elections leaving him perilously close to gaining a seat on Council. As someone who has run for political office in the Semi-pen twice myself, going against Gordon Hogg as the BC Green Party candidate in the ultimate Godzilla vs. Bambi battle, I have the utmost of respect for anyone running for political office. There are far too many people who are apathetic about their community and unwilling to help improve it. Many more will bitch, whine and belly ache about problems in their home town without being willing to lift a finger for change. Few and far between are those folks who are willing to roll up their sleeves, get down to business and get the job done.

Mr. Chesney resurrected the White Rock Sun eight years ago, bringing a breath of fresh air to the usual sanitized corporate media as Canada's first internet newspaper. Since them he has single-handedly produced an updated batch of news on a daily basis with help from people living in the Semiahmoo peninsula who provide everything from tips to content. I was introduced to Dave by a mutual acquaintance in the Surrey Now newspaper after a writing job I had been offered with them fell through when they ran into financial problems. On the strength of the many letters to the editor I've had printed over the years (speaking of bitch, whine and belly ache) Mr. Chesney offered me an outlet for my community passion in the form of The Naked Truth. That was over five years ago and the TNT as we often call it has become somewhat of a Sunday evening ritual for me and my long suffering wife Sheryl who is used to me cuddling my computer instead of her that night.

I grew up in Delta, lived in cities across the Lower Mainland and now call Surrey my home town where I am an ardent supporter of everything the "City of Parks" has to offer. Dave grew up in North Surrey but gravitated south to the beach and beautiful weather, hanging his hat in White Rock for almost 30 years. I can tell you that he is as passionate towards the "City by the Sea" as I am for the "Big City" of Surrey BC. Dave is one of the usual group of suspects that you can often find hanging out at White Rock Council chambers on Monday night, not because he is looking for a scoop on a story but because he is keenly interested in local government and the decisions they make. Always quick to call a spade a spade and sniff out BS, Mr. Chesney's common sense attitude and ability to ask the tough questions ensures that he is well known to the Mayor and Council and the community at large. You only have to read his "Yell It Like It Is" editorial column in the WR Sun to realize that Dave is not only well-informed but passionate about issues affecting the Semi-Pen.

In White Rock you fortunately don't have the slate dominated politics that have controlled Surrey for the past nine years. That being said, the handling of the railway safety issue, questions about the tendering process and rampant development has left many asking if it is time to put some of the present councilors out to pasture and bring some new blood and ideas into city hall. Considering Dave's long tenure as the editor for the WR Sun and his take-no-prisoners personality it actually amazes me that he does not already have a seat in the bunker on Buena Vista. He'd make a thoughtful councilor and would show the same commitment to the city that he has shown with the White Rock Sun. Best of all, Mr. Chesney would not be a simple yes man blindly agreeing with fellow politicians like a trained seal. Hopefully the A-B-C (Anybody But Chesney) campaign fizzles and White Rock elects a councilor who is not afraid to ask the tough questions and think with an independent mind.

Living in south Surrey I will not be able to vote in the White Rock election, instead playing a part in the outcome of the post-Dianne Watts era. Time will tell whether the Surrey First slate's stranglehold on council will remain or if it will evaporate now that Queen Dianne has stepped down from her throne. While some folks will say that I am promoting Chesney for White Rock council because of my connection to the WR Sun, the reality is I would vote for Dave because of his personal qualities and the principles that he stands for. I like my politicians to be honest and accountable, doing what is in the best interest of the constituents rather than just the special interests that helped to fund their election campaign. If you donate money to Mr. Chesney, don't expect any special favors in return as you will likely be disappointed.

On Nov. 15, get out and make your mark, putting an X beside Dave Chesney on the ballot. If you support the WR Sun and the Semi-pen community, embrace change and help get Dave elected onto Council. White Rock is a small neighbourly community and a word of mouth campaign with people talking to their friends and neighbours is the best method for success to beat well-funded special interests. Dave has my vote, make sure to give him yours as well.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn




August 05, 2014

Movie Star Mondays

If you look forward to Monday for the TNT in the White Rock Sun, there are a couple of young guys in their early 20's living in the Semiahmoo peninsula who you might also want to follow. They are Dean Allison and Ben Vikich, the brilliant comedic minds behind, "Movie Star Mondays" or MSM for short. Bored out of their skulls on a quiet Monday back in April, the two junior A hockey buddies decided to have some fun by recreating the scene from a movie poster, with themselves portraying the well-known Hollywood actors. Their first attempt back on April 7th was to mimic Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly's "Step Brothers" movie. Both James and Ben posted these pictures side by side with the original poster as their cover photo on their Facebook pages so that people who knew them could have a good chuckle.

With the appreciative response from their circle of friends and calls for more pictures, they decided to do a different movie every week, adding to their collection. These photo shoots are done by sourcing clothing from their parent's closets and props from their homes or a quick trip to the thrift store with a maximum $10 budget. The camera person is usually a friend or one of their parents who also see the humor in what they are attempting to replicate. To date they have recreated the movies Goon, I Love You Man, Nacho Libre, Pain & Gain, Role Models, 22 Jump Street, Brokeback Mountain, Dinner for Schmucks, Dumb & Dumber, E.T., Freddy vs. Jason, The Breakup, The Notebook, Titanic, Wayne's World and The Wolf of Wall Street. This Monday's latest installment will be Wedding Crashers that starred Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. When gender-bending is required, a long-haired wig, women's clothing and some padding make the transformation complete. If you look closely at the Titanic MSM photo, you might notice the shot was taken at the Crescent Beach pier near Blackie Spit in south Surrey. The brick wall in Role Models was the side of the Ocean Cliff elementary school in Ocean Park. They do draw one line in the White Rock sand; no photo shopping is allowed.

Little did they realize that they were starting something big in the world of social media with their funny little pix. It was when a buddy Will Latchinian from the Ocean Park Pizza & Village Pub started sharing the pictures with the world on social media sites that things started to really take off. The MSM shots were loaded onto and websites and people from around the planet started looking at them, making comments and forwarding links to friends. To date the Imgur posting has accumulated almost half a million views. It started trending on Instagram at #moviepostermonday where it was quickly picked up by the mainstream media that follow social internet trends. In Touch Weekly magazine posted 10 of their best photos along with a story on their website. HLN TV posted their MSM photos under the headline "2 Canadian jockey pals re-create film posters" with an article about their copied creations. The two young men are hoping to one day appear on the Ellen Degeneres Show and are spreading the word through their growing following with the Twitter tag: #Ellen#TheDream.

It is hard to say how big Movie Star Monday will become or if it will just be a quick flash in the pan. You have to wonder if movie executives might realize that this is an easy way to reach a wider audience and hire these two Canadian hockey players to do their own twisted version of the actual movie poster. It is possible they might become to movie posters what Weird Al Yankovich is to parody music videos. Unfortunately their hockey careers might throw a roadblock in any plans with Dean soon heading to Flin-Flon, Manitoba to play with the Rockets while his co-conspirator Ben Vikich stays here in the Semi-Pen where he will join the local Surrey Eagles. Hopefully these two will figure out a way for Movie Star Mondays to continue for some time until they can get back together near Christmas time to create some more movie poster magic. Until then you can follow them on Facebook at Dean Allison and Ben Vikich, on Instagram at @bvikich and @deanallison, or on Twitter at @_viks9 and @deanallison21. It's amazing the power of social media and how a fun idea can suddenly become an internet sensation. Time will tell if these two local boys hit it big with MSM but I have told them to get an agent and not just for their hockey careers.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Click to see the complete collection here



July 28, 2014

What the Hell is Wrong With These People?

It has now been three weeks since the horrific night-time accident on King George Boulevard in south Surrey in front of the Timberland Motel where a Mercedes SUV packed with six teenagers and driven by a novice driver allegedly tried to pass a vehicle on the shoulder while doing double the speed limit. The SUV plowed into the back of a parked car, sending it flying into the wide grassy boulevard, mowing down a light standard in its path. At first E-Com 911 received frantic calls that there was a person trapped underneath the car that was hit with witnesses seeing hair underneath this vehicle. When emergency crews arrived, they quickly discovered it was a large dog that was dead after being crushed by the driverless car. It wasn't until later when someone heard moaning coming from the nearby blackberry bushes that they realized a person had also been hit and thrown far from the accident scene. This was Jocelyn Hallier, a barista at the nearby Holy Smoke Coffee Co. tee-pee who has served me countless cups of the Semi-pen's best coffee over the years. The dogs name was Deville, one of the nicest and best mannered German Shepherds I've ever met and being a Shepherd fan, I've known a few over the years and even owned one myself.

Jocelyn was stabilized and moved by ambulance to the nearby Translink Park N' Ride lot (the side that nobody uses) next to Hwy. 99 and airlifted by helicopter to the Royal Columbian Hospital in critical condition. I'm not going to go into the specifics of her injuries other than to say that her body was quite simply smashed by the force of the impact, either with the flying car, the falling lamp post, or both. She was kept in a drug-induced coma for days while surgeons worked to stabilize her injuries, stop the bleeding and pin broken bones. Her friends and family members and even her hairdresser dropped by to check on her condition, hold her hand and to try to make her comfortable. Al Nameth, her employer and friend at the Holy Smoke Coffee Company made the long drive many times from his home at Campbell Valley in Langley to New Westminster in order to give his support and encouragement as her battered body started the healing process. It is a great relief to report that Jocelyn has recovered sufficiently from her injuries that she was transferred last week from the Royal Columbian to Peace Arch Hospital where her medical care and rehabilitation will continue.

Here's the rub folks; in the three weeks that Jocelyn was at the Royal Columbian Hospital, not one young person from the six that were in the speeding Mercedes SUV phoned to see how she was doing. The young driver that caused such carnage needs to be singled out for not stepping up to the plate to take responsibility for their actions and Jocelyn's injuries. Not one person sent flowers, dropped by to see how she was doing or to possibly apologize for her extensive injuries. The same can be said for all of the adult parents of all the teenagers involved, not a word from a single one of them or any attempt to check on her condition. Nobody phoned the Royal Columbian Hospital for an update, nobody stopped by the Timberland Motel to make inquiries at the office and not one of these people stopped by the Holy Smoke tee-pee for a coffee and update on Jocelyn's fate. Does it not matter to all of these people that the dangerous driving which caused this crash that night seriously injured a senior lady and killed the faithful companion that she was out walking? Note I did not use the word "accident" because when you are driving in the manner that was reported by eye-witness Jazz Mattu, serious injuries or death are often the outcome. The six teenagers in the SUV should thank their lucky stars that none of them were badly hurt, especially when you consider there were only five seatbelts in the vehicle.

Does the young female driver simply not care for the pain and suffering that her actions have caused to a person old enough to be her grandmother? Do the many friends riding as passengers not feel that they have a shared responsibility for this crash for not telling their friend to slow down or possibly encouraging such erratic driving? Do all of the parents of these kids simply believe that this matter will be handled by ICBC and the courts, resolving them or their bastard children of any responsibility? Could it be that the parents lack of compassion and empathy, exemplified by their not attempting to find out the extent of Jocelyn's injuries, were passed onto the younger generation whose lack of moral compass makes them believe that life is like the video game Grand Theft Auto? It makes my blood boil to think that with this large circle of people tied to this serious crash, not one bothered to take a minute out of their important busy lives and try to find out how the injured lady who had been flown away in the "bird of prey" was doing? They probably could not imagine the impact it has had on Jocelyn's life (so glad she still has one) and the circle of friends and acquaintances who know her. They need to consider what it would have been like if their six little darlings had been standing by the side of the road and been sent flying like bowling pins in a similar so-called accident.

If the young lady driving the Mercedes, her five friends or any of their parents wish to make amends for this oversight, Jocelyn is now resting uncomfortably in room 418 in the Intensive Care Unit at Peace Arch. Please feel free to drop off a card, bring some fresh flowers and offer your condolences and apologies. While you are there, fluff her pillows, help her to eat a meal or get things out of reach from her bed. If you are feeling generous, offer to pay for the little colour TV that hangs above her bed helping to break the dreary monotony of hospital life. Better yet, bring her a new cell phone to replace the one that was broken that dreadful night along with her many bones. Maybe the parents of the driver and her passengers can pool their resources to help Jocelyn pay for some of the bills that continue to pile up while she is lying on her back in hospital. Not that Deville can ever be replaced but purebred German Shepherd puppies generally cost $1,500. People that can afford private schools and luxury vehicles shouldn't have much difficulty in passing the hat and making a donation to the cause. That is, unless they simply don't care or give a damn about the unfortunate victim badly hurt from such reckless driving.

It is likely that Jocelyn will eventually receive a substantial payout from ICBC, possibly years into the future. That being said, no amount of money can adequately compensate for this type of trauma. Even if her injuries all heal, she faces extensive painful rehabilitation and it is likely that this event will be a life-changer for her. Of course the same could be said for the young Mercedes driver who is being investigated by the RCMP for dangerous driving causing bodily harm. With being a novice driver and having so many passengers on board, it is likely that ICBC will void the policy hold the owners of the SUV responsible for any costs and monetary awards . This could run into the millions of dollars if Jocelyn does not make a full recovery and return to mobility. While the courts will decide the outcome of any future litigation, the young driver, her friends and their parents can make some restitution now by simply paying her a visit and seeing the results of several bad decisions made on the night of July 7, 2014. Remember that while we can't turn back the hands of time, it's never too late to do the right thing.

If you know any of these people outed in this TNT, get them to read this column and consider finally making much needed ammends.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



July 21, 2014

Beach Out of Reach

In the middle of last week my wife and I decided to go for a walk with her dog and new puppy down the 101 Steps in Crescent Heights to the shoreline, giving the new furry addition to the family a chance to visit the beach. After crossing the BNSF tracks on the elevated metal staircase at the western end of 24 Ave. we received a rather shocking surprise when we got down to the waterfront. Waiting in store for us was one of the largest tides of the year and even with no wind or waves the water was so high that there was almost no beach left on which to maneuver. Heading south towards the Crescent Rock, we did not even make it a hundred feet before the water was up against the rip-rap boulders protecting the BNSF rail bed from erosion. Turning north towards Crescent Beach was not much better, with a 4-5 foot wide ribbon of shoreline that came to a point where the only options were to climb onto the train tracks (no thanks) or to take off the shoes, roll up the pant legs and go for a dip in Boundary Bay. Realizing the futility in our outing, we went back up the stairs and walked the dogs through the neighbourhood streets instead.

The high tide we witnessed was thanks to a phenomenon that is now commonly referred to as a "supermoon" where the moon comes closer to the earth on its monthly orbit by some 50,000 Km. By definition, a new or full moon has to come to within 361,863 kilometers of our planet in order to be considered a supermoon. July 12th was the first of three supermoons that will occur this summer with the others scheduled for August 10 and September 9. Make sure you mark them on your calendar and check the WR Sun tide tables at that time if you want to witness the full effect. Also known as a "perigree" moon meaning "near Earth", our lunar neighbour appears 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than usual. On a previous full supermoon, we noticed the brightness in our backyard, being able to easily discern the colours of the various flowers in the landscape even late at night. I wasn't the only one in the family to take notice of the recent supermoon with my daughter Denise sending me a picture of a large full moon that she took with her Iphone from her vantage point in Vancouver during that time. Besides appearing markedly bigger and brighter in the sky, the other noticeable effect of these supermoons is the extra gravitational pull they exert on the world's oceans, creating the largest tides of the year.

Seeing for myself the lack of beach that exists on the Semiahmoo peninsula during a supermoon got me thinking that if warnings from scientists about the effects of global warming are indeed correct, it will not be long before the average high tide covers the usable beach front that people here use for marine recreation. It has been forecast that sea levels will rise between 0.2 and 0.4 metres by 2050 caused by melting continental ice sheets and the thermal expansion or warming ocean waters. If that is the case, the meager ribbon of beach front we did find at the base of the 101 Steps would have been completely submerged and the only way one could enjoy the shoreline would have been while swimming or in a boat. Most of the beach along White Rock already disappears during high tides with waves lapping at the rip-rap berms next to the BNSF tracks. People utilizing the more rugged and secluded Crescent Rock beach need to take into account the tide tables or else find themselves stranded jumping from jagged rock to rock or forced onto the dreaded tracks. I have seen waves driven by winter storms pummel the Crescent Beach walkway, blowing salt water and debris over the public path while damaging the smaller rip-rap shoreline defenses in place there. Over 30 years ago, a winter storm that happened with a perigree moon overwhelmed dikes along Crescent Road, flooding the then new Nico Wynd gold course with 4 feet of brackish water. In the not too distant future, it is likely that rising sea levels will make these extreme weather events much more commonplace.

All of this leads to the effects that higher water levels and damaging tides will have on the BNSF Railway along the coast of the Semi-Pen. In 2008 during severe winter storms packing gale force winds, the rail bed was heavily damaged by large waves and heavy logs being tossed against the rocks lining the corridor. A member of SmartRail decided to walk the tracks that day inspecting for washouts and damage, being worried about rail safety after seeing serious erosion at the shore near Crescent Beach. Past Kwomais Point where tides work with winds to create very large ocean waves, a portion of the rip-rap had tumbled out into the surf, allowing the waves to chew at the base of the tracks that were built a century ago on the inter-tidal section of the shoreline. A CP freight train utilizing the tracks that day came crawling around the corner and seeing the water spraying across the tracks, the engineer stopped the train and exited the locomotive, walking down the tracks to ensure that it was safe to cross and talking to the SmartRail member about the danger. In over a dozen places the waves came to within a metre of the tracks that winter and the BNSF Railway had to spend $800,000 the next year to bring in train loads of rock to (dare I say) shore up the rip-rap. I`m not too sure of the year but I remember reading in the archived copies of the Surrey Leader about a washout on the BNSF tracks where the steel rails were left hanging 4`in the air over a 60` long chasm. Of course this happened before the marked increase in rail traffic through the peninsula and the arrival of thermal coal trains and 125 car unit trains carrying explosive Bakken crude oil.

With rising sea levels estimated to cost the global economy $1-trillion a year only decades from now if nothing is done to take action on global warming, there are going to be substantial bills here to protect property and infrastructure. Vancouver has been identified in a study as one of the cities most at risk with Delta and Richmond also under increased flood threat. Closer to home, low lying levels of White Rock and Crescent Beach plus farmland along the Serpentine and Nicomekyl rivers will be under the raised likelihood of being inundated if forecasted projections about ocean water levels prove to be correct or possibly even underestimated. There are many folks in the Semi-Pen who would now like to see the BNSF Railway move to a safer inland location away from the public beaches, summer crowds, environmentally sensitive marine area plus the landslide zone along the Ocean Park bluffs. While I love the ``rails to trails`` concept, it is not likely that the railway will be interested in relocating, especially with the millions of dollars that the BNSF are currently investing in infrastructure improvements at the Mud Bay trestle and soon the Little Campbell River bridge. Should sea levels rise and the tracks come under repeated wave attack, it may prove impossible for them to continue operating along the waterfront due to economic and safety factors. While I doubt if this will ever happen in my lifetime, the power of nature can be far greater than public or political pressure. Of course the sad part will be that if this ever becomes a reality, there likely won`t be any beach here left to enjoy except at low tide.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



July 14, 2014

Leave It To Beaver

I'm not really sure where it started but somewhere along the way I became interested in the old City of Surrey beaver mascot. Few remember the carved beaver that used to grace the front of the former Surrey City Hall, sitting atop a stone cairn on the front lawn facing #10 Hwy. Several years ago after inquiries from city staffers lead me to the Surrey Works Yard, I located the former statue exposed to the elements and rotting on top of a shipping container in the compound. Sprouting mushrooms and clumps of grass it was beyond restoration and likely has been disposed of by now. When the "Welcome to Surrey" freeway signs featuring the beaver on top were decommissioned and replaced with the new "the future lives here" signage, I wrote the Heritage Committee to ensure that one of these was preserved, which I've recently been told has been the case. I also have a stylized version of the Surrey beaver that is used for the Surrey Shirts company logo and as I write this piece I'm wearing the Surrey "Retro" t-shirt that is my favorite with the beaver proudly displayed in green and gold.

For those who travel down the King George Boulevard (the KGB as I like to call it) by the Serpentine Fen or who shop at the Art Knapps Plantland, you may have noticed a change to the front of the store several months ago. With the new "Mud Bay Village" frontage installed, a large carved wooden beaver was mounted on top approximately three months ago. I was immediately intrigued, wanting to find out the story behind the new sculpture. I talked to the store manager who informed me that Marty Vander Zalm from WaytoGrow soil products located behind the store had commissioned the piece earlier this year. If you don't know Marty, you can check out his hilarious "dirty movies" on the WaytoGrow website at . As the "rebel nephew" of former Surrey Mayor/BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm he also has five episodes of "Politics & Dirtbags" with Uncle Bill on YouTube that are worthy of a look. Obviously promoting the work of the artist, the Art Knapps manager handed me a pamphlet from the front counter for "The Stump Artist."


Jesse Toso is the carver who created the beaver sculpture in question and whose creations can be seen on his website. At his very first carving competition in 2005 at the annual Campbell River Transformation on the Shores chain saw carving contest, he won first prize of $1,000 for the amateur division. Now running a carving studio out of a garage in Vancouver at Hastings and Clarke, Jesse had a chance encounter with an Art Knapps employee who knew that Marty was looking to commission a sculpture for the Art Knapps and grabbed his business card. Thirty years ago, Marty's brother had planted a Sequoia redwood tree at the corner of the property and after road widening on the KGB that possibly changed groundwater levels the now big tree had died. Marty had it cut down and the large trunk stored, hoping to transform it into a work of art to honor his now deceased brother. The piece was commissioned around Christmas time of last year and completed in two months, then placed in front of the Art Knapps this spring.


Artist Jesse Toso and his "First Breath" sculpture

The website features plenty of pictures of Jesse's works over the years including his first carve of 2014 which was the Art Knapps Plantland beaver. Based on the artwork from the 1948 Canadian nickel, the website contains several pictures of the beaver piece from the original log to rough cut and completion plus a four minute high-speed video of the sculpture taking shape. If you are a Surrey history buff, an artist or sculptor, shop at Art Knapps or simply drive the KGB, this amazing video can be viewed online at Looking at the beaver over the doorway at The Mud Vay Village, you will definitely appreciate the artistry that it took to complete this piece. The Stump Artist's "First Breath" sculpture of a mother and calf Humpback whales from 2008 would look right at home in the peninsula, especially with Wyland's Whaling Wall mural and the baby Humpback that washed ashore in White Rock last year. Not bad for a woodworker who had never used a chainsaw for carving until he decided to invest $35 to enter the carving contest in Campbell River on a whim.

Photo courtesy of Surrey Archives
This got me thinking that it might be possible for Mr. Toso to replicate the beaver that once stood sentinel in front of Surrey City Hall for decades and present it to Surrey Council for use in their museum or the new city hall in Whalley. There are four pictures of it in the Surrey Archives online collection that show it in intimate detail plus I also have several close-up shots on a hard drive that can be salvaged. I'm going to see if there is any interest in this idea at City Hall and if so possibly look at having this done, collecting donations from the community for the cost that will likely be around $1,000. If you like Jesse Toso's talent and want to put him to work for you transforming a log into a work of art, he can be reached by email at or by phone at 604-720-3354. Tell him that Don and Marty sent you.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn



July 07, 2014

Pride in Surrey Alive and Well

Mr. Gay Surrey 2014 Luc Gagne & Don Pitcairn


No matter where I have lived I've always taken pride in my city of residence, growing up in Delta and living across the Lower Mainland in the cities of Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Langley and of course the big city of Surrey B.C. Even as a kid growing up in the then rural Sunshine Hills (aka "Rainy Ridge") in North Delta I always wanted my parents to move to Crescent Beach to be nearer the waters of Boundary Bay, the sunny weather and remarkable sunsets. It took a few years but I have now owned three different houses in the Crescent Heights neighbourhood near Crescent Park over the past dozen years that were all only a few minutes walk to the beach. For a multitude of reasons, there is no place I would rather live and I'm proud to call Surrey and the Semiahmoo peninsula home.

This weekend Surrey pride was on display front and centre for all to see and enjoy. The opening of the Surrey Night Market was held on Saturday with a variety of food providers and vendors prepping their wares for the big occasion. While nobody knew quite what to expect, it was hoped that there were would be community interest, similar to what has made the Richmond Night Market such a success. My wife Sheryl and I were on site with our Surrey Shirts apparel that began from the simple concept of me wanting a jersey with the word "SURREY" embroidered across its chest. By the time the gates opened at 6 o'clock, the lineup snaked across the Cloverdale Agriplex roadways and off into the distance. As the crowd filed in, more arrived to take their place and in no time the parking lot was full with folks waiting an hour just to get into the market. By the end of the night an estimated 7,000 – 8,000 people had visited, representing the broad ethnic mosaic of the Surrey and surrounding cities. Organizers have promised to make changes for even larger crowds expected next Friday night on July 11 when the opening ceremony and official ribbon cutting will be held from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

With the first night of the SNM under our belts, we gathered up some stock and made our way home after midnight, catching a few winks before rising early to load up the Surrey Shirts machine and make our way to the 15th annual Surrey Pride Festival. I must admit that I have never been to the Vancouver Pride Parade or taken part in any Pride Week festivities but have known plenty of people of various sexual orientations and realize that everyone across the spectrum of society is seeking love and acceptance. To say the crowd, vendors and organizers were colourful would be a disservice to the GLBTQ community with rainbow flags, pennants and banners flying across Holland Park. Mr. Gay Canada 2014 Christopher Wee, Mr. Gay Surrey 2014 Luc Gagne and Miss Teen Surrey Vanessa P. were in attendance sporting their various sashes along with Emperor David Cook and Empress Eric Divine. A veritable who's-who of politicians from all levels of Surrey government strolled by with Penny Priddy and Barinder Rasode stopping by for a combined photo-op (Mayor Dianne Watts was noticeably absent). Special kudos to the omnipresent Sergeant Dale Carr for representing the Surrey RCMP in full red serge Mountie uniform and looking very dapper while doing so.

Being invited to the Surrey Pride Festival, I could not help but become embroiled in the refusal of Surrey Council to once again not fly the rainbow Pride flag in front of Surrey city hall as is regularly done in 43 other cities across Canada. This includes the neighbouring city of New Westminister just across the Fraser River that will be holding their pride week from Aug. 8-16 including a street party on Columbia Street. While the Pride flag was allowed in the new Surrey city hall atrium along with a small display, many perceived this as an insult similar to being hidden in a closest. Surrey Shirts new "the future lives queer" t-shirt that emulates the city's logo and mocks their "the future lives here" slogan brought plenty of media attention to this flag flap. It would appear that with all of the publicity it is likely that Surrey's flag policy will be reviewed and a fourth pole possibly mounted out front of Surrey city hall, hopefully without the $200,000 price tag quoted by outgoing Mayor Watts. I would like to offer my thanks to the amazing community activist Martin Rooney for his help with everything Pride related since he moved to Surrey in 1996 and ask you to read this man's sparkling personal biography available at the following Vancouver Pride link:

In closing this column about Surrey pride, I leave you with this rather unique poem by local author Michael Zrymiak that was presented to Council in 2012 as a tribute to the city of Surrey. Containing the good, the bad and the ugly, it captures Surrey and its growing pains in a nutshell.

What is Surrey

They call it a city
A strapping, uncoordinated, ungraceful teenager
All arms and legs with unfocused mind
Soaring in every direction, bouncing upward and inward
Surging and panting, needing space and air and soil
Impatient with controls, pushing and shoving against all constraints

It is merchant, fisherman, blueberry grower, ESL student, dock worker, developer
Horse stables, ultra-light flights, sailing lessons, yoga classes, homeless shelters
Sikhs, Hindus, Chinese, Afros, Europeans old and new, west and east
Traditional and new-age families, a rainbow of colour, a cauldron of cultures
Samosas, perogies, burritos, a Starbucks on every corner next to a sushi bar
Souvlaki sampled on Crescent Beach as the setting sun paints the placid bay

Festive times abound, Chinese New Year, Dawali, Fusion, Bear Creek concerts
Galleries, libraries, theatres, Peace Arch park, eco walks in Boundary Bay
Softball City, a rodeo, polar bear swim, nude beaches partially secluded
Marijuana grow ops, street prostitutes on iPhones, corpses in back alleys
Fruit stands on country roads near industrial parks where countless trees once grew
And in the farming lowlands, evenings bring soft peaceful mists

It seeks a core heart to pump life's blood to all parts to ensure dependence
To project a posture a conventional mind can grasp, to be the city of tomorrow
It wants a towering edifice, a central plaza, a world class monument
Now Whalley, Newton, Guildford, Semiahmoo, Cloverdale, farmlands, tomorrow?
While individualism challenges bureaucracy and ideas battle inertia, the clock is ticking
This is Surrey

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Take A Lot Of Pride In Who You Are (click here)



June 30, 014

Coal Train Traffic Cut in Half

With all of the community concern and public opposition here to increased coal shipment through White Rock and along the shoreline of south Surrey, it should be welcome news that the BNSF Railway is looking at detouring some of its coal train traffic away from the Semiahmoo peninsula. The OK the PK railway news website ( carried a news report earlier this week detailing upcoming changes in the BNSF's train schedules that have been confirmed by BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas. If you are a train nut (meant in a nice way) and "love the smell of creosote in the morning" the Ok the PK is a great site that allows you to keep an ear to the rail.


Unfortunately the upcoming changes to coal train traffic are not being done because of opposition to coal train traffic here and full loaded coal trains will still head north from the U.S. into Canada carrying Powder River basin thermal coal. What the BNSF are doing is to detour the empty coal trains from the Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank east into the Fraser Valley through downtown Abbotsford to Sumas and south to Burlington in Washington State. There is construction on sections of track and several bridges south of the border on the regular route and redirecting these trains to the east allows work crews more time on the tracks without stopping for safe passage. The empty trains are also much lighter than the ones full of coal chugging north by the Peace Arch so they are better suited to the Abbotsford lines that currently only see one train a day in rail traffic.

Although Mr. Melonas confirmed that an agreement between the BNSF Railway and Southern Rail Link (SRY) that owns the tracks through Abbotsford has not yet been reached, he is confident that one will soon be signed. In fact a test run of the first empty BNSF coal train leaving Roberts Bank is scheduled for July 3rd with regularly scheduled runs of two to three of the two kilometer long trains a day beginning on July 7th which will run both day and night. This change in coal train routing is expected to last for 65 days when the construction south of the border is scheduled to be completed. While Abbotsford Council has yet to react to these upcoming changes, it is worth remembering that when White Rock called for trains carrying dangerous goods to be rerouted to the Sumas crossing, their Councillor Henry Braum said it would simply be "shifting a problem to a different jurisdiction."

It will be interesting to see how this coal train detour works out as it is unlikely that residents of downtown Abbotsford are used to the types of delays that were common throughout Langley before the Gateway overpasses were built and which still occur at Crescent Beach for long stretches of time. Because of the low train traffic in Abby, many of the level crossings do not have flashing lights or drop bars with vehicle traffic being halted only by a stop sign. While Mr. Melonas is on record saying that "safety is the number one priority" it might have been a good idea to upgrade the crossings before letting long coal trains pass through the city, even if they are only travelling at a maximum speed of 24 km/h through the downtown core and double that in rural locations. While the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association or their city hall has yet to comment on this change in rail traffic in their community, if there is any pedestrian or vehicle accident involving a BNSF coal train in the next couple of months, there will likely be hell to pay.

When this experiment is over, it might give credence to the concept of the BNSF moving dangerous goods through Sumas instead of Peace Arch. While this may not be needed at all times, it would certainly be worth considering when we experience heavy rains that increase the risk of slides onto the Semiahmoo tracks. I believe that when the BNSF tracks here are off limits to the Amtrak passenger train because of the slide threat, dangerous goods should be rerouted away from the known slide zone that is the Ocean Park bluff. The same can also be said for when we are experiencing high tides and strong storm surge which has damaged the rip-rap boulder defences in the past and once washed out the tracks leaving the rails suspended four feet in the air. With the BNSF tracks running is such a perilous place next to the ecologically sensitive waters of Boundary Bay, steps should be taken to reduce the likelihood of a derailment, chemical spill, or environmental devastation. Think about that the next time you see one of those 120 tanker car unit trains carrying explosive Bakken crude oil rolling north through White Rock or spot tanker cars of deadly chlorine gas from the Canexus chemical plant in North Vancouver heading south to the US.

For those of you who have an interest in rail safety in the Rock, Councillor Grant Meyer and the Rail Task Force are holding a town hall meeting on Monday, July 7 at 7 p.m. at the White Rock Community Centre, 15154 Russell Ave. at the base of the BOSA towers. If you want your chance to say your two bits worth on issues concerning railway relocation, fencing of the rail corridor, rerouting of dangerous goods, beach access, rail safety or any other topic that is train related (did I forget air horns?) this will be a prime opportunity. While White Rock bills itself as "The City By The Sea" it is also the city by the tracks and as recent events have shown, there is nothing like changes to the waterfront involving the BNSF railway to raise the hackles of the community or incur the wrath of the mayor. I hope to see you there as It would take more than a fully loaded freight train to keep me away from this important meeting. Keep an eye out for the members of SmartRail and consider joining this local rail safety group that monitors the tracks, infrastructure and freight movements while advocating for safe railway transportation through our little corner of the world.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Here is an interesting article from the TORONTO STAR pertaining to rail safety in Canada. (click here)


June 23, 2014

Happy Birthday

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of yet another riveting TNT, I have a little public service announcement to make to the people of the Semiahmoo peninsula who regularly follow my weekly rants and raves. On Sunday night while spending time celebrating my father Bob's 76th birthday it suddenly occurred to me that I might be having a rather special birthday of my own. Fortunately every single The Naked Truth is still archived on line and scrolling back through time I found that June 20, 2009 was the very first time I wrote a column for the White Rock Sun. While this inaugural article didn't have a title, not surprisingly its subject was the clothing-optional Crescent Rock naturist beach along the Ocean Park bluffs. Since that time there have been 260 TNT's posted for your viewing pleasure with the BNSF Railway and the shoreline of the peninsula being the most common topic. With this in mind, this special anniversary issue will deal with these two issues together as it is often hard to separate the trains from the waterfront.

The fiasco that was the fencing off of the Firminger boat launch at the west end of West beach seems to be at an end with some common sense finally being shown and the ridiculous and unnecessary gates removed. Friday's community protest in front of the gates instead turned into an impromptu celebration against brainless bureaucracy trying to fix a problem while creating others due to a lack of understanding and common sense. While it appears that Transport Canada may finally be starting to listen to the residents of White Rock, there are still plenty of problems to be addressed. The closing of all of the pedestrian crossings between the pier and boat launch only serves to increase trespassing across the entire length of the promenade, rather than decreasing it while making going to the beach an afterthought for most people. The fence along the west end of Bayview Park that they hope will stop trespassers from walking the tracks two and from the Coldicutt ravine is not needed while a public pathway linking these two would likely solve the trespassing issue.

Don Pitcairn / Coldicutt Traill rail advance slide warning wire

What is not needed and should not be tolerated is the closing off of the Coldicutt ravine trail. This historic trail is nearly as old as the railway and affords people living in West White Rock a park-like setting with which to access the waterfront. I have to point out that the landslide detector fence (LDF) that runs across the base of the Ocean Park bluffs actually goes up and over the pedestrian trail. This is also true for the Olympic Trail in Ocean Park plus several of the private staircases that hilltop homeowners have built over the years down onto the tracks. While the BNSF brass and Tranport Canada suits made plenty of noise about the dangers of trespassing in this region, as far as I can tell the last person hit by a train in this stretch of tracks was Ira Warren, better known as the hermit of White Rock who lived in the Coldicutt Ravine. He was mowed down by a passing freight train back in 1953 as he carried a piece of plywood for his shack down the tracks, likely unaware of the danger due his deafness.

Besides funneling people onto the tracks heading for White Rock, the Coldicutt ravine trail also serves as an important access point for the south facing portion of Crescent Rock beach. Just west of the trailhead is a large sandy outcropping known as Hermit's Haven where Mr. Warden would often sunbathe and skinny-dip and this spot still attracts nudists looking for a quiet place to unwind and reacquaint with nature. Even more important is how both the Coldicutt and Olympic trails allow for emergency services access to this remote and rocky shoreline. These trails also provide an emergency escape route up into White Rock for anyone who gets hurt along the shoreline, tracks, or the water. Closing off all access to the shoreline from White Rock to Kwomais Point makes as much sense as welding closed all of the pedestrian crossings from the pier to boat launch. While the BNSF Railway unfortunately may have been allowed to built a railway on the beach, they do not own the tidal areas of the beaches in the Semiahmoo peninsula and with years of allowing access, there is a legal question as to whether this constitutes an easement.

Artist rendering of rail underpass

The City of Surrey installed a metal pedestrian overpass at the 101 Steps at 24 Ave. for safety reasons and four years ago the BNSF replaced the wooden tunnel under the tracks at the 1,001 Steps at 15A Ave. in Ocean Park with a concrete one. Last year the BNSF replaced several small wooden bridges over creeks west of kwomais with large metal culverts. Instead of taking the cheap way out and attempting to block the pathway, the BNSF instead should be looking at building tunnels under the tracks at Coldicutt and Olympic trails. This system was considered back in 1978 in the Foreshore Report with tunnels being proposed for along the east and west beaches. A simple opening under the tracks at the main staircases would funnel people onto the beach and away from the tracks while improving safety for people visiting the Crescent Rock beach waterfront. San Clemente in California had the same kind of trespassing and death rates as White Rock that have now been corrected with overhead walkways, tunnel, grade crossings with lights, bells and falling arms plus a metal walkway next to the beach at the bottom of an oceanfront bluff. The city that I call "White Rock south" should become a model for us on how to coexist with an industrial railway at a marine recreational site that is used by a million people in the Fraser Valley.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



June 18, 2014

Gate Crasher

When I first heard about Transport Canada finally taking steps to address rail safety across the White Rock waterfront, all I could think was, "what took them so long?" The safety problems involving pedestrians, the close proximity of the promenade to the rails, people crossing in front of trains and walking down the tracks is common knowledge. The death toll over the years now stands at 19 with a further 16 serious injuries. We need to follow the lead of San Clemente which has built overhead walkways, under track tunnels and gated level crossings with lights, bells and drop arms to allow for safe access to the waterfront. I previously wrote about these safety initiatives in a TNT column on Feb. 18 earlier this year titled "White Rock South" in case you missed it. The draconian changes suddenly made to west beach that eliminated all legal access to the public marine park need to be reversed immediately as not only are they stupid, they are simply dangerous.

The west beach boat launch has been a particularly sore point for me with anybody able to drive a vehicle and boat trailer across the BNSF tracks without the proper level grade warning lights and crossing arms. I always felt that this was an accident waiting to happen and was surprised when I learned that someone at Transport Canada had actually woken up to the danger. What is laughable is how the boat launch was fenced off and locked, then suddenly opened to the public with a note stating, "CONTROLLED ACCESS CROSSING, Users Must Ensure Gate is CLOSED For Safety Reasons." While this gate should only open towards Marine Drive, it can also be moved towards the tracks opening fully into the middle of the rails. As if this was not dangerous enough, the gate does not have a spring loaded closing mechanism so it can easily be left in this position awaiting the arrival of the next BNSF freight or AmTrak passenger train. Being painted black, it is likely that the engineers would not see them, or have time to stop even if they did possibly sending the fence flying into the promenade. So much for rail safety; thanks Transport Canada.

Removing every pedestrian crossing across the entire length of west beach was idiotic. Now people will simply cross where they like by stepping over the laughably low safety railings. What should have been done was to limit the number of crossings while increasing signage, markings and installing gates that close when trains are on the tracks. I find it odd that Transport Canada is suddenly showing interest in rail safety at White Rock when for years they have ignored many serious incidents endangering trains often carrying dangerous goods. They did nothing when White Rock razed the Hump for views, removing over seventy trees on an old slump landslide site just east of the pier. They were absent when a slide site failed multiple times over three days near the Olympic Trail where I witnessed a BNSF freight train carrying nine tanker cars of poisonous chlorine gas rolling by. They did nothing to stop BNSF trains with dangerous goods from passing a slide site near the Crescent Rock while a Surrey drain pipe poured water onto the slope where a full sized cedar tree hung suspended by a broken pipe high above the tracks. They have done nothing to stop Ocean park bluff top residents ( or the City of Surrey at Kwomais Point) from cutting trees for views, including several of which have caused landslides onto the tracks when the roots rotted and destabilized the slope. They have not forced the BNSF to extend the landslide detector fence from near the 101 Steps walkway to the end of Bayview Street even though this was the last place a train was hit by a mudslide. I informed Transport Canada about all of these safety problems and they did nothing, except for place me on a "do not contact" list so that inquiries from the Green Party of BC Transportation Critic instead go through their media relations department for sanitation. Heads should roll at Transport Canada for their lack of common sense or ability to safeguard our railways and communities near the BNSF tracks in the Semi-pen.

White Rock beach is the main marine recreational site for a million Fraser Valley residents and if Transport Canada thinks they can simply fence it off, they should wake up and smell the coffee. School is almost over (one way or the other) and when hot sunny weather breaks out families with children will descend on White Rock in droves as they have for generations. Until such time as the tracks can be moved to a safer inland location away from the public beaches and the landslide prone bluff, people will need access to the waterfront. Transport Canada should read the history books about what happened to the Berlin Wall, because if they try to fence off White Rock, it is likely folks will show up with beach blankets, coolers and hacksaws or gas powered chop saws to cut their own holes in the fence. There is also the legal question about access for people with disabilities plus the aspect of historical accessibility. While nothing has happened yet, there are plans to fence off the bottom of Coldicutt Ravine, which along with the Olympic Trail in Ocean Park have allowed access to the remote stretches of Crescent Rock naturist beach for decades. If these two historic trails are closed, it will mean that four km. of shoreline will effectively be off limits except for trains, while eliminating points where people can safely leave the shoreline and rail corridor in case of emergency. While we're on the topic, when will the BC government create beachfront access from the provincial Peace Arch park to the shore of Semiahmoo Bay, especially now that there are two sets of train tracks there to cross and with Beach Ave. now closed to parking?

If you wish to let Transport Canada know your thoughts about these rail safety "improvements" along the White Rock rail corridor, their email address is or you can phone them personally at 613-998-7767. I've already informed the Transportation Safety Board of Canada Rail Division about this problem through their SECURITAS reporting program at Our MP Russ Heibert ( / 604-542-9496) might also want to hear what you think about the beach being fenced off right before the start of summer, let alone the gates that open to the middle of the tracks. Several Facebook pages opposed to the fencing on White Rock have been started with "Save White Rock Beach" attracting over 1600 likes and the new "Save The West Beach Boat Launch" already having 65 members. A poster attached to the boat launch fence is titled, "Rally & Petition, Beach Access For All!" and is looking to support the legal appeal of the ridiculous changes along the waterfront. Currently the rally is planned for Friday, June 20th, while I would think that the equinox and first day of summer on June 21 would be more appropriate and draw far larger crowds. The rally and petition are being promoted by local animator/consultant/advocate Pat Petrala and if you would like to help in this effort, she can be reached by email at or 604-536-7686. Its our beach not the BNSF's and you can help save it from brainless bureaucratic bungling.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


June 09, 2014

"Market" on Your Calendar – July 4, 2014


In a scene eerily similar to Godzilla walking through downtown Tokyo, I finally got the chance this weekend to visit the uber-successful Richmond Night Market (RNM) near the River Rock Casino. By chance this happened on the same week that it was announced that the Chinatown Night Market, which has operated for 17 years, will not be held in 2014 because of the costs associated with the set up and tear down of this tent city every night. Besides hundreds of vendor tents selling a wide array of products mainly of the imported variety, the RNM also boasts a large food court with a variety of asian culinary delights. The RNM is open from May 16 to October 13, Friday and Saturday nights from 7-12 pm and Sundays and holidays from 7-11 pm, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the Lower Mainland and Washington State. Even with the traffic jams and parking problems (hint: park at the Bridgeport Rd. Costco and walk over), the RNM has now become a tourist destination and an experience that should not be missed.

With a population now exceeding half-a-million people, it was only a matter of time before somebody realized that Surrey was missing the boat and should be holding a multi-cultural night market of its own. On May 20th, the posting below showed up on Craigslist, giving full operational details of the planned Surrey Night Market (SNM) that will be held on Friday and Saturday nights during summer weekends at the Agriplex complex on the Cloverdale Fair Grounds. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, the organizers from the Surrey Board of Trade are following the tried and tested format of the RNM that will likely ensure its success and possible future expansion. There will be at least 30 market vendors, 70 food vendors, plenty of live entertainment plus plenty of free parking for the 5,000-8,000 visitors that are expected on a nightly basis from 7-11 p.m. Here are the more pertinent details from the original Craigslist ad that show what you can expect to find at the SNM along with some job openings.

Exciting Opportunities Available at the Surrey Night Market
We are pleased to announce the availability of numerous opportunities at the Surrey Night Market that will be opening in Surrey in the first weekend of July. The Surrey Night Market will be an open air summer market for local residents and small businesses to sell and consume a variety of local foods, services and goods. This night market will be a multicultural family friendly event for all the residents of Surrey and neighbouring cities.
The Surrey Night Market will have 100+ vendors from various nationalities and communities and each night the market will cater to 5,000 to 8,000 attendees. The event will also showcase a variety of local talent in performing arts and create an environment that promotes both community spirit and inclusion across the board. A stage will be set up at the event for local talent including - Western Bands, Jazz, Solo Dances, Group Dances, Singers, Musical Instrument Players, Magicians, Jugglers, Clowns, Fashion Shows & Displays, etc.

Location and Duration
The Surrey Night Market will be located across from Agriplex Complex, within the
Cloverdale Exhibition Grounds, at 6050 176 Street, Surrey, BC
From July 4th to August 30th (weekends only)
Fridays and Saturdays
Time: 6 pm to 11 pm

Food Vendor Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market is looking for 70+ food vendors from various nationalities and cultures. Attendees should get to sample Western, Chinese, Caribbean, Arabic, Philippines, Vietnamese, Fijian, African, Pakistani, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Latin American, Korean, First Nations, Greek, and Indian cuisines and dishes.
For Example - Burgers, Hotdogs, Sandwiches, Subs, Deli Sandwiches, Soups, Fish & Chips, Salads, Wraps, Poutine, Fries, Tacos, Shushi, Japadog, Seafood, Chicken Tikkas & Pakoras, Veg Pakoras, Fish Pakoras, BBQ, Ribs, Samosas, Pranthas, Curries, Sweets, Jalebies, Chaat, Alloo Tikki, Gol Gappe, Ice Cream, Kulfi, Chhole Bhatoore, Puri, Kulche, Dosse, Idli, Sambar, Uttapam, Tea, Lassi, Pop Corn, Mini-Donuts, Cup Cakes, baker's products, Coffee, Smoothies, Slurpies, Shakes, Fresh Juice, Fresh Fruit and others.
Food Carts will also have an opportunity to participate in the night market.

Non-Food Vendor Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market is looking to have 30+ merchandise, artisans and services vendors. The goal is to provide an opportunity to local artisans & craft personnel and other small businesses.
For Example: Pedicure, Menicure, Cosmetics; Handicrafts, Decorations, Artificial Jewelry; Massage Booth, Aqua Massage, Karaoke Booth; Tarot Cards & Crystal Ball, Fortune Teller - Hand Reading; Mobile Phones, Plans and Accessaries; Internet & Cable Plans offered by Rogers, Telus, Shaw, Bell; Insurance and RESP providers; Post Secondary Institutes, Training Institutes; Credit Unions, Banks.

Performance Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market will have a stage set up at the event for local talent including - Western Bands, Jazz, Solo Dances, Group Dances, Singers, Musical Instrument Players, Magicians, Jugglers, Clowns, etc. There will be no charge for performing at the event, but a refundable security deposit will be required from performers to facilitate planning for each evening.
For a nominal fee, there will be opportunities for Fashion Shows & Displays at the Surrey Night Market.

Security Services Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market has an opportunity for an experienced Security Company to provide security services at the venue. The contracted company will arrange to provide both static and mobile patrols at the venue during the event days. The security personnel will monitor the entry and exit points, oversee the direction of the parking arrangements, and also ensure the safety and security of attendees, vendors, and performers at the night market. No drugs, alcohol or smoking will be permitted at the venue at any time. For the rest of the week, adequate security arrangements will be needed at the venue to safeguard and protect the equipment of the vendors.

First Aid Tent and Service
The Surrey Night Market will have an opportunity for an agency or business to set up a First Aid tent and provide first aid services during the event.

Temporary Work Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market will have opportunities for temporary work in the evenings during weekends from July 2nd to August 31st. We would prefer to discuss this with any Temporary Placement Agency.

Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteer opportunities will be available at the Surrey Night Market for high school graduates and post-secondary students.

For more information on this exciting community event, check out the new SNM webpage at or visit the SNM Facebook page that already has nearly 550 likes. If you are interested in being part of this family event or possibly applying for a position at the SNM, they can be contacted directly at or by phone at 604-805-3440. There is already a strong sense of excitement about this community event and a buzz on the streets of Surrey that will likely increase later this month with a strong multi-media promotional blitz that is planned. When the SNM opens, drop by and say hi as my wife Sheryl and I will be proudly doing our part to promote pro-Surrey culture, bring our edgy Surrey Shirts apparel and merchandise to the Agriplex.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn




June 02, 2014


Beach Bozos

Warm weather and sunny skies make the beaches of the Semiahmoo peninsula an irresistible draw for many people from across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Unfortunately along with the throngs of people who visit the shorelines of White Rock and Crescent Beach are the morons and idiots who seem to think that they can desecrate the waterfront strewing litter from one end to the other and leave their mess for others to clean up.
Over the years I have collected hundreds of bags of garbage from Crescent Rock beach, performing a yearly post-summer cleanup on the 6.5 km. stretch from Crescent Beach to White Rock, along with helping to organize the removal of debris from a 40 foot pleasure boat that washed ashore. I'm not the only person who routinely cleans this area either and know that SmartRail's Brian Lauder has litter tongs just like mine for this purpose. When visiting a natural area it is nice to find it litter free, which is why I pick up other people's garbage when camping, walking in parks or hiking in the forest. I simply do not understand the mentality of those people who knowingly trash the environment they have come to visit.

For reasons unknown, this weekend at Crescent Rock beach was particularly bad for the amount of litter left behind. My wife Sheryl took our dog for a walk south of the 101 Steps staircase and found piles of refuse left behind by late-night partiers. Fortunately it appears that these people have figured out that beer cans weigh far less than glass bottles, plus they don't break into sharp shards at the beach. In only a few hundred metres, she picked enough beers cans, wine bottles, discarded clothing plus other related litter to fill a large size garbage bag. She was so appalled by the mess that she took pictures including that of the new graffiti tag spray painted on the 120 tonne Crescent Rock boulder. As if all of the mess wasn't enough of an eyesore, Surrey's version of the White Rock boulder once again needs a fresh coat of paint to help it blend back into the environment.

The more public Crescent Beach fared no better with a young employee of mine texting a picture of an overflowing garbage can from beside the walkway calling it "awful." What the picture doesn't show is that the can is not actually full; the people were too lazy to place their crap into the can or didn't want to touch the spring loaded lid. These specialized garbage cans are a dozen feet deep and only need to be emptied infrequently but they can only work if people take the needed step of actually placing their debris into them. Leaving litter next to these cans will only attract night time visits by skunks and raccoons plus flocks of seagulls and crows the next day to shred the junk and then spread it around the beach. Not disposing of garbage properly is almost the same as littering. The same goes for the morons who bag their dog crap and when no one is looking toss it aside or leave them dangling from blackberry bushes like some weird Christmas ornament.

We need to work together to change the habits of those people who believe it is okay to leave a mess behind as someone else will clean it up. Hopefully the Surrey RCMP will have enough manpower to try and curb nighttime drinking parties at the beach that are the source of much of the garbage left behind. As far as people or families dumping their garbage beside trash bins, if you see this behavior let those responsible politely know that this is still littering. If you are walking along the beach or visiting one of our parks, help be a part of the solution and pick up and dispose of litter and garbage left behind by those with no respect for the environment, themselves, or their community. I started doing this when I was ten years-old and if a young boy can figure out that this makes the world a better place, maybe those junking the waterfront can also come to the same realization.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



May 26, 2014

Translink's New "Park & Pool" Lot


Not long after it officially opened, I was the first person to ring the alarm bell over the colossal waste of money that is the expansion lot for Translink's South Surrey Park & Ride lot (TNT - Nov. 25, 2013). Other media outlets ignored this giant white elephant until it won a coveted "Teddy" award from the Canadian Taxpayer Federation, with Translink taking the prize in the local government category for the "best of the worst in government waste." Translink's brass were quick to point out that they were merely the "owners and operators" of the lot and that it was the BC government that had forked out the $4.5 million for its construction. Squabbling over who owns this mess when in the end of the day its tax payer dollars paying for an empty parking lot is ridiculous but it now looks like Translink may have another expensive headache when it comes to their field of asphalt. I'm hoping the repair bill is high enough that they win a back-to-back Teddy (fittingly a golden pig) for this ongoing debacle.

With the newly expanded park and ride lot opening in November, our wet weather concealed a serious flaw with the construction of what I now call the "Park & Pool" lot. This is not to be confused with the nearby park and pool carpool lots beside the Nicomekyl River on Elgin Rd. or north of the 99 Hwy. on 40 Ave. that actually get used by commuters. With warmer dryer weather now upon us, I couldn't help but notice the large pools of water that were sitting on the new asphalt even though it had not rained for days. Driving onto the expanded lot (there were no parked vehicles in case you were wondering) it became apparent that the water was percolating up through the asphalt in multiple locations. There is so much leakage that I had to take a dozen photographs just to capture the worst of the running water. In some spots the leaks are so bad that there is even bright green algae growing in the flowing rivulet that course across the asphalt. About the only thing that is missing is jelly frog spawn and some tadpoles but that is only because the nearby ditches flowing to the "Nic" offer better amphibian habitat.

It would appear that the engineers who designed this extravagant waste of money didn't perform proper percolation tests properly or call for enough drain rock to lift the parking lot above the water table. Either that or the contractors who did the paving accidentally used porous asphalt instead of the more conventional cheaper variety that drains water to catch basins. Usually water runs off asphalt and the only other location I have ever seen water coming up through a roadway is on either end of the George Massey tunnel on Hwy. 99 as it heads down under the Fraser River. Translink has been forwarded the pictures I took of the mini-springs and have had little to say about the situation except to say that they are awaiting the results of a report looking into this problem. It is going to be interesting to see how this problem is going to be corrected and what the final tax-payer funded repair bill will be. My guess is that as strips of asphalt will have to be cut out and removed, drains installed, repaving completed and new lines painted.

Of course the question has to be asked, why make repairs to a parking lot that nobody uses? The sad reality is that this is a public transportation lot and needs to be safe. In the winter any salt placed to stop the buildup of ice will likely wash away and the water then freeze in place. If someone were to slip on the ice, then Translink would be liable, especially if this resulted from them not making timely repairs to the leaks. With bitterly cold outflow conditions in winter as sometimes happens, the percolating water will freeze and expand, likely damaging the asphalt and exacerbating the problem. Even now the water poses a safety threat as motorcyclists are utilizing this usually empty parking lot to practice their two-wheeled driving. Who is to blame if a new motorcyclist happens to skid in one of the many wet puddles when they are expecting dry road conditions on a sunny day? If this sounds far-fetched, there were bikers using the new park and pool lot at the time I took my pictures and I warned them to stick to the dry side of the lot for their safety.

Until such time as the new park and pool lot is actually needed, Translink would be better off gating the driveway and closing it to the public. They could save the salting, sanding and snow clearing during the winter months and allow them to turn off the large overhead lights, reducing the electrical bill. It would also stop the parking lots use as an impromptu racetrack and tempting illegal dump spot. Once repairs are made to fix the obvious drainage problem, I have a solution that actually might attract some visitors to this empty expanse of asphalt. Keep the $2 daily rate for the old parking lot close to the bus loop but allow free parking on the new lot that is a quarter of a kilometer away. This will allow those cheapskates who refuse to pay this nominal fee to park free of charge instead of clogging to the streets of the Semi-pen along the bus routes. The free parking might also attract commuters who went back to driving their cars to work to get onboard the 52 window coupe.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



May 19, 2014

Off To The Rodeo

Well it's 40 below and I don't give a f***
Got a heater in my truck and I'm off to the rodeo
And it's allemande left allemande right
Come on ya f***in' dummy get your right step right
Get off the stage, ya god damn goof, ya know
Piss me off, ya f***in' jerk, get on my nerves

Lyrics from Gary Lee and The Showdown's "The Rodeo Song"

The May long weekend usually signals the start of camping season but it is not very often you will see me load up the 4X4 and head out into the bush. I spend enough time outside in the elements that I don't particularly like wasting time living out of a tent in the pouring rain. Not to mention the Victoria Day holiday attracts a rowdy hoard of drunken idiots to every imaginable campsite from here to Hope. I've learned from past experience that it is better to stay home, enjoy the beach if the weather allows and head off to one of the best times that Surrey has to offer, the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair.

Dating back to September 1888 when the first fair started at the Surrey Municipal Hall and grounds, it moved to its current location at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds with the rodeo being first being held in 1945. The fair and rodeo are now operated by the Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition Association and you can learn more about then from their website at While I usually attend as a member of the general public, this weekend was my introduction to the four day marathon endured by those working this event as my wife Sheryl and I decided to take our Surrey Shirts merchandise to the fair.

One of the more interesting aspects of the fair had to be parking on the Fraser Downs racetrack. This 5/8 mile oval of hard packed wide banked gravel seemed rather inviting as I drove my buddy's Dodge hemi-powered truck onto the track. I must admit I didn't see a speed sign and probably went a little faster than the horses in the harness races that are regularly held there. It kind of reminded me of being on the old Langley Speedway in south Langley where my family regularly attended stock car races until its closing in 1984 when it became part of Campbell Valley Park. I know that nearby residents of Cloverdale would probably object but all I could think of while driving or walking on the track that it would be a fantastic place for spring car dirt track racing simply by building walled barriers to contain the cars. If you have ever been down to the Skagit Speedway in Burlington Washington to check out the sprint car racing that goes on there, you would understand exactly what I mean. The reality is that the only car racing that will likely ever happen at the Fraser Downs track will be those vendors and exhibitors heading for a good parking spot early in the morning during the fair.

The Cloverdale Fairgrounds are quite a different place when you take away the throngs of people who are in attendance during the open hours. It's a quiet world without bells, flashing lights, strange smells and loud voices when it is only the carneys from West Coast Amusement, Cloverdale Rodeo staff, security guards and the folks running concessions and retail businesses. We busied ourselves to get our canopy assembled in its assigned spot and the merchandise properly displayed and arranged. Our neighbours were the fine people from Costco selling their memberships and giving out free swag and an enterprising trio of energetic young people from Calgary selling "Artic Ice" cooling towels that performed so well they seemed to defy the laws of physics. For four days we worked up to fourteen hours in a row, meeting tens of thousands of people and selling hundreds of our pro-Surrey shirts. Needless to say, during that time there were plenty of interesting experiences and personalities who passed by our Surrey Shirts booth.

Surrey may have half a million people but it's a rather small world after all, as the song goes. Our first political personality to grace our humble store was none other than Mayor Dianne Watts herself who dropped by on the way to the first rodeo events. Unfortunately I missed her as I was busy handing out stickers to the hundreds of young people skateboarding and bike riding at the brand new covered Cloverdale Youth Park on the northeast corner of 62 Ave. and Hwy. 15 that opened last week. She was very pleasant and relaxed, even when confronted with our two more controversial designs focusing on Surrey's gun and gang violence problem. Marvelous Marvin Hunt, the man who wears two hats in Surrey as both a city councilor and MLA for South-Surrey/Panorama paid a visit to chat about the rodeo, the direction of Surrey and negotiating the complexities of Provincial politics in Victoria. Newly and truly independent Surrey councilor and mayoralty hopeful Barinder Rasode dropped by with her wonderful kids in tow, giving her support for our efforts to improve Surrey pride and tackle our crime problem. Former Surrey-Cloverdale MLA and previous White Rock councilor Ken Jones stopped by to say hello on several occasions, enjoying his first time at the fair as a visitor after volunteering at the rodeo for 22 years. Current Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Stephanie Cadieux and Surrey-Tynehead MLA David Hayer finished off the who's-who of Surrey's political finest that came by our prime concourse vantage spot.

On a different note, there were also other people we met linked to the darker side of Surrey. On Saturday night a very large man came to our tent inquiring about a 3X hoodie, specifically our notorious "Better Safe Than Surrey" design. He put the apparel on, checked it for fit and then asked for a mirror. Seeing himself, he suddenly looked shaken and explained how it just dawned on him it was the fifth anniversary of when he had been shot and wounded at the Legacy Showroom in Cloverdale. I knew about this unsolved gang-land shooting where Chris Whitemee, a 34 year-old father of two was gunned down as an innocent bystander in the strip bar bathroom on May 16, 2009. We agreed that it would be bad karma for someone who had been shot in Surrey to be wearing a Surrey Shirt with bullet holes on it. By strange coincidence I met another gentleman the next day working at the Sturgis North Tour Bus who when hearing this story informed me that he had been working as a doorman at the same bar on the night of the shooting and that his brother had been washing his hands in the bathroom when the other men were hit by bullets. Pushing the realm of possibility even further, one of the RCMP officers who bought a t-shirt from us ("Surreyman" in case you were wondering) was also at the bar on the night of this chaotic shooting and talked about the long-lasting emotional pain inflicted on everyone involved.

We had plenty of interaction with Surrey RCMP officers during the course of the weekend because of our location directly across from the Longhorn Saloon. The paddy wagon featured a visual of the inside of the drunk tank and the caption "Drink & Drive and You Could Spent the Night Here" showed up every afternoon at four p.m., the same time that the doors opened. With booze flowing freely, there were plenty of altercations with a parade of young men being escorted from the premises by security of cops and placed into the van being used as a portable drunk tank. In all my years of attending the Cloverdale Rodeo & Fair, I've never stepped foot in the Longhorn, avoiding the crowds, long line ups and reputation that it has gained. For many others the Longhorn is as much a part of the rodeo as bull riding, bucking broncos, lemon heaven and those little donuts. My nephew who was recently wrote about who was stabbed at a Newton house party attended the Longhorn this weekend to celebrate his 19th birthday with his Dad, Step-Mom and other family members and friends. Imagine his surprise when standing at the bar he was approached by a former acquaintance from his old neighbourhood of Newton who told him that he knew who'd stabbed him, giving the perpetrators name. Needless to say, this information plus other interesting details have been passed on to the Surrey RCMP Serious Crimes Unit and hopefully it will help them find the person responsible and to lay charges.


There were plenty of other notable folks that helped make the weekend fly by including the three young ladies from Surrey, England that we sold our "Surrey Girl – Damn Proud Of It" shirts to, giving them our "Surrey" personalized BC license plate bumper stickers to take back home. The wonderful couple from Naples Florida who explained they were stopping over in Vancouver to visit their daughter before continuing off to Fiji for two weeks in a nude full ship charter with certainly made me smile. More than anything it was the constant parade of regular folks proud to be living in Surrey and thrilled that we were giving them the opportunity to wear apparel with the Surrey name prominently displayed on them that I will always remember. We even had four people show off their rather large Surrey tattoos on their chest, back, arm and neck. Besides gaining an appreciation for the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at the Cloverdale Rodeo, I realized that even with half-a-million people and a large land base that Surrey really isn't that big.

After all, the place you call home never really is.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


May 12 2014

Watt Really Happened With The Mayor's Car Crash?

If ever there was an anti-climatic ending to a story, the out-of-court settlement reached between the Watt's and Shawnene Redekopp over their late night car crash in south Surrey on April 23, 2010 certainly takes the cake. This civil case has been delayed time and time again and was finally going to go to court on June 17 of this year. It was hoped that we would get answers to many of the questions revolving around who was ultimately responsible for this serious accident that hurt both Dianne and her husband Brian, while critically injuring Shawnene. Instead the Indo-Canadian newspaper The Voice ( broke the story that this case had been settled by the parties involved, with non-disclosure agreements assuring that any skeletons in the closest stay behind closed doors.

What is known is that around 11 pm on a rainy Friday night, the Mayor's Cadillac Escalade was heading east on 24 Ave. after the Watt's left a dinner party at palatial mansion in Ocean Park. At the 24 Ave. and 128 St. intersection, the Escalade t-boned a dark Chrysler 300 sedan driven by Shawnene Redekopp, hitting it hard on the driver's side and sending it into a light standard at the corner of Crescent Park Elementary. The Watt's Cadillac spun over 180 degrees on the wet streets with heavy front end damage. The force of the impact fired the many airbags including the two side curtain air bags on the Chrysler 300 that has a 5-star side impact safety rating. The tow trucks were probably not yet at the accident scene when questions about this crash started to be raised.

When the media got wind that Dianne Watts had been involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, the Surrey RCMP released that the Mayor has been in a crash and that "alcohol was not involved." Interestingly, the police would not tell reporters the location of the accident scene other than to notify them it was in south Surrey. The light at 24 Ave. is a demand light that is normally green for traffic on 128 St., meaning that drivers on 24 Ave. have to stop to activate the signal. Given the damage to the vehicles involved, it appears that the Watt's Cadillac entered the intersection going at least the posted speed limit. Another odd circumstance was the RCMP apparently reporting to media scribes that the Watt's vehicle had been t-boned in the crash, where the opposite was true. This mistruth was published by various media sources and with the exception of the Province newspaper never corrected. I should point out that from personal experience I know that the vehicle doing the broad siding has nothing to do with who has the green light. It is a simple result of who is unlucky enough to get into the intersection first.

After a lengthy investigation by the RCMP where an apparent witness was eventually found, the cops wrote a ticket against Shawnene Redekopp for running a red light and being responsible for the crash. Once she had recovered from her many serious injuries, Mrs. Redekopp filed suit against the Watts and their leasing company, claiming that it was the Cadillac that had run the normally red light on 24 Ave. Should you care to read the "statement of claims" and "statement of defence" filed in this case, local south Surrey blogger and 24 Hours columnist Laila Yuile has both posted on her website ( at the following link:

They make for some rather interesting reading with a list of Mrs. Redekopp's 24 listed injuries and accusations that Mayor Watts was driving without due care, ran the red light, was speeding, plus driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs or fatigue. Watts counter claim basically stated the opposite, making this a she said/she said court battle.

Now that this case has been settled out of the public's eye, it is likely we will never know the full details and whose version of events was actually truthful. For an official in Watts position and with the Mayor's Office spokesperson originally stating that Dianne was at the party on official Surrey business, the people of Surrey require an explanation. This car crash created serious public interest with many explanations, accusations and conspiracy theories being posted on social media. A friend of mine even had a supposed eye witness to the crash with details that I have to withhold because there is no way for me to verify them. If Dianne Watts wants to represent south Surrey in Ottawa as has been rumored, the residents of the Semi-Pen deserve to know what they are voting for. If the Mayor's version of events is true then we would like to know that is the case.

For me, it is not Mayor Watts that I am really worried about because there is a much more serious problem to consider. If Shawnene Redekopp's version of events is true, then it means that the Surrey RCMP botched the accident investigation and ticketed the wrong person, victimizing the lady with the lacerated spleen, damaged pancreas, punctured lung, broken collar bone and a host of other serious injuries. I'd like to know if either party was tested for alcohol, considering Mrs. Redekopp informed me she had been accused of drinking at the crash scene and offered to give a blood sample at the hospital. You have to wonder if being the chair of the Police Committee, the person who helped bring the E Division headquarters to Tall Timbers and the one who voted to give the RCMP a new 20-year contract in Surrey bought Mayor Watts a favor from officers attending the accident scene. If this is the case, and I certainly hope that it's not, then corruption in the force is certainly alive and well here.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



May 05, 2014

"Letter" Know The Truth


They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Lyrics to Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi"

I must admit that I was surprised when I finally received a copy of the letter that the City of White Rock sent to federal Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt earlier this month. It itemized many of the concerns that I have had for years with the BNSF Railway, the slide prone Ocean Park bluff and the shipment of dangerous goods through this community along an ecologically sensitive corridor. This correspondence touched on the new shipment of unit trains of explosive Bakken crude oil through this region and the ground vibrations caused by long heavy coal trains. The main casual factor listed as contributing to their concerns was the steep and unstable hillside between White Rock and Crescent Beach adjacent to the BNSF tracks and its long history of mudslides and derailments. The letter was late in showing up at the desk of editor Dave Chesney as the White Rock Sun was left off the CC list that included the Vancouver Sun and Province plus the two local community newspapers. This is not the first time that City Hall has purposely left us out of the loop and if this type of selective media manipulation disturbs you, please feel free to let Mayor Baldwin and WR Council know.

While it was refreshing to know that City Hall is obviously aware of the dangers from the BNSF tracks, if the Honorable Mrs. Raitt knew what was going on at the Hump hillside between east and west beach recently, she wouldn't line the bottom of a bird cage with that letter from Mayor and council. The reason is that you can't rail on about how you are afraid of slope stability above the tracks and then not only allow but this time actually pay to clear-cut more of this hillside. The Hump was a diverse forested woodland only a few years back before first 40 and then a further 36 trees that had been marked for preservation were cut down by the BNSF. Now the City of White Rock literally mows down more of the bush and then this week hires loggers (not arborists in my books) to reduce 12 trees including Canada's Big Leaf maple to cordwood. At least this time after trying to justify the need for this work to "check for slope stability" (what a crock) they finally admitted it was to improve the views of wealthy Marine Drive residents. This is beyond hypocrisy, stupidity, or rational thought, leaving me wondering if the cutting down of trees to improve views and property values resulting in higher taxation is official White Rock policy. Could it be that the plan for a multi-level parking lot built into the Hump hill might possibly be resurrected in the near future?

What is particularly concerning with City Hall's behavior is that in 2007 after a series of mudslides onto the BNSF tracks, Transport Canada reviewed slope stability on the Ocean Park bluffs and identified three main causes of slides. These were hill-top residents draining water onto the slope, the presence of antiquated septic and drain fields plus the cutting of trees by homeowners for views. While the Hump is not the OP bluff, it shares the same geological formation and steepness, plus a history of landslides. A photo book of early White Rock sitting on the front desk at City hall shows the Hump after trees were cut down in the early 1900's with a 150 m. wide lateral slump slide just east of the pier plus several other vertical slides reaching from Marine Drive to the tracks. The sidewalk safety railings on Marine Drive had to be replaced several years ago because they were leaning towards the beach due to soil creep. There are ground motion sensors embedded in the roadway at the Hump and a section of asphalt caved in to the centerline in the early 1960's. Even with all of this evidence of the risks and a letter to the Minister of Transportation, the fools still hack and slash at the remaining trees on the Hump, ignoring the fact there is no landslide detector fence at the bottom of it, unlike most of the Ocean Park bluff.

I was coming home from Chilliwack Sunday night and drove into flooding on 16th Ave. in Hazelmere that had caused a couple of cars to leave the road. Police arrived on scene and eventually blockaded several portions of the road that had turned into rivers up to a foot deep. After several detours I finally made it home to learn from weather reports that a storm had stalled over the Rock, dumping rain unofficially measured at 8 cm in only five hours. I also heard that there was flooding at West Beach along Marine Drive which is no surprise considering it has happened at that spot before. It is this type of rainfall event that often results in mudslides onto the tracks here, with 5 cm. of precipitation in 12 hours usually being the tipping point for landslides. We will have to see on Monday morning if there was any slide activity in this region, either from the Ocean Park bluff or the Hump. Guaranteed that if White Rock Council continues to allow the clearing of trees from the Hump, as the roots rot there will likely be serious slope stability issues. Why Transport Canada does nothing to stop the tree felling on the Hump is a mystery but I will mention it to Mrs. Raitt when I contact her regarding the continued clear-cutting for views above our tracks where dangerous goods routinely roll by on the train tracks.

The lovely "Hump" should be renamed "Eagle Hill" and the forest there given the same protected status as the ravine lands in White Rock stopping all development and tree clearing. Several Douglas firs should be planted on the hillside not only for stability but to eventually serve as perching or nesting trees for eagles in the future, especially after so many stately evergreens have recently been chopped down and bald eagles forced to eat out of the dump at Burns Bog. It would seem that the only way for this to happen is to give the axe to the clear-cut council controlling White Rock and put some of these dinosaurs out to pasture in November. If not, the only tall thing left standing in White Rock will be concrete towers and the only nature to be found will be at the naturist beach. Take a walk to the end of the pier, turn around and look at what White Rock is quickly becoming. The two-tier tree policy and monster house construction is ensuring that the city is as hard and barren as the giant granite boulder on the beach that it's named after.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



April 28, 2014

Every Family's Worst Nightmare

I usually have an assortment of topics to write my weekly TNT column on and had a dandy concerning White Rock and their friendly neighbourhood railway before life threw a wrench onto the tracks and derailed my story. This weekend's plans and lists of chores were all tossed into the shredder when the phone rang and woke us from a deep slumber in the darkness at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning. The call was from my sister-in-law, phoning from the Emergency Department of the Royal Columbian Hospital after a ride there in a RCMP cruiser to let us know that our nephew had been seriously hurt. So began the weekend from hell that should serve as a warning to anyone living in Surrey who thinks that violence here happens only to other people.

My eighteen year-old nephew is a clean-cut regular guy who lives a quiet routine life and is apprenticing as a commercial plumber. A couple of his buddies from work invited him to a house party in Newton on Friday night with other young adults and things got out of control after midnight. He made the mistake of trying to be his usual helpful self by stepping in to stop a fight. For his small act of courage he was stabbed with a knife deep into the chest and abdomen. Fearing for his life, he ran for the door and as he grabbed his shoes was stabbed another seven times in the back and chased into the yard by four Caucasian men. There he was punched, beaten, kicked in the head while on the ground and robbed of his wallet and cell phone. He managed to get away from his attackers, collapsing into a ditch a couple of blocks away from the party. Fortunately, passersby heard his weak calls for help as he lay bleeding and phoned 911 summoning the police and ambulance.

We went to the hospital and sat with his Mom and Dad (who was the Best Man at my wedding) plus other family members while waiting for news from the surgeons who were working to repair the many stab wounds and a serious internal injury. I am happy to report that he'll likely make a full recovery from his injuries but I'm sure that the psychological trauma of being hunted by a pack of wild animals and left for dead will leave scars in his psyche larger than the ones on his skin. It turns out that Global TV had footage of the scene when he was first discovered in Newton and the Surrey RCMP then questioning people at the house party. On Saturday afternoon a reporter and TV crew dropped by his Dad's house to question him on what had happened to his son. I came by to give my support and because of my "Rootin', Tootin', Newton" t-shirt was invited to say a few words on my injured cousin's behalf. When the TV crew was done there, we then drove to the party house at 6166 133 St. where I confronted and questioned the young man who had hosted this bloody debacle, trying to get information about my cousin's attackers. You can watch the show on the Global TV website at the following link:

Knowing about the code of silence in Surrey, people not wanting to "rat" out criminal scumbags, or get involved because of fear or lack of compassion, we put together some rather seriously worded posters reading "WANTED FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER." These contain details of the vicious attack, using derogatory terms like "white-trash, cowards and goofs" to describe the assailants. There is also a large "$ REWARD $" printed in red to bring attention to the pay day available to anyone wanting to come forward with information about the knifing. These rather nasty looking posters have been put up around Newton and we are hoping that they will get people talking about this latest violent assault in Surrey that was witnessed by a house full of people. Already Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are buzzing about this wild party, the "Wanted" posters and talk about how the perpetrators need to be identified to the police.

The Surrey RCMP Serious Crime Unit is investigating this violent assault and we have been informed they are working on a number of promising leads. Hopefully the "Wanted" poster campaign loosens a few more tongues and people can help the police to make some timely arrests in this case. Anyone with information about our nephew's stabbing can simply phone the Surrey RCMP non-emergency reporting line at 604-599-0502 with their details for the case file number 2014-55989. For those who wish to remain anonymous, they can contact Crimestoppers, either online at or by phone at 1-800-222-8477. The bonus with Crimestoppers is that if and when these four thugs are arrested, tried and convicted for this senseless crime, the tipsters will then receive a monetary reward for helping to make the streets of Surrey safer.

I don't want to use my nephew's unfortunate experience to score political points but I must bring up Mayor Dianne Watt's comments in the Province newspaper on Sunday regarding her leaving office at the end of this term, which I read while sitting in the hospital. The question and answer section of this front page article went like this:
Q. "Public Safety has long been an issue in Surrey. Do you think Surrey is a safer place than when you became mayor? Has it shed its bad rep?"
A. "You know what? I do. I fully understand the high-profile incidents that have occurred and they're tragic, there's no doubt about that. But when you look at the community, the crime rates have come down."

This simple statement shows just how out of touch Mayor Watts is with the "Real Surrey." Instead she promotes the "Surreal Surrey" that the developers, spin doctors, corporate paid media and RCMP brass have all colluded to paint. The real Surrey, the scary Surrey, the sick Surrey, the dangerous Surrey is the one where one's life is constantly threatened with a record 25 murders here last year and the title of Canada's Murder Capital for 2013. It is the same Surrey where you don't want to go out at night, have to walk in groups for safety, stay away from dark unlit areas and carry weapons in case you're attacked.

If you think this kind of violence is random in Surrey you should know this is not the first time my nephew has been assaulted in the city where "The Future Lives Here." He made headlines almost a year ago on May 4th when himself and two friends walking down Crescent Road from the beach were swarmed and robbed of their wallets and cell phones by a larger group of youths armed with pepper spray and a machete. RCMP spokesperson Bert Paquet had this to say about the incident: "These three did nothing wrong – they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time" (translation: Surrey at night). From now on I expect my cousin will be spending his leisure time at his new home in Langley wearing his "Better Safe Than Surrey" t-shirt and staying the hell away from here until public safety improves.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



April 21, 2014

TNT Triple Play

Most people got to relax on the Easter long weekend but I found myself working three times as hard as normal with a trifecta of titillating subjects for your reading pleasure. Just like spring training in baseball, three strikes and you're out.

1. Hump & Grind

Hump: definition - a rounded protuberance such as a mound, hummock or mountain range
slang - the act or an imitation of having sexual intercourse

White Rock City Hall was up to its same old tricks last week with a Gradall excavation machine sporting a flail mower attachment grinding vegetation to a pulp on the Hump in the third installment of so-called "vegetation control" on the forested hillside between east and west beach. In the first instance which saw Dave Chesney doing his best impression of Tarzan five years ago to stop the unauthorized clear-cutting, Marine Drive residents paid the BNSF to reduce the scrub and invasive species where the railway promised "not a single tree will be removed." The end result was 40 trees cut down with myself collecting a one-tonne truck full of cordwood and taking it to the BNSF offices in New Westminster under the bright glare of TV camera lights. In the second phase of this clear-cut operation a year later, the 36 trees previously marked for preservation were then chopped down, affording the Top of the Rock development and others a 180 degree view of the water minus the pesky trees growing on an old 150 m. wide lateral slump landslide site just east of the pier. Scroll down into the TNT archives to the March 8, 2010 (Gone But Not Forgotten), Nov. 30 2009 (Stopping the BNSF in Their Tracks), Oct. 19, 2009 (Clear-Cut Case of Negligence) and Sept. 21, 2009 (Stumps on the Hump) for a historic overview of this ever bizarre situation in the Rock.

In the latest act of desecration, White Rock actually paid for the vegetation control, hiring a Gradall machine with railroad wheels underneath and a flail mower at the end of the boom arm to brush cut all of the plants near the sidewalk. This work included using the mower attachment to hack away at branches on the mature trees leaving many shattered ends that are now an eyesore and vector for disease, insects and rot. To make this even more idiotic, they had crews take gas-powered chop saws to the new safety railing, hacking it into pieces to allow the machine to reach further onto the Hump so they could check for slope stability without getting scratched by black berries. The old railing previously replaced as it was leaning towards the beach at angles of 15-25 degrees downhill from vertical because of soil creep. To their credit, at least this time White Rock actually came out and said that the other reason for this work was view improvement for residents along Marine Drive. Nice to see that the city is spending tax dollars to raise the property values of the rich folks on Marine for whom the need for a 12 month unobstructed view is more important than slope stability or railway safety on the BNSF tracks below. When the work is completed I will be filing an FOI to find out the total cost of this lunacy and will share the results here. A copy of the email I sent to Mayor Baldwin and company is posted on the letters page of the White Rock Sun should you care to read it to discover why the name "Hump" perfectly fits this hillside (see slang explanation above for a clue).


2. Defection From Surrey's Worst

Cracks are beginning to show in the highly polished teflon exterior of Surry's ruling elite (aka Surrey First) with councillor Barinder Rasode making the first high profile defection from Mayor Watt's hand-picked party laughingly refered to as a "coalition of independents." After blowing an estimated $150 million hole in the budget to build the new Surrey City Hall in Central City, or as I like to call it "downtown Whalley", Dianne didn't have enough money in the bank to pay for more cops on the streets as the bloody body count rose throughout last year to a record level, giving Surrey a black eye and even worse name from coast-to-coast. As chair of the police committee, Barinder had plenty of questions and ideas on how to deal with the increased violence tied directly to gangs and the failed war-on-drugs, especially after the bludgeoning death of much more than hockey mom Julie Paskall in Newton that is still unsolved. Watt's predictable control freak response was to publically dump Rasode from her position, basically ostracizing her from the rest of the Surrey Firsters, who with the exception of veteran councilor Judy Villeneuve, follow the Mayor obediently around City Hall somewhere between trained barking seals and Rev. Jim Jones People's Temple cult members in Jonestown, Guyana.

Councilor Rasode now sits as a truly independent councilor in Surrey, officially starting what is known in media circles as "silly season" or the approximately six months leading up to the next civic election. With Barinder exiting stage left and marvelous Marvin Hunt stepping up to the ledge in Victoria to rep Panorama/south Surrey, there are now two gaping holes in the Surrey First slate. Left to be seen is if Queen Dianne will jump ship and accept the offer of a federal riding in south Surrey/White Rock with Harper's Conservatives now that lame duck MP Russ Hiebert has secured his gold-plated pension. Adding to the fur-flying free-for-all is word that former Mayor "Cowboy"Doug McCallum (who ironically threw Watts off the police commitee before losing to her nine years ago) may toss his 10 gallon Stetson hat into the ring. It is rather sad that while Rasode and several other councilors have their eyes on the mayor's throne, none have had the chutzpa to say they will run against Watts, waiting for her to make up her mind and step aside. With Dianne earlier stating that the Mayor's term should be limited to three terms (that she has now served) and with Surrey bearing the shameful title of "Canada's Murder Capital for 2013", how much more ammunition do you need? Maybe I should take her on wearing my "Better Safe Than Surrey" or "The Future Dies Here" apparel from Surrey Shirts as I obviously have a much better idea of the serious public safety shortcomings facing this community than someone now sitting in a marble and ivory tower looking down at the peasants. Better yet, maybe Dianne will ask me to join the Surrey First cult with the hopes of shutting me up. Mmm..., pass the purple Kool-aid please.

3. White Rock Wailing Wall

In an act of utter desecration, agents from Colliers International decided it would be good advertising to drill six holes into the concrete wall of Wyland's whaling wall at the corner of Johnston Rd. and Russel Ave. and screw up (literally) one of their coreplast real estate signs to the mural directly in front of the two grey whale parents and their young calf. The mural was originally painted in 1984 as a gift to the city of White Rock from Californian marine artist Robert Wyland and Paul Watson's Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Cloverdale Paint donated $2,000 in materials and the Ocean Beach Hotel provided accommodation for this budding artist who went on to become world-renown for his murals and the foundation that bears his name ( The White Rock Whaling Wall was the fourth painting of a hundred done beginning in 1981 and ending in 2008 in Bejing for the start of the summer Olympics. The completed "Wyland Walls" campaign that was done to convey the urgency of marine conservation issues to the masses is one of the largest art-in-public-places projects in history, spanning five continents, 13 countries, and 79 cities around the world. The White Rock Whaling Wall is now the oldest of Wyland's life-sized murals still in existence at its original outdoor location, with seven of the original ten moved indoors, covered up or "extinct."

It's not like the folks at Colliers International didn't know the value of the 70' wide by 30' tall "The Gray Whale Family" mural to the people in White Rock as the listing feature reads, "The 'Whalling Wall' building is an iconic landmark and a staple in the community." Yeah, "staple", you really can't make this stuff up. There is a small landscaped bed directly under the large mural that would have easily accommodated a couple of posts capable of holding this sign while still giving it maximum street exposure. Instead, it looks as if the whales are about to choke on a piece of plastic flotsam drifting in the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Gyre. If Colliers wanted to generate interest in the office space for lease in the HSBC building they sure got it but in an extremely negative way. They might as well have stapled a "For Sale" sign to Leonardo da Vinci's painting of Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre or drilled and bolted a "Censored" sign over Michelangelo's David sculpture's hard as stone nether regions (that really is The Naked Truth). Word from editor Mr. Chesney is that the agent responsible for this listing is aware of the furor that has erupted from the good citizens of White Rock over the offending sign and will take steps to remedy the situation after the Easter weekend. The Wyland Foundation has also been alerted to the damage and we'll have to wait and see if Colliers will pay for professional repairs likely needed to White Rock's most cherished piece of artwork to make it hole..., I mean "whole" again.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



April 14, 2014

Alarming Times, Alarming Fines in Surrey


The people who live around my house must be wondering just what the hell is going on with their flamboyant neighbour and why emergency services personnel often drop by with lights a flashing. Three times over the past couple of years the firemen from Hall 12 have been summoned to the house by 911 calls over a kitchen fire, a toxic plastic smell traced to burning garbage and a defective fireplace that pumped smoke into the house instead of the chimney. As if this were not enough, the RCMP has been on scene several times for vandalism, auto theft and an assault (we live in Surrey after all). At least in these cases we had called them for help, rather than them show up uninvited or with warrant in hand. Unfortunately we have since had a visit by the RCMP concerning an incident that involved alarm tampering, alcohol abuse, public nudity and voyeurism.

While this sounds salacious and titillating, in fact it was a scene right out of the keystone cops. When our house alarm system was installed, the so-called technician managed to mount one of the door sensors backwards and with it not functioning properly, moved the unit closer to register the magnet attached to the door. Unfortunately this meant that if the door was slammed shut or blown closed by the wind, the alarm module was impacted, eventually causing it to become cracked and fall to the floor. When this happened our alarm monitoring company phoned the house to say they had received a tampering alert (even though the alarm was off and people were at home). We informed them about the problematic unit and ordered a new one online that I planned on installing myself to save the hefty service call. It turns out that I should have shelled out the $125 as it would have saved me a lot of trouble, headache and embarrassment (pronounced "em-bare-ass-meant").

So there I am with my lovely wife Sheryl late in the evening on a mid-week night, getting ready for a quick soak in our hot tub before bed. We go into the back yard closing the kitchen door behind us, not knowing that it registers yet another tampering report. As we quietly relax in the tub sharing a drink, the alarm company frantically phoned our house, both cell phones and a relative trying to contact us. Not being in the habit of bringing phones into the tub, we miss the calls which then results in the cops being dispatched. We were just about to get out of the steamy water when suddenly three dark figures carrying very bright flashlights walked into the yard and approached the gazebo. I see these strangers and in my most macho kick-your-ass voice bellowed out, "Who goes there", spilling my drink in the process. The answer quickly came back, "Surrey RCMP, is that the Pitcairns?" We told them yes and warned them that we would be right out after putting some clothes on. We quickly figured it was the damaged sensor and informed the officers that we would disable that zone until the new unit that we had already ordered was installed.

We thought this rather hilarious incident would be the end of our problems until we received a letter from the City of Surrey informing us that we had run afoul of the "Surrey Security and Fire Alarm By-Law, 1997, No. 13168." Without boring you with the dry details, you will be charged for each and every false alarm that results in either the police or fire service being dispatched to your home or business. This includes alarm testing, mechanical failure, faulty equipment, user error, atmospheric conditions, excessive vibrations and power failures. Needless to say, I felt that being held responsible for a false alarm that occurred when I was home, the alarm system not being activated and a signal sent by an improperly installed module did not sit very well with me, let along the $89 fine ($114 if not received within 14 days). I appealed this fine, sending pictures of my new door module, the proper installation done by a trained professional (me in this case) and the copy of the service contract of our new monitoring company that does not call the police for tamper alarms. I learned that a friend of mine had appealed an almost identical false alarm situation and lost, yet for reasons unknown we were let off the hook. Probably this had something to do with me promising to write a TNT column on the subject at a later date.

With the high rates of B&E and thefts in Surrey, you would think that City Hall would be encouraging residents and businesses to use alarm systems to protect their property and valuables. While I realize that false alarms are a nuisance, fines should not be levied on the first offence. How can citizens be held responsible for the failure of an electronic gadget that is beyond their control? My parents in Chilliwack had their transformer hit by a bolt of lightning triggering an alarm which in Surrey would result in a fine for what many would consider an act of God. This by-law makes as much sense as having the RCMP ticketing drivers whose vehicles break down on the side of the road. For reoccurring false alarms then fines should be in order but for first time offences, I don't understand how they can hold people accountable for circumstances totally beyond their control. With the new alarm module and reprogramming to switch alarm companies, I spent around $150 to fix the problem which is maybe why my appeal of the fine was ultimately successful.

Hopefully the City of Surrey will review this unjust bylaw that could be looked at by those with a jaundiced eye as a blatant tax grab. Properties with multiple false alarms should be the ones targeted with fines, not those who have had a first-time false alarm triggered for reasons not relating to criminal activity or fire. If you find yourself with an unwanted visit by either the Surrey Fire Service or RCMP because of a false alarm and receive a by-law fine from City Hall, appeal it using my successful bid quoting the invoice #055406. At the very least, take steps to correct the problem or replace faulty equipment and then ask for relief from these unjust fines that might make some people hesitant to have an alarm system installed in the first place.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



April 7, 2014

Blooming Good Time to Join the Club


It looks like spring is definitely upon us, something we should all cherish knowing that there has been snow on the ground in Winnipeg for six months with still more in the forecast for today. Daffodils are out in force here, buds on the trees are breaking into flowers and grass is definitely on the rise with the sound of lawn mowers and the smell of freshly mowed grass permeating Semi-pen neighborhoods. My own garden is slowly coming into form with perennials bursting from the soil and several rhododendrons and camellias in showy full bloom. I may be pushing it but I even dragged my collection of palms out of their improvised greenhouse and took the winter coverings of towels, sheets and tarps off the banana plant groves. In no time attention will turn to the backyard vegetable patch, dahlia garden and tomato plants that will find a sheltered home in pots under the eaves of our upper deck. Local garden centres are getting noticeably busy especially on sunny days and the Ocean Park Potters store is definitely in the spirit with their road sign reading, "Spring is here, we're so excited we wet our plants!"

For those dedicated gardeners who can't get enough of horticulture, there are local clubs here specifically for those with a green thumb or at the very least dirty nails. Top of the list has to be the South Surrey Garden Club who are celebrating their 25 anniversary this year. While there used to be a three-year waiting list to join, the club now has around 350 members and is very active in the community. They hold monthly meetings on the fourth Wednesday of every month (except Aug. & Dec.) at St. Mark's Anglican Church at 12953 20 Ave., in south Surrey that include a guest speaker, gardening tips and expertise, plus show and tell. Also available is a Q & A table, plant sales and access to their club library with over 600 titles. Their program committee organizes club activities that include gardening workshops, tours of member's gardens, plus their annual plant sale in May the Saturday before Mother's Day and their summer vegetable and flower show. Membership also allows you to join their online discussion group and receive a bi-monthly newsletter.

A little smaller with only 65 active members, the White Rock & District Garden Club was formed shortly after WW2 in 1947 and still soldiers on today. They meet on the second Tuesday of every month (except in July & Aug. when field trips are scheduled) at the Cranley Hall at 2141 Cranley Dr. in Surrey. At each meeting they have a judged parlour show, a guest speaker and a instructional demonstration. Workshops are held throughout the year with their floral art group teaching beginners, they supply silk flower arrangements to local care homes at Christmas and they donate to charitable groups year round. While their spring flower show has already been held last month at the Semiahmoo Mall, you can attend their upcoming Spring Plant and Bake Sale being held on Sat., April 26 at the historic Ocean Park Community Hall, 1577 128 St. in south Surrey from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m.

Should you be looking for a gardening club that is "landed", look no further than the historic Darts Hill Garden Park (, located at the NE corner of 16 Ave and 168 St. in south Surrey. Our own version of Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver, Darts Hill is the result of nearly 70 years of hard work and dedication guided by Francisca and Edwin Darts who took this south facing piece of the Hazelmere hillside and turned it into an award winning orchard and then a unique garden park. Bequeathed to the city of Surrey, it contains a large number of rare and unusual plants, many in a mature state. Darts Hill also includes one of the most diverse collection of tree species in BC with some being planted over 50 years ago. The park garden is open to the general public on four open house dates that include tours and plant sales, with the Saturday Stroll series being continued since introduced last year. Darts also holds special events such as the City's Sounds of Summer and private tours. You can join in the fun either as a member or a volunteer, giving yourself more opportunities to visit the gardens. They are always looking for people to help with special events, act as guides, help with propagation or even get their hands dirty with weeding. If you go, say hello to my sister Lee-Anne who assists with propagation to help create plants for the plant sales and to add to her own amazing garden at home in Langley.

All of these garden clubs and parks are members of a larger collective, the B.C. Council of Garden Clubs ( formed in 1943 that is the umbrella group for nearly 190 garden clubs across the province representing over 19,000 gardeners from children to seniors. Besides acting as a unifying force, the Council speaks with one voice on issues pertaining to gardening and horticulture in the province and to governments. Its website is where you can find links to the gardening clubs across the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island as far north as 100 Mile House. I should note for those from neighbouring communities reading this column that there are also gardening clubs in North Surrey, Delta and Langley. The BCCGC holds twice annual council meetings in spring and fall, has an elected executive board, issues The Bulletin newsletter six times a year, runs a scholarship trust fund for B.C. horticulture students and supports projects like "Green Your City." Showing their importance to the horticulture community, I was recently at Kwantlen College in Newton where scholarships from the BCCGC were awarded to deserving students.

Should you care to join any or all of these gardening organizations, here is their contact information:
South Surrey Garden Club - contact David Broomhead ( membership secretary), 604-533-1142 or email at
White Rock Garden Club - contact Eileen Davidson, 604-538-0496
Darts Hill Garden Park – contact the society at 604-501-5050 or email at
BC Council of Garden Clubs – email at

Hopefully you will find that being a member of a garden club grows on you, helping to branch out and spread roots into the community.

Now its time for me to get back to my own garden of weedin'.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



March 31, 2014

Bum Rip Rap For BNSF


A member of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee tipped me off to problems on the BNSF line at the bottom of Sunshine Hills in Delta back in 2010 where the railway placed car loads of boulders as a rip-rap defense against flooding from Cougar Creek. While the work had been authorized by Transport Canada, it was not completed in the time frame allotted, utilized twice as much rock as was allowed and worst of all, covered up to a third of the width of the creek channel alongside of the train tracks. Imagine my surprise several years later when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced they had filed charges under the federal Fisheries Act against the BNSF for harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. This court case went through the usual chronic delays in the justice system and on March 7th, the BNSF plead guilty to the charge and were fined $75,000 which ironically must be paid by the date this column is posted in the White Rock Sun.

Now normally one would think that myself of all people would be applauding this verdict sending a message to U.S. billionaire Warren Buffet's railway that tampering with the environment will not be tolerated up here in Canada. Unfortunately, while the BNSF is held accountable for its limited damage to Cougar Creek that killed no actual fish, much more serious and long-term problems are allowed to continue regardless of their effect on the Chum and Coho salmon, Cut-throat trout and other aquatic life that lives in this stream. Growing up in North Delta, I spent plenty of my time exploring Cougar Creek and Burns Bog when Scottsdale Mall was still a wooded lot. The creek flowed steadily through most of the year with crystal clear water that certainly didn't kill me of any of my friends who regularly drank it during our many excursions. Now-a-days, I wouldn't let my dog drink from this stream because of the changes that I have witnessed happening in only forty years.

With never ending development in Delta and Surrey the hydrology of this waterway has altered remarkably with it now pulsating with heavy rains, much like what happens in a sewer pipe when you flush the toilet. The water quality has also gone down the drain, with the crystal clear waters of my youth being replaced by a grey silty flow. The culprit of course is the many parking lots and roadways upstream starting in Newton that divert water from where it would have previously infiltrated into the ground. Instead it is now funneled in into storm drains that greatly increase the flow rate of the stream during rainfall or snow melt followed by low water levels during summer dry spells. I have worked for over fifteen years at a development located next to Cougar Creek in Delta and have witnessed the steady degradation of this waterway and the ever increasing erosion of the riverbanks. About five years ago, the Corp. of Delta worked with the DFO to place rip-rap boulders in the stream bed to slow the forces of nature but it appears this has done little against the rushing waters that are now common. Add to this chemicals flowing from Sunshine Hills that have caused fish kills and a gasoline spill into the stream at Scott Road that I reported to the RAPP line several years ago and it is amazing that fish actually still spawn in what is now an urban stream.

Even the waterway at the bottom of North Delta next to the old Peat plant at 72 Ave and Westview Drive that was affected by the BNSF flood control measures is not what it appears. Cougar Creek originally entered Burns bog and flowed southwest eventually emptying into Boundary Bay. In the past century this original route was blocked first by the rail corridor, then the peat plant, a GVRD sewer line, Hwy. 91, and finally a second bigger sewer line. In the early 1970's, Cougar Creek and neighbouring Blake Creek were diverted into a man-made channel draining north into the Fraser River given the rather industrial title "Northeast Interceptor", also known as Davis Creek. The diversion of Cougar Creek coupled with the torrential flows coming from upland development in Delta and Surrey make the BNSF tracks susceptible to flooding and ballast rock fouling by sediments. When I visited Cougar Creek alongside the tracks it was not the ballast rock that caused me the greatest concern but the many stretches of the tracks where mud has been pushed up between the sleepers (wooden ties), likely by hydraulic pumping from the weight of the new coal trains. Flooded tracks during heavy rains was what caused the derailment of a CN coal train into Silver Creek in Burnaby last January that fouled Burnaby Lake with coal. Considering the risks of a derailment and subsequent damage to the environment that could happen at Cougar Creek, I think the addition of some rocks next to the tracks is minimal by comparison. With the Harper Conservative government's recent gutting of fish habitat protection, it is unlikely that the BNSF would now be charged for their attempts to protect the tracks against floodwaters which have been created by poor drainage planning in Delta and Surrey.

It is hypocritical to hold the BNSF accountable for damage to Cougar Creek while turning a blind eye to the waves of stormwater runoff originating from upstream developments in Delta and Surrey. The flooding of the tracks beside Westview drive should be addressed at its source by retaining or infiltrating stormwater runoff from parking lots and streets around the Scott Road corridor. Not only would this calm the fluctuating flow of Cougar Creek, it would also improve water quality by reducing sediments, salt and vehicle pollution coming from the large mall parking lots. The Cougar Creek Streamkeepers ( have been doing their part to increase water infiltration by diverting drain water into raingardens beside parking lots and decommissioning drain pipes flowing directly into the creek. The $75,000 fine from the BNSF Railway is being placed into an environmental damages fund that Delta and Surrey can access to use for their projects. Now would be a good time for these cities to put up some money of their own and take the steps needed to address the ongoing and on-flowing problem of Cougar Creek flooding the BNSF tracks.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



March 24, 2014

Monstrous Behavior You Can Bank On


Coast Capital Savings has a long and successful history as a financial institution in Surrey, starting out as the Surrey Credit Union, then Surrey Metro Savings and finally Coast Capital Savings as it amalgamated with smaller credit unions across the Lower Mainland. As it grew the "Credit Union" words disappeared from the name in front of their buildings to the point where you now have to look carefully to even find a mention of its credit union affiliation. Along the way, it would appear that those running the credit union began to feel that they were controlling a bank, losing interest in the shareholders who are the backbone of the credit union philosophy. Last week I received my "A Monster Ask" package containing information about the vote for the 2014 Board of Directors election along with 2014 Special Resolutions. While normally voting for boards of directors and resolutions in financial institutions is as exciting as watching paint dry, in this case it is the proverbial David vs. Goliath battle, with leaders of the credit union in mortal combat with a group of members that are taking a stand against the way the "bank" is governed.

The Coast Capital Compensation Watch (CCCW) as it is known was formed in response to hefty pay increases given to the executive directors of the Coast Capital Savings Credit Union once they had assumed control of their own raises in 2007. This resulted in the total compensation to Coast Capital directors being double that of the much larger Vancity Credit Union directors by 2011. Last year the CCCW forced a vote on this issue and in the largest voter turnout in the history of Coast Capital Savings, nearly 80% of ballots cast were in favour of credit union members establishing the amounts that would be paid to the directors. Instead of this happening, a loophole allowed the Coast Capital board to reduce their pay by a small amount and form a Task Force to study the matter though they have yet to meet and have no power to set director pay. Because of this legal slight-of-hand and delay, outraged credit union members are now forcing yet another vote and are looking to make concrete changes in the way the credit union is governed. The four new resolutions include a 12-year director term limit, disclosure of pay for top three executives including the CEO, allowing director election campaigning and to set specific pay for directors of Coast Capital at current Vancity Credit Union pay levels.

This seems relatively straight forward until you start to discover the spin that Coast Capital board is putting on the information they are sending out to their members. While you would think that voting should be a truly democratic process especially for a Credit Union, this is far from what is happening. The Coast Capital Compensation Watch group are specifically mentioned and targeted under the title of "Our success is under threat", calling them a disruptive special interest group while ignoring the 79.7% of members who voted last year to end the practice of directors setting their own pay rates. The Coast Capital board even drafted four of their own special resolutions with the same headings as the four resolutions from CCCW, putting them ahead of the member resolutions that they are so afraid of. To top off this copy-cat tactic that appears carefully crafted to confuse voters, the directors even had the audacity to post recommendations in the pamphlets on how members should cast their ballots. Of course, they want members to vote for the Coast Capital resolutions maintaining the status quo, not those put forward by credit union members looking to take control of executive spending and the democratic process. To see the obvious institutional bias, read the following statement taken directly from the Coast Capital website: "Four Special Resolutions are from individuals who want to change how your credit union is run. The other four Special Resolutions are from Coast Capital and aim to retain the good governance, good service and innovative approach to banking that you love."

Besides the slanted literature accompanying the call for members to vote like trained seals, the process that the Coast Capital board calls "democratic" is anything but with director election rules set to control who gets elected. Rather than just list the candidates for election to the Board of Directors in alphabetical order, they actually "recommend" the candidates they want to see elected under the bold blue title, "BEST OVERALL FIT" and place them first on the list. As if this isn't enough of a disgrace to the electoral process, Coast Capital has effectively placed a gag order on candidates and basically eliminated any campaigning. Candidates may only speak to individual members either by person (no couples please) or telephone (no conference calls) and are banned from using social media (no Facebook or Twitter) to either announce or promote their candidacy. They have banned candidates from participating in interviews with the media in connection with the election plus placing advertisements or statements in newspapers, websites or other media. Candidates also cannot use the assistance of others including family members, third parties or members of the media to campaign on their behalf. Though hard to believe, the actual ballot shows the board recommended candidates and what resolutions members should vote for and against! This makes it a sham election worthy of a third-world fascist regime that even North Korea's Kim Jong-Il would be proud of.

If you are a member of Coast Capital Savings or know someone who uses this financial institution, I ask you to look into this bizarre so-called election and learn the truly disturbing facts for yourself. The Coast Capital Compensation Watch website can be found at while the Votermedia Democracy Blog has valuable information on this subject at the following link, The "Vote Now" literature with the Wild Things monsters on front being being sent to members or available at Coast Capital branches needs to be carefully scrutinized as blatant propaganda. The Coast Capital Board apparently believes it has the power to tell people how it wants them to vote, while ignoring the 80% of credit union members who already cast ballots for change in the last election. To control excess director pay and restore member democracy at Coast Capital Savings Credit Union returning it to its grass-roots fundamentals, here is the easy way to vote:

Vote AGAINST the Board's copycat resolutions (numbered 1,2,3,4,)
Vote FOR the member resolutions (numbered 5,6,7,8)
*Note: 67% approval required for approval

Ignore the three cherry-picked candidates recommended by the Board Vote FOR Lisa Barrett, Bruce Batchelor and John Fryer

Ignore the three cherry-picked candidates recommended by the Board
Vote FOR Lisa Barrett, Bruce Batchelor and John Fryer
Note: Voting ends April 8, 2014

Just to make this official, I have not interviewed or met any of these candidates nor been asked to campaign on their behalf. What I am hoping is that these three candidates can work together to ensure that the Coast Capital Savings Board responds in future to the wishes of its members and that truly democratic director elections at BC's second largest credit union are held in the future.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn
Coast Capital Savings Credit Union member



March 17, 2014

It's A Weed For God's Sake

The Tale of Two Cities

For a city that was at the forefront of alcohol smuggling into the United States during prohibition and that sits across Semiahmoo Bay from Washington State, White Rock Councils decision to ban the production and storage of medicinal marijuana leaves me wondering what they've been smoking? While this subject has been on the agenda several times this year including the public hearing during the last council meeting where it was deferred, the motion contained in an omnibus by-law was passed unanimously by all of those in attendance with Larry Robinson absent. Ironically it was the Sandpiper Pub booze baron Bill Lawrence who moved the motion without any discussion, with Mayor Baldwin seconding it after the rest of the bobble-heads sat on their hands. Adding to the evening's lunacy, Baldwin later explained the passage of this bill was important to, "keep an open mind for the health of our residents." This is at direct odds with Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg who last year issued a joint statement with the BC chapter of Canadian Cannabis Partners calling for a provincial review to ensure the availability of affordable medicinal marijuana for all British Columbians. Good-old Gordie said it best when he stated, "Cannabis has relieved the suffering of many people in our community", including those his father helped to deliver into this cruel world decades ago.

With the Federal government set to change medicinal marijuana laws beginning next month, White Rock's council has taken the step to outlaw legal and lawful medical activities that will soon be taking place across the country. The portion of the bylaw relating to marijuana states, "The commercial cultivation, growth, production, storage, or sale of medical marihuana is not permitted in any zone, whether or not carried out for medical purposes by a licensed producer under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations of Canada." What is so sad about this by-law is that with White Rock's elderly demographics, council has taken steps that will hurt the very people who are most likely to turn to marijuana to help deal with pain, disease, cancer and to ease end-of-life suffering. I know many folks in the Semi-pen who have utilized marijuana in a variety of forms to combat arthritis, alleviate multiple sclerosis, control pain, increase appetite, shrink cancer tumors, combat chemotherapy nausea, fight skin conditions and other ailments. I will never forget the all-candidates meeting in White Rock where those provincial candidates supporting the legalization of marijuana were loudly cheered by the predominantly grey-haired crowd. This isn't about getting high folks, it's about trying to stay healthy.

While White Rock was busy continuing the fine tradition of reefer madness, Richmond is forging ahead at creating a new industry within their borders that is expected to soon employ 200 people. The medicinal marijuana growing company Medijean ( already operates in Richmond and has a license from Health Canada to grow marijuana for research and development purposes. They hope to soon receive approval for its application to produce and distribute medical marijuana across Canada. Last month, Richmond council also voted unanimously on marijuana but in a totally different way from White Rock, allowing Medijean to change its zoning from Industrial Business Park to Licensed Canada Pharmaceutical Production. There will be a public hearing at Richmond City Hall on Monday, March 17 where it is likely this matter will likely receive second and third reading. As it stands, their mayor and council is supportive of Medijean, with the company addressing many concerns and conditions regarding community safety, facility security and environmental protection. Having it located near the Richmond RCMP headquarters probably also helped gain their approval. It should be noted that Richmond actually banned marijuana production facilities in Dec. of 2013 but allowed companies to approach the city with proposals that could be authorized on an individual basis depending on their merits.

While it is highly unlikely that anyone would entertain building a marijuana production and processing facility in White Rock due to high land costs, property taxes and lease payments, with the large amount of medical related businesses already located there, is it prudent to ban a future marijuana dispensary from the City By The Sea? Hempyz was allowed to open on Marine Drive thanks to councilor Helen Fathers vote on this issue and it is one of the few businesses on the strip that continues to thrive there even during the winter months. Just across the border, Washington State has joined with Colorado to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and will be pulling in millions of dollars in new tax revenue from the plant's production and sale. There are another 20 states in the US that are also considering legalizing marijuana, gaining the medical benefits and tax windfall while reducing policing, judicial and penal costs associated with pot prohibition. Former BC Solicitor General Kash Heed recently stated at a south Surrey meeting on the decriminalization of marijuana that he expects legalization within 3-4 years regardless of who is in power in Ottawa. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has made legalization a main plank in the party's platform and even Harper's Conservatives are now talking about the decriminalization of pot.

It seems the problem with White Rock is that it is easy to put your head in the sand when you live by the beach. While Richmond is taking steps to place its community at the forefront of marijuana research and medicine production, White Rock seems to be stuck with its tried and true recipe of high property taxes, pay parking revenue, oppressive by-law enforcement, thrift stores, sushi joints and a revolving parade of restaurants on the strip. Was it really necessary to ban legal medicinal marijuana operations from White Rock regardless of their health needs and desires of its residents? You would have thought that they might have listed to well-respected former mayor and long-time MLA Gordon Hogg whose father was White Rock's first doctor and who has spent plenty of time with the aged and infirm in this community. Considering that Joy Davies, a vocal member of Canadian Medical Cannabis Partners lives in White Rock and has spoken at length on this issue, one would have hoped that they could have listened to the voice of reason and disregarded the historical hysteria centred around marijuana. Instead they have once again shown a lack of leadership and compassion, taking the easy way out instead of taking a stand.

Naturally yours,
Don Picairn

Editor's Note; March 19, 2014

Richmond City Council passed site specific zoning for biopharmaceutical company MediJean on Monday night, paving the way for them to produce up to 90,000 kg. of medical marijuana at their facility for Health Canada in what is estimated to soon be a $1 billion a year industry.

March 21, 3 p.m.

Federal court judge grants injunction allowing medical marijuana users to continue to grow their own pot after April 1.


March 10, 2014

Daylight Saving Crime

"Change isn't easy, it takes time." Caroline Kennedy

"Hello, Surrey RCMP? Yes, I'd like to report a crime that occurred last night. It appears that while I was sleeping someone stole an hour of my time." While I never bothered to phone 911 ECOMM with this fictitious complaint early on Sunday morning, I must admit that I certainly gave it some thought while staggering around my kitchen at 5 a.m. real time with toothpicks propping up my eyelids to keep them open. By now we are all familiar with the old refrain of "Spring forward, Fall back" which is used to remind us all to adjust our clocks, losing an hour of sleep with the onset of Daylight Saving Time (DST) now but gaining it back in Autumn when we revert to Standard Time. Most people would likely believe that DST is commonly used across the planet to increase the hours of light for during the summer months but in reality, much of the world does not utilize this chronological mechanism and many countries have never implemented it.

The modern concept of daylight saving is credited to George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand astronomer and entomologist who called for a two-hour time shift in 1895 to increase after-work hours of daylight, presumably so he would have more time to collect insects. DST was first implemented by Germany and Austria-Hungary in the spring of 1916 in an attempt to conserve fuel, followed soon after by much of Europe and in the US in 1918. Over the years DST has been adopted in various countries or states, abolished, reinstated, altered, changed, etc. so that now we have a patchwork of various times across the planet. Mix into this the multitude of time zones and what we have is a world that is seriously out of synch. Is anyone even aware that DST was actually extended for an additional month in many jurisdictions in 2005? If you take the time to research the history of DST, the most compelling question you will come to is why we are still entertaining this failed global experiment?

Daylight Saving Time is not even universally used across BC, let alone Canada. The province of Saskatchewan observes Central Time all year even though it is in the Mountain Time Zone, basically putting in on DST the entire year. Most of BC is on Pacific Standard Time and observes DST except for much of the Peace River and parts of the East Kootenay that stay on Mountain Time, meaning their clocks match time in Calgary in the winter and Vancouver during the summer. Portions of Ontario, Quebec and northern Nunavut also do not follow the DST doctrine. In the U.S., the states of Arizona and Hawaii both opted out of DST and have not used it since 1967, Arizona stays on Mountain Time because of its hot desert climate and Hawaii because of its tropical southern latitude. While DST is utilized across Europe, it is not used in Asia including Russia, China and India, most of south America, only a third of Australia and almost all of Africa, half of which has never utilized DST. u

There have been many studies trotted out about the benefits of DST including energy savings, more recreational time, health benefits and the like but over time many of these have been disproved or shown to be flawed. On the converse side, many of the negative drawbacks of DST such as increase in crime, car accidents, accidental deaths and heart attack were also overblown or at the very least overstated. By far the biggest reason to drop DST or put us into it full-time is the disruption that it causes to our lives and society. Twice a year we are subject to changes in our sleep patterns and I can tell you from personal experience that the spring time change is a curse to yours truly as I end up feeling jet-lagged for several days as my body adjusts to the new time reality. With only five hours of sleep on Saturday night, I went skiing at Whistler forgetting to bring my wallet along for the ride because of sleep deprivation and exhaustion. The other major disruption is the resetting and reprogramming of clocks and electronic devices around the globe including in modern computer systems and trying to ensure that this is done correctly, whether its resetting an alarm clock or the computer servers at Microsoft and IBM. You have to wonder how many people are late for work, lose business contracts or get fired because they miss appointments because of the twice-yearly time change?

So to hell with George V. Hudson, I have my own idea on how we can alter time forever. I say we "Set It & Forget It" (SIFI for short), putting all locations across the globe on permanent DST and simply operating on the various time zones. The only drawback is that mornings would be darker longer during the winter months but as it currently sits, most of us go to work and come home in winter when it is pitch black. At least this way, it would be light for the evening rush, hopefully cutting down on pedestrian and vehicle accidents that are much higher during that time of year. This would also help embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford who announced on Saturday, "Daylight Saving Time starts this evening, turn your clocks back and change batteries in smoke alarms" likely meaning he'll be two hours late at City Hall on Monday (insert your own joke here about the smoke alarms). I'd like to write more about the positive attributes of this simple plan but I've got to scurry around the house resetting about a dozen clocks, reprogram a few electronic appliances and hopefully get my butt to bed early as I have some beauty sleep to catch up on courtesy of the dreaded DST.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



March 03, 2014

The $300 Rail Safety Solution

When I originally researched the "BNSF Hit List" years ago to find out the number of people who had been hit or injured on the Semiahmoo tracks one stat stood out which was the amount of these incidents that involved the AmTrak passenger train. In the five years after the AmTrak started rolling through White Rock, there were five fatal accidents resulting in a lowering of the speed limit. Even with the reduced speed, the AmTrak is still involved in a disproportionate number of accidents on the waterfront when compared to the much higher volume of BNSF freight traffic. Besides the Amtrak engines being smaller, sleeker, quieter and with smaller lights, the biggest contrast between them and the BNSF diesel locomotives is their colour schemes.

The BNSF with its bright orange, brilliant yellow and black colours always looks like a Halloween nightmare rolling down the tracks. It is hard to miss these large heavy machines and regular visitors to White Rock are quite aware of their presence alongside the promenade and the beach. The AmTrak is another story with its colour schemes of muted natural colours blending into the scenery at the waterfront. The silver and blue AmTrak locomotives blend with the clouds, ballast rock, sand banks, ocean water and clear skies. The AmTrak Cascades engine is not much better with its white, green and brown colours that morph with trees, lawns, clouds, buildings and lately even snow. With my interest in public safety and transportation, I came up with a concept to improve locomotive visibility, reduce accidents on BNSF tracks here, plus possibly save people from injury and death.

There are a lot of things that I pursue behind the scenes that few people are aware of with the exceptions of my wife Sheryl and WR Sun editor Dave Chesney but I thought in this case, folks in the Semi-Pen might want to get a glimpse of how a simple idea can initiate change. In this case, I want every train engine that rolls on rails to have the same easily identifiable and recognizable reflective colour scheme on its front end. It amazes me that railway employees have to wear hi-vis vests in the rail corridor but the trains are not similarly marked for safety. The following "Railway Safety Initiative" email has been formulated to easily explain this concept with inline photos showcasing the problem and solution. It will be sent on Monday to railway companies across North America, locomotive manufacturers, governmental transportation agencies, railway safety organizations (in every state and province), politicians of every stripe plus various news agencies. Soon after that, the same information will be sent to similar contacts in countries around the world. This is how you make your community safer, protect people's lives and create change.

If you happen to know anyone involved in railway transportation, locomotive manufacturing, public safety or politics anywhere on the globe, please send them a copy of this "Railway Safety Initiative" or email them the link to this week's TNT in the WR Sun ( The internet is truly a wonderful place and the world is not as big as most people think with everyone so connected. The more this idea is spread around the planet, the greater chance it will gain traction and eventually become a safe and visible reality. Until the day the BNSF tracks here are relocated back inland away from our crowded beaches, ocean waters and slide prone bluff, railway safety needs to be of the utmost concern in White Rock and South Surrey. We need to do everything in our powers to ensure that a visit to the beach doesn't end in disaster for yet another unlucky soul. I think that $300 a train is a small price for the railways to pay for making their trains much easier for all to see.


Railway Safety Initiative
Proposed Locomotive Safety Color Scheme

The lack of a universal reflective safety color scheme on the front of locomotives across North America is causing countless level grade crossing accidents, pedestrian deaths and derailments. Too often, survivors of these collisions tell investigators that they did not see the train or noticed it too late. The colors painted on the front of locomotives vary widely in the railway industry and many use drab natural colors that blend in with the environment. Check out images online of the blue and silver AmTrak locomotives or the dark green used on VIA Rail engines to see how these passenger trains become virtually invisible in natural settings or urban clutter. Even brightly colored freight locomotives usually lack contrasting colors or reflective surfaces on the nose of the cab, making them less noticeable and difficult to estimate the distance and speed of these large machines.

The blue and silver of the AmTrak locomotive matches with the colours of the sky and ballast rock camouflaging these trains

Some railway companies have obviously figured out that improved visibility for their locomotives likely means less accidents both with vehicles at level crossings and pedestrians trespassing on the tracks. Chicago's Metra locomotives use a red and white upward facing chevron design on the nose of the cab plus the same color combination diagonally across the rear car for added safety. Montana Rail Link utilizes a blue and white downward facing chevron design at the front of their engines that is a stark visual contrast. Over the years, many other railway companies have painted various colored stripes diagonally across the fronts of their locomotives to help make them more noticeable. The Operation Lifesaver Inc. rail safety education website ( shows one of these locomotives with white diagonal stripes. It appears that all of these cab nose stripes surprisingly do not utilize reflective paint or vinyl sheeting for better conspicuity and low-light visibility.

The fronts of Chicago Metra commuter trains are very noticeable with high contrast red/white stripes in an upward chevron pattern

In 2008, the National Fire Protection Association updated their Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus (NFPA 1901) adding rear retroreflective vinyl striping as the new standard to reduce rear-end collisions and improve approaching driver visibility. On fire trucks you will now see at least fifty percent of the rear vertical surface covered in this bright striping placed in a chevron pattern sloping downwards away from the centerline at a 45 degree angle. The colors are alternating six inch wide stripes of reflective red and either fluorescent yellow, fluorescent yellow-green, or fluorescent orange. In human vision, the color red is the most eye catching and fluorescent yellow-green the most visible. Combining them in alternating stripes in a chevron pattern gives the maximum visibility in all lighting conditions, greatly improving job safety on busy roadways for firefighters and other emergency personnel.

The new NFPA 1901 requirements, with retroreflective vinyl stripes in contrasting colours and a downward chevron pattern.

To improve railway safety across North America, all locomotives should have the nose of their cabs covered in the same bright reflective colors, including freight locomotives, passenger train engines and even electric trolleys. Rather than reinvent the wheel, the maximum visibility reflective red with fluorescent yellow-green alternating stripes should be utilized. In order to differentiate them from fire fighting vehicles, the upward facing chevron already used on Metra locomotives should be the striping pattern for the cab nose on all locomotives. Orafol Reflective Solutions ( produce the Reflexite V98 sheeting in 6" wide rolls and their U.S. Senior Product Support Specialist informed me it would cost less than $300 to cover the 5' 9" tall by 6' 6" wide cab nose of a modern GE locomotive. Obviously bulk pricing would lower this price substantially and smaller passenger train locomotive cabs would be even less.

Rolls of NFPA 1901 approved retroreflective vinyl striping material that are easy to install, durable and highly visible

A red octagon shape at an intersection is internationally recognized as a stop sign. The same goes for the red, yellow and green traffic control light with drivers worldwide understanding the universal significance of the three colours. Just as all train locomotives have lights and horns to alert people to the danger, they should also have the same easily recognizable bright reflective color scheme on the cab nose to increase visibility and improve rail safety. After all, railway employees always wear hi-vis vests when at work on the tracks so they can be better seen and reduce the chance of serious injury. The sides of locomotives can still be used to fly corporate colors and logos but the front of all engines should have industry standard high visibility warning colors. Not only does this safety initiative need to be implemented across North America, it should be done globally to help reduce the thousands of train/vehicle collisions and pedestrian deaths that occur every year around the world.

An older Illinois Central Railway EMD GP10 engine with front markings similar to the proposed locomotive safety colour scheme

NOTE: Please forward this important "Railway Safety Initiative" to the proper personnel within your railway company, locomotive manufacturing industry, rail safety organization, governmental transportation agency or political party for their perusal and consideration.

Safely yours,
Don Pitcairn, Transportation Critic
Green Party of BC



February 24, 2014

Exposed Groins at Crescent Beach


Wind and wave erosion at Crescent beach have been an issue there since this tract of lowland was first settled in 1871 by Walter Blackie for whom Blackie Spit is named. With the introduction of the Great Northern Railway tracks along the shoreline of the Semiahmoo peninsula in 1909, the Crescent Beach Development Company was formed to subdivide the property and efforts began to reduce the possibility of flooding. In 1910, construction of beach groins (or groynes) to help hold the beach in place started and by 1913 dykes were built on the beach berm to protect homes and even a hotel at what is now the Beecher Place Community Centre. Eventually these groins lined both the western and northern shorelines of Crescent Beach from the end of Maple Street to Blackie Spit.

Groins are a rigid structure usually built perpendicular to the shoreline that acts as a hydraulic structure to interrupt wave and water flow limiting the movement of sand and sediment. The groins at Crescent Beach run from the foreshore along the beach berm and far out onto the beach to the sand flats. These groins were originally constructed of long wooden pilings and thick timber planking that were coated with toxic creosote and bolted into place. Since they were first introduced, they have seen periodic repairs and replacement, first in the 1950's and again in the 1980's according to former Surrey mayor Bob Bose who dropped by to admire my Olympic light display. Strong winter storms batter and damage these structures along with the dyke that has seen emergency repairs to thicken its protective layer of rip-rap boulders. The wooden groins at Crescent Beach are now rotten with large portions of them missing or with gaping holes that have limited their effectiveness. As the groins have crumbled, the foreshore at Crescent Beach has eroded so there is now a steep rocky shoreline between the dyke and the smooth sand flats. When the tide is in during summer months, this limits the recreational area for sunbathers and families drawn to the waterfront while making walking hazardous on the slippery rocks.


The damage to the groins and the subsequent erosion of the beachfront at Crescent Beach has not gone unnoticed by the City of Surrey. As far back as 1999, corporate reports involving Crescent Beach erosion protection and dyking flood control were presented to Council with recommendations for repairing the groin systems and possibly raising the level of the dyke to combat rising sea levels. Last summer tenders were put out by the city with specifications for replacing the groin system across Crescent Beach. As of last week, King Hoe Excavating has begun the $1.6 million project of replacing the old wooden groins with a new system utilizing fiber reinforced plastic components including pilings and planks that will be rot and impact resistant. This work is being completed during low tide up to seven days a week and will replace all groins on both the west and north shorelines. Because of this project, there will be limited beach access with portions of the waterfront being marked off to keep people away from the men and machines completing the work. It is hoped that this marine construction project will be finished by the end of April just in time for warm temperatures and sunny skies when the beach is a natural draw for the half-million residents of Surrey plus those living across the Fraser Valley.

With population here constantly increasing and our limited beaches getting more crowded, this might be a good time for Surrey to consider expanding other shorelines or improving ocean access. The beach just south of Crescent Beach to the 101 Steps pedestrian overpass could retain more sand if rock groins were aligned out from the base of the rip-rap boulders lining the BNSF rail corridor. Besides making more room for people in the summer, the increase in sand would likely attract sand lance and surf smelt, important feeder fish that were displaced when the railway was built on the intertidal zone a century ago. Speaking of exposed groins, Surrey could also work to improve beach conditions at Crescent Rock naturist beach, especially when they realize that the main beach at Wreck in Vancouver is man-made and built beside a large rock jetty, attracting up to 10,000 visitors a day in summer. With the BNSF twinning the tracks beside Semiahmoo Bay and no parking now allowed on Beach Road at the First Nation reserve, it is time for a pedestrian overpass like at the 101 Steps to be built next to Peace Arch Park so that people can safely access this border beach without endangering their lives crossing the tracks.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



February 18, 2014

White Rock South


I always liked the White Rock Sun's slogan, "where you can vacation and be home the same day" but it turns out that there is an equally special place, "where you can vacation and think that you are at home." My wife and I had planned our winter getaway into the Los Angeles region when by coincidence I received photographs from White Rock Councilor Larry Robinson about San Clemente, a beautiful seaside community in southern California that is his home away from home. The pictures were reminiscent of White Rock with a hillside covered in stately homes with an ocean view, a long heritage pier, beautiful sandy beaches and a waterfront train track along with a public walkway at the base of an oceanfront bluff. I let Mr. Robinson know that we might try to make it to San Clemente if it coincided with plans to visit the naturist beach at San Onofre State Park with our friends who live an hour's drive away. Imagine my surprise when Larry let me know that this park was just south of San Clemente, ensuring that this city immediately went onto our travel itinerary.

While the City of White Rock has three sister cities, Imperial Beach, Calif., St. Andrews, N.B., and most recently La Conner, Wash., San Clemente is without a doubt the twin sister of White Rock. Just like our "City by the Sea", the "Spanish Village By The Sea" as San Clemente is known sports a picturesque wooden pier at the middle of its sandy beaches that is ranked by the Tripadvisor website as the number one tourist draw of the town with many excellent reviews. While not as long as White Rock's historic pier, the San Clemente pier is wider and is commonly used by locals for fishing with bait boards at frequent intervals so fishermen don't hack the pier railings while baiting hooks or cleaning fish. It also sports several amenities that White Rock council might want to consider. Near the far end of the pier they have a small snack shack that sells sweets, treats and the usual chips, hot dogs and pop along with souvenirs and works from local artists. Nearby, they also have a public washroom which is a wonderful convenience on a pier that is 700m. shorter than the one in White Rock. By far the biggest difference in the two piers was that close to shore, two former net loft buildings had been leased out by the city of San Clemente and converted into the Fisherman's restaurants, featuring fine dining on one side and bar fare on the other. We sat on the deck sucking back fresh oysters and jugs of suds while watching the sun set over the Pacific. Years ago there was a building located alongside the White Rock pier that housed a restaurant which burned down and I wonder why the city does not look at constructing something similar to help draw more tourists to the beach? The Fisherman's restaurant and bar was doing great business and had just signed a new 50 year lease with San Clemente with the rent money going into public coffers.

Just like White Rock, San Clemente features a railway running along its waterfront, which I must confess was one of the prime reasons I wanted to visit. With White Rock looking at spending a couple of million dollars to improve safety along the tracks and decrease train whistles, it was interesting to note what San Clemente was doing to keep people off the rail corridor and away from passing trains. First and foremost, the two pedestrian crossings across the tracks featured railway drop gates with flashing lights and bells along with plenty of signage about the danger. To the sides of these crossings were small sidewalks with spring loaded doorways heading away from the rails in case of anyone getting caught on the tracks when the gates closed. In other locations there were pedestrian tunnels under the rails along with an overhead walkway similar to the one at the end of the 101 Steps at the west end of 24th Ave. in Surrey near Crescent Beach. Instead of a so-called safety railing like the one beside the White Rock promenade, the corridor in San Clemente was protected by a solid wire fence with sharp points on top, making it next to impossible to climb over. I found out that most of the railway/pedestrian safety upgrades were completed last year as the Orange County Transportation Authority, the city of San Clemente and Metrolink worked cooperatively on improving safety enhancements at seven pedestrian railroad crossings along the beach. This $4.5 million construction project also included the infrastructure for a future audible warning system with stationary horns that sound like an approaching train horn localizing the noise to the railroad crossing. Seeing San Clemente, I think White Rock should consider reducing the number of pedestrian crossings along its beaches while improving safety systems at these reduced locations. They might also follow Surrey's lead from the 101 Steps and install an overhead crossing near the pier allowing people to cross the tracks regardless of the train traffic.

The idea of relocating the BNSF railway from the shoreline of White Rock and South Surrey made for headlines last year with the talk of building a waterfront walkway linking White Rock to Crescent Beach part of this concept. San Clemente also has bluffs along its waterfront with the railway at the bottom and they have constructed elevated metal walkways next to the tracks creating a lengthy public nature trail system throughout the region. While we enjoyed this trail system with a view of the Pacific, we encountered plenty of hikers, families with kids out for a stroll and literally hundreds of people jogging. Besides being a tourist draw, the ocean side trails provide a wonderful recreational spot for both young and old from San Clemente, likely improving the fitness level of their community. With many people ignoring the No Trespassing signs on the BNSF railway here and using the corridor as a walking path regardless of the risks, it made me wonder if a similar trail system could possibly be built here. It would appear that engineers in San Clemente used a simple trail where possible and the elevated metal boardwalk in areas along the bluffs where erosion and landslides were a problem. The big difference between the two bluff ecosystems is that while there hills there are covered with scrub, ours have large trees that tend to fall towards the ocean during severe windstorms or become part of the cement like mix when landslides flow down the bluffs and onto the tracks. Regardless of the challenges, if Vancouver can build a seawall around Stanley Park, Surrey and White Rock need to look at whether a waterfront nature trail across the Semiahmoo peninsula might be possible with the help of the BNSF Railway.

If you want to get away from the rain and cold next winter and yet still enjoy all the benefits of White Rock living, then book your winter vacation for San Clemente in southern California. The only real difference is they fly the Stars and Stripes instead of the Maple Leaf plus their palm trees are a little bigger than ours. Hopefully the next time Councilor Robinson and his wife head south, they can take Mayor Baldwin, the rest of White Rock Council and their spouses along for the trip so they can see what our American neighbours have been up to. While there, I'm hoping they go for a stroll on the San Clemente Trail and imagine having an oceanfront walkway like it in our own backyard. I leave you with this five star review taken from Tripadvisor that sums it up rather nicely: "This trail is beautiful! I walk this trail every Friday and Sunday and any other time I can. The people that walk, run or bike on this trail are very friendly, you will always get smiles and "good mornings" or "how is your day". The trail is pet friendly, on the weekends some sweet men put out water for the pups near the pier, and on the days they are not there the water fountain had a doggy spout. This trail is nice for kids also, you can bring your stroller or they can walk, there are plenty of little stops. For a little treat you can stop near the pier and get an ice cream cone."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


February 10, 2014

Pipeline or Rail Line, The Oil's Flowing

Lac Magantic


The Concern-4-All-Citizens group fighting the proposed coal export terminal at the Fraser Surrey Docks might have to expand their horizons and add another concern about rail transportation through White Rock besides the influx of Powder River Basin coal. It would appear that crude oil petroleum deliveries, similar to the one that devastated the town of Lac Magantic, Quebec, last summer are now rolling along the beaches of the Semiahmoo peninsula.

Over the past four months a member of the local railway safety group SmartRail who lives on Bayview Avenue near Crescent Beach has seen very long trains on the BNSF tracks comprised of a long line of black tanker cars. Last weekend they took pictures of such a train from their house across the street from the tracks which are now posted here in the WR Sun. While they have lived on this street over 20 years, they can never remembering seeing such odd trains or ones carrying in excess of 110 tanker cars in a single line. Besides being pulled by multiple engines, they are also being pushed by several other locomotives, with a boxcar as a buffer between them and the tankers. The tankers had dangerous good placards on them but from the distance they were not legible. Another tanker laden mixed freight train was recently catalogued with dangerous goods by the same Bayview resident and it contained many tank cars of what was identified as "crude oil petroleum" confirming this hazardous product is indeed being shipped on the BNSF lines.

Here is a portion of the letter this SmartRail member sent to members of White Rock's council and their new Rail Safey Task Force about their concerns for these tanker trains:

"If a slide occurred along the bluffs between here and White Rock while one of these trains was in motion (or any of the ones loaded with dangerous cargo), the communities of Crescent Beach, Crescent Heights, Ocean Park and White Rock could very possibly suffer a catastrophic accident not unlike the recent one in Lac Megantic. The slide detection fence (SDF) installed at the base of the bluffs would do nothing to avert this if the slide occurred while the train was passing is a very real possibility with the weight, length and frequency of trains increasing the train tremor factor. To add to this high risk situation the SDF ends a good distance before the foot of Bayview Street; requests to extend it have fallen on deaf ears (did you know that there's an empty lot next to the last house on Bayview where years ago the bank collapsed and the home slid down the hill to the tracks? That lot is now deemed uninhabitable due to the slide history of the area and has sat empty since then)."

"Considering my home is located on Bayview Street, some might criticize and call me a "NIMBY" for expressing my concerns re. the railway, adding comments such as "When you bought your house near a railway you knew what you were getting into – if you don't like it you can move. The railway was here first". To those folks I would reply "That was then and this is now – the scenario has changed dramatically in the last 25 years and it is no longer safe, or reasonable (for people or this precious bay and environs), for an industrial rail line to operate in this high density area where hundreds of thousands live and visit annually. As Councilor Robinson recently stated "This is the reason we have national rail relocation protocols." Regardless of my actual address in this area, as a resident who loves where I live and believes we are fortunate to reside in this very special place, I would be lobbying for relocation. The time is now for the stakeholders involved to make this happen before our luck runs out."

SmartRail's president Ken Jones reviewed the photos of the tanker train and with its northbound direction plus the two pusher locomotives and concluded it was likely loaded with the same very volatile Bakken crude oil from North Dakota involved in the Lac Megantic disaster. He further explained that railways usually transport crude oil in these tankers as a "unit train" mostly containing a single product going from one location to another. The boxcar in front of the rear locomotives is called a "buffer car" and is used to protect the expensive locomotives in the case of an accident, giving the engines a degree of separation from the line of potentially flammable tankers. White Rock councilor Larry Robinson pointed out that Bakken Field oil is already being moved via CN and CP Railways for loading on tankers in the Burrard inlet and out through Coal Harbour into the Salish Sea with future tanker ship movements estimated at 1,000 ships per year. He issued the following chilling warning: "The oil is coming, and will come, to Port Metro and Cherry Point either by train or pipeline. As I stated before the holding company that owns BNSF also purchased Union Tank Car, and tank car companies had a banner year for orders. Oil companies are not waiting. The stuff is being moved by rail regardless of process holding up pipelines."

I've posed a number of questions regarding the tanker trains rolling across the Semi-Pen to BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas and he has promised to contact me on Monday with the answers that will be posted here in a TNT update. If you wish to help the Rail Safety Task Force, they are seeking detailed information on dangerous goods going through White Rock and Crescent Beach. Simply use a pencil and paper or smart phone to record all of the dangerous goods you see on a specific train including the time, date and direction, sending the results to Councilors Grant Meyer, Al Campbell or Larry Robinson. Here are the dangerous good placard numbers for the following petroleum products often carried on railways:
Crude Oil is 1267
Fuel Oil is 1993
Gasoline is 1203
Gas, Oil, Diesel Fuel/Heating Oil is 1202
Propane/Butane is 1075

In the event of an emergency involving dangerous goods here, call CANUTEC at 613-996-6666 or *666 on a cellular phone. Rather appropriate phone numbers considering the hellish inferno of biblical proportions that incinerated 47 people in Lac Megantic.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



February 03, 2014


Train of Thought

It never ceases to amaze me the often bizarre circumstances that occur when people have the same thought processes and shared experiences. Case in point this week was White Rock Sun editor Dave Chesney stumbling across a video posted on YouTube titled, "A Bunch of Idiots....Amtrak Cascade 517 @ White Rock BC Canada." It shows a slow moving Amtrak on east beach first with four young ladies running across the tracks in front of the locomotive, then four young men at the very end with one playing a game of "chicken" with the train by standing between the rails. It was filmed in July only days after 42 year-old Anita Lewis was killed at East beach while crossing the same tracks. Chesney found this footage while he was searching the internet for a folk song about the city of White Rock. Two days later, I located the same spectacularly stupid and dangerous video while updating the "BNSF Hit List" that contains the names and dates of those people killed or injured on the Semi-pen tracks. If you haven't seen this video yet, check it out online at YouTube at the following address: . Make sure you watch it on a full-sized screen to really appreciate the lunacy involved.

Not yet knowing that Dave had found this video and already forwarded it to White Rock council, I emailed it to them also, thinking that their new Railway Safety Task Force might be interested in seeing it. I explained the footage, warning them that this is why having an industrial railway on the main marine recreational site for a million Fraser Valley residents is a recipe for disaster that will continue to kill, injure and main people. This set off a flurry of emails back and forth between members of White Rock Council, the White Rock Sun's editor and several members of the local community rail safety group SmartRail. Much of these centred on the concept of installing closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras on the waterfront to help ascertain the cause of the pedestrian/train collisions. This got me thinking that it might be a good idea for locomotives to have forward looking video cameras to record the corridor directly in front of moving trains. I have a dashboard mounted camera for my work truck that films all sorts of stupid incidents, dangerous driving and even accidents, which records in colour, with sound and even at night, all for $60. I then sent BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas this question, "Do BNSF freight trains have video cameras on the locomotives watching the tracks and recording the footage?"

It is a small world but a friend who was there happens to work for CN Rail and he confirmed to me that all of this company's lead engines across Canada have forward looking video capability. After this revelation, further internet sleuthing revealed that this is now the norm with both freight and passenger rail carriers across North America. The BNSF Railway has had forward facing video cameras in their lead locomotives since 2005, using them to provide information on grade-crossing and train/pedestrian accidents. The camera installation just behind the windshield next to the enginer also includes a microphone placed outside the cab to record exterior sounds such as the locomotive whistle and bell. Each camera records at least 70 hours of information and is synchronized with the locomotive event recorder, a train's version of an airplane's so-called "black box." In the event of a crash or incident involving a pedestrian, this information can be retrieved as part of the accident investigation. BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas later confirmed this information that I had already come across.

AmTrak passenger trains not only have forward facing video on their locomotives for capturing images on the right of way, it is part of what is known as their Train Communications Data. This system provides Amtrak with a host of information including fuel usage and locomotive performance monitoring with GPS location that maintains a real-time train tracking system called the National Train Activity Monitoring System. The system performs schedule adherence calculations and sends predicted arrival information to Amtrak's management systems automatically, tracking their passenger trains nationwide on a 24/7 basis. To see an example of the video that is recorded by these trains, here is a link to actual footage taken from a camera mounted on an AmTrak locomotive that hit a car in Detroit in July, 2009, unfortunately killing its five occupants at a level crossing: This evidence showed that while the crossing arms were down and another vehicle stopped, the car in question went around the gate and drove directly in front of the train with grave results.

This means that AmTrak should have video evidence of the pedestrian/train accident that happened in White Rock this summer and the latest incident on Saturday night involving a 75 year-old man with dementia who was struck and seriously injured by a BNSF freight train near the pier. Whether the BNSF or Amtrak will share their video or if they have compiled data from White Rock revealing problematic pedestrian crossing areas needs to be discovered as this information could be used to assist with the proposed safety upgrades along the promenade. It might also reveal the number of incidents throughout the year, the times and dates they are most frequent and the locations where dangerous pedestrian crossings are frequently occurring. I know from personal experience that the July 1st and U.S. July 4th holidays see plenty of close calls at the tracks due to the large crowds at the beach. This data might also be used to assist police forces in reducing incidents of criminal trespass on the railway corridor. Most importantly, it makes the proposed installation of CCTV's along the waterfront railway redundant as there will likely already be video evidence in the case of an accident involving a train in White Rock.

Engineers operating trains through White Rock and south Surrey should immediately report all incidents of railway vandalism, criminal trespass and interference with train operations to either the CN Police or RCMP, giving descriptions of persons involved and location so that they may be ticketed or charged, with video from the locomotives being used as evidence against them. The young man at the end of the "A Bunch of Idiots... AmTrak Cascades" video is the type of person who should be held accountable for their actions. If this moron and his friends can be identified from this YouTube video, I believe that charges should be laid to set an example that this dangerous and idiotic behaviour will not be tolerated. Better yet, If still available I'd love to have a screen grab from the Amtrak locomotive video to put this gentleman's face on the front page of the local newspapers and media outlets. Video evidence worked against Stanley Cup rioters in Vancouver and with the help of the BNSF and AmTrak, it can also be put to use against those ignoring the dangers posed by trains on the White Rock and south Surrey waterfronts.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



January 27, 2014

Liberals Going to Pot in Surrey

I thought it was rather appropriate that the first of many town hall forums titled, "Legalization of Marijuana: An Exploration of the Issues" being run by the Liberal Party of Canada was held in south Surrey this week. With a record 25 homicides last year, the majority gang related and the title of Canada's murder capital for 2013, the city of Surrey is a prime example of how prohibition of drugs leads to lawlessness, violence and death. Moderated by former White Rock councilor and BIA president Lynne Sinclair, it featured former BC Solicitor General Kash Heed who also was the police chief for West Vancouver, drug educator and addiction counselor Mark Haden, Steve Finlay from LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) and other members of the Liberal Party executive. Joy Davies of BC Medical Cannabis Partners was in attendance handing out literature to the approximately 125 people who pre-registered for this event which meant it was standing-room-only for those who arrived late. Notable by his absence was Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau who now champions the decriminalization of marijuana, calling for the herb to be legalized, taxed and regulated as is happening in the US states of Colorado and Washington.

Kash Heed opened the commentary, calling the prohibition of marijuana a failure with drug dealers regulating the production, supply and delivery of pot to a receptive population including youngsters in BC who now find it easier to access cannabis than alcohol or cigarettes. He estimates that 300 people have been killed in BC who's deaths have been linked to marijuana prohibition. Because of this slaughter, Kash joined the Stop The Violence BC organization ( whose coalition members include former RCMP Police Chiefs, doctors, lawyers, professors, health officials plus several Attorney Generals, former mayors of Vancouver along with ex-Premier Ujjal Dosanjh and Senator Larry Campbell. Mr. Heed informed the crowd that he expects a regulated market for marijuana across Canada in the next three to four years, regardless of who is in power in Ottawa. He pointed to the recent pot legalization in two US states and how 20 more states are actively considering following their lead. Kash showcased how marijuana laws are not uniformly applied across Canada with Halifax being the most lenient on pot possession while Saskatoon has the highest charge rate. He gave information that an estimated 60% of drug profits world-wide come from marijuana and how the country of Uruguay crushed organized crime and gang violence by legalizing drugs and controlling their production and distribution. For those worried that legalization might lead to easy access by our youth, he quoted a recent UNICEF report that Canadian teens lead the world in Cannabis use with 28% of 15-year-olds admitting to smoking pot in a study done four years ago, while conversely we were third best on the planet at keeping kids away from legal and deadly tobacco.

Mark Haden who now works for Coastal Health then took centre stage, apologizing for former lies that drug educators have told in the past revealing, "We have overemphasized the harm of drugs, we have neglected to mention the benefits of certain drugs and we have omitted mentioning the harms that drug prohibition causes…" Mr. Haden believes that public health should drive the market for marijuana and that it be regulated to control what he explained in detail in a, "paradox of prohibition" graph, where prohibition leads to violence and gang warfare, open capitalism leads to massive societal problems, but tight regulatory controls reduce consumption with resulting health improvements while freeing up police resources. Mark has several interesting PDF's posted online regarding the failed War on Drugs and should you care to educate yourself they are available by searching his name which will lead to documents on, "Harm Reduction/Drug Policy Reform, Consequences of Drug Prohibition, and Regulation of Illegal Drugs." Posted there is a letter from June of 1998 to the Secretary General of the UN from 11 Nobel Prize winners, 7 heads of state, 13 Canadian MP's and BC's Public Health Officer stating: We believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself…every decade the United Nations adopts new international conventions, focused largely on criminalization and punishment. Every year, governments enact more punitive and costly drug control measures. Every day, politicians endorse harsher, new drug war strategies. What's the result? The illegal drug industry has empowered organized criminals, corrupted governments at all levels, eroded internal security, stimulated violence and distorted both economic markets and moral values. These are the consequences not of drug use per se but of decades of failed and futile drug war policies. Scarce resources, better expended on health, education, and economic development are squandered on ever more expensive interdiction methods. Realistic proposals to reduce drug related crime, disease and death are abandoned in favour of rhetorical proposals to create drug free societies. Mark ended his presentation with a quote from acclaimed American professor and author Isaac Asimov, "The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."

250 million dollars

The last of the three main speakers was Steve Finlay from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Canada or LEAP ( who warned everyone in the room that, "I am the scary one." He described in detail how prohibition outlaws consensual transactions between two parties, unlike most crimes where one person is the perpetrator and the other a victim. Prohibition creates a black market resulting in high risks, big profits and no mechanism for dispute resolution that leads to violence and criminality. He revealed that it is estimated the world-wide trade in illegal drugs results in $500 billion in trade. Mr. Finlay then showed a picture of a room full of $100 bills confiscated from a drug lord in Mexico that totaled $250 million. To get the crowd to understand how much money $500 billion was, he said to imagine the same $250 million pile of money in every room of the Pan Pacific hotel in Vancouver and that you would need more than three towers with the same pile in each and every room just to hold the yearly world profits from drugs. Steve then showed how businesses fight over $250 million, using the legal alcohol industry for an example and putting advertisements for various booze companies onto a screen. He used his, "I'm the scary one" warning again, then showed how a black market fights over a $250 million market, putting up pictures from Mexico of bombed police cars on fire, people with hands tied behind their backs shot dead in the streets and bodies dismembered and decapitated in pools of blood. Mr. Finlay then went on to say that every day we wait to end drug prohibition, another 40 people will be murdered in Mexico, a country where many police and army officers have to decide between, "Plato O Ploma" for "silver or lead", meaning accept a bribe or face assassination. If you think this is an exaggeration, realize that several notoriously violent Mexican cartels have taken to the internet and social media to post videos of horrific executions where their panicked victims are tortured, mutilated, dismembered or beheaded with everything from knives to axes to chainsaws while cameras record their last moments of life.

The push for Liberals to end pot prohibition did not begin with Justin Trudeau admitting he had smoked marijuana while sitting as a Canadian Member of Parliament. In January 2012, delegates attending the Liberal Party of Canada's Policy Convention in Ottawa voted nearly 80% to support Policy Resolution 117 ( ) that was co-sponsored by the BC Liberals (LPC-BC) and the Young Liberals of Canada to:
LEGALIZE marijuana and ensure the regulation and taxation of its production, distribution, and use, while enacting strict penalties for illegal trafficking, illegal importation and exportation, and impaired driving.
INVEST significant resources in prevention and education programs designed to promote awareness of the health risks and consequences of marijuana use and dependency, especially amongst youth.
EXTEND amnesty to all Canadians previously convicted of simple and minimal marijuana possession, and ensure the elimination of all criminal records related thereto.
WORK with the provinces and local governments of Canada on a coordinated regulatory approach to marijuana which maintains significant federal responsibility for marijuana control while respecting provincial health jurisdiction and particular regional concerns and practices.

With two third of Canadian supporting legalization of marijuana, US states reaping large tax pot windfalls, President Obama voicing that cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol, and the Federal Conservatives push towards stiffer drug sentencing (including 6 months in jail for 5 pot plants), this topic may decide which party will win the next federal election. If Kash heed is right, expect Prime Minister Harper to read the tea leaves and realize that if he wants to continue to fight the so-called War on Drugs, his government may end up being one of its final victims.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



January 20, 2014

We Are All C.O.P.S. Citizens On Patrol in Surrey

So how was your weekend? Did you enjoy Saturday evening dinner with members of your family? My supper along with that of at least 500 other people had to be delayed as my wife Sheryl and I travelled to Holland Park in Whalley to attend the candlelight vigil for Julie Paskall who was beaten in the parking lot of the Newton Rec Centre and then died on the last day of the year. If you live in Surrey, if the rising violent crime rate scares you, if Surrey being Canada's murder capital for 2013 offends you, then take a minute to watch the video of the event that was posted on YouTube by Surrey604 at the following link: . I believe the passing of Julie Paskall marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of the City of Surrey and how we respond to her death will dictate the future of what will soon be the largest city in British Columbia.

When I was younger I somehow managed to avoid going to funerals and celebrations of life but as the years went by several of my elders and even some of my friends have passed on and I have attended these services. Because of my community involvement, I also take the time to mark the passing of those who have strived to make a difference in this region, recently paying my respects to former Surrey councilor Gary T. Robinson and his surviving family members. There difference of night and day between a service for someone who has died of natural causes or even an accident when compared to a person who has been brutally murdered in cold blood. The fact that the killer of Mrs. Paskall has not been caught and no suspects identified only added to the misery and anger of those in attendance. The hush of the crowd, the palatable grief, the collective emotion from the masses, I really cannot do justice with mere words to try to put it into perspective. I don't think there was a dry eye in the place and the sound of people sniffling filled the plaza. It was heart wrenching to hear a very young girl standing next to us ask the lady holding her hand, "Mommy, why are you crying?" It only made her weep harder and gasp for air between long stuttering sobs. When the vigil was over, I left Holland Park with a headache and feeling like I'd just been sucker punched in the gut.

Harbs Baines, president of the Surrey Minor Jockey Association, helped to coordinate this event with plenty of help from the City of Surrey and he had kind words to say to the Paskall family, members of the hockey fraternity and Surrey residents in attendance. Mayor Dianne Watts was invited to the podium and gave a speech that was a long ways from her usual tailored political message. Obviously this incident has left her as shaken as the rest of us and Dianne's words of remorse and condolence to the Paskall family were genuine and heartfelt. Julie's husband Al then took centre stage, giving a speech to the assembled faithful, many wearing hockey uniforms as a sign of respect, that roller-coastered from hear-breaking to humorous and back again. I'm going to have to get him one of my "Surrey Strong" t-shirts for having the courage and inner strength to step forward into the public limelight in the face of such a terrible tragedy. His call to end violence and treat each other better resonated with the crowd and rather than list his words here, I ask you again to make sure you watch the vigil video. There's no point in reading my TNT, when the emotional words from Mr. Paskall about his wife of 37 years and our community are what's really important. Should you care to help the Paskall family during this obviously difficult time in their lives, VanCity Credit Unions are accepting donations marked for "Paskall Family Trust." They have branches across Surrey including two Semi-Pen locations, the Semiahmoo Branch at 1790 152 St. and the Morgan Crossing Community Branch at 15795 Croydon Drive.

Mrs. Paskall's murder was an exclamation mark on Surrey's record year for homicides and her passing on December 31st only added insult to injury. The orgy of gangland violence began in January 2013 and continued unabated throughout the year with a total of 5 bodies being found on the side of Colebrook Road, giving it the sinister nickname "Killbrook Road." RCMP Supt Bill Fordy was wrong in suggesting that it is only dangerous in Surrey if you were a gangster, as violence among those living a "high-risk' lifestyle points to a thriving drug trade in narcotics including cocaine, crack, meth and heroin. Using these powerful street drugs leads to addictions and an assortment of mental health and social issues, resulting in desperate addicts resorting to crime to feed their habit. It should come as no surprise that an innocent person was killed on our streets in such a barbaric fashion, since this has already happened with two regular folks gunned down several years back in the "Surrey Six massacre." It has been reported that Mrs. Paskall, 4 ft. 10 in. tall, 124 pound, 53 year mother of three was bludgeoned repeatedly with a rock breaking every bone in her face in what is believed to have been an attempted purse snatching. You have to ask yourself what is wrong with a person to do this to a lady who looks a lot like everybody's Mom. The scary thing is that the animal that killed Julie Paskall is still on the streets and if they can resort to this level of violence once, they can easily do it again, anywhere, to anyone.

I'm not going to rag on the Surrey RCMP or try to lay blame with them regarding this tragedy. Surrey is a big place and they have a heck of a hard job to do in this city. We need more police in order to keep up with our growing population and influx of miscreants from such places as the DTES. It is not just bodies in police cars, we need officers deployed on the streets, whether walking the beat, going undercover or patrolling on bikes in order to put pressure on the criminals amongst us. The transit loops in both Newton and Whalley are notorious for crime and rampant drug dealing of narcotics and this needs to be stopped. On the upper end of the criminal pyramid, the organized crime leaders responsible for importing or manufacturing all of the heavy drugs poisoning residents of Surrey have to be targeted. These greedy bastards are the source of much of the misery in this city and this high-rolling scum needs to be taken down by whatever means. People here need to wake up and speak up against crime in their neighborhoods and help the cops do their jobs by reporting to the RCMP, either by dialing 911, calling the non-emergency line at 604-599-0502, by contacting Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222- 8477 or online at They even have an app you can download for your smartphone to make crime or suspicious activity reporting easier.

With the large majority of people now owning cell phones, City Hall needs to encourage people here to become the eyes and ears of the police by becoming C.O.P.S., Citizens On Patrol in Surrey. It's hard for bad guys to do their dirty business if respectable members of society are pointing them out to the RCMP. While this can be done on an individual basis, the city of Sudbury in Ontario has citizen patrols with two volunteers in marked vehicles that report by radio to a third member on dispatch who then relays information to the police service which deploy officers to investigate. Their Citizens on Patrol (COP) members patrol the streets with a mandate to detect suspicious, disruptive and criminal behavior. Sudbury now has 120 volunteers working in this program, in a city only a third the size of Surrey. If we could get the same level of volunteers, imagine the impact that 360 people in roving patrols would have on crime in this city, especially if they focused on problem areas such as the area in downtown Newton where Julie Paskall was attacked? Until a COP program like the one in Sudbury can be initiated, the City of Surrey would be wise to ask its residents to all become C.O.P.S. and alert the RCMP to crimes and suspicious activities, especially those involving gangs, guns or goofs that the person who killed our big-hearted "hockey Mom."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



January 13, 2014

Help Save Surrey



From the title, you would think that this week's TNT is once again focusing on the gun, gang, drug and crime problem in Surrey that keeps this city in the headlines for all the wrong reasons across Canada. Instead, it relates to efforts to change the governance of Surrey from the current at large system to a ward system that was used to run this town over 50 years ago. Surrey resident Kuljinder Gill who ran for Council in the last civic elections under the moniker "Gill 22" has created the "" website that calls for the recreation of a ward system here plus an Audit General to inspect city finances.

Kuljinder Gill

On his site the banner, "Surrey's Future Needs Our Support" is proudly displayed along with information on Surrey's growth rate, current population and the statement, "7 councillors are not enough to address our safety and concerns." It lists shootings and murder, theft, crime and robberies, local jobs, undercutting, income for the city of Surrey, transit upgrades, dirty streets, traffic, struggling single mothers, disabled and special needs, homeless and border lines for gas as problems to be dealt with that are currently being ignored. Youth needs are listed and detailed along with needs of the city including medical facilities, recreational centres, addiction and substance abuse counseling centres, affordable housing, education and respect for professional drivers. The site also gives you the opportunity to sign a petition titled "Surrey Ward System with an Audit General" that has attracted 71 signatures to date (

Kuljinder Gill's candidate profile for the 2011 civic elections is still listed on the website at the following link: It details many of the same concerns found on the website broken down into the sections, "What We Have in Surrey", "What Surrey Needs", "Youth are the Future" and "Seniors." There is also a video attached that can give you a look at "Gill 22" and insight into his perspectives. Besides running for Surrey council, Kuljinder has also had several brushes with the law that have previously been reported. A month after the last election, Gill was sentenced to 9 months in jail, followed by 18 months probation and a two year driving ban for hitting a pedestrian in Surrey while driving drunk. In this crash he lost control of his Mustang at 128 St. and 84 Ave., jumping the curb and slamming into a bench where 29-year-old Pardep Johal was sitting, breaking his foot, pubic bone and leaving a gash on his head requiring 15 staples to close. Prior to this, in 2004 Gill was found guilty of uttering threats, mischief under $5,000, assault plus breach of probation. I talked to Mr. Gill about his previous transgressions and he assures me they are part of his past and that he has learned from his prior mistakes.

In a ward system, the region is split into geographical areas similar to a riding and often named after the neighbourhoods it contains. While the mayor is elected by a city-wide vote, councilors are selected to represent the various wards. Mayor Watts is on record as opposing a ward system for Surrey which resulted in plenty of in-fighting back in the 1950's and the separation of White Rock (Ward 7) in 1957. Another reason she likely would not wish to revert to the ward system is that it favours independent candidates rather than a municipal party similar to Surrey First, the Surrey Civic Coalition (SCC) or in Vancouver, Vision and COPE. After the last election and the Surrey First sweep, we now have four councilors from south Surrey, two from Cloverdale including the Mayor, two in Guildford and one in Fleetwood. It is interesting to note that two of the city's main civic centres, Whalley and Newton, do not have politicians living in their midst, even though one is the new downtown and the other a hot bed of growing social problems.

With the sheer geographical size of the city of Surrey, getting proper representation to all of its various neighbourhoods is a challenge if not an impossibility. Do councilors insulated in south Surrey relate to the problems and concerns of the residents in Bridgeview, if they even know this place exists? While Newton and Cloverdale are only six miles apart, they are light years away when you look at the different challenges they face. I was offered to be parachuted into a federal riding in Surrey several years back but had to kindly refuse as I was unwilling to move from Crescent Heights and did not feel I could properly represent the constituents without having my feet on the ground in the riding. As massive as Surrey is and with a thousand people moving here every month, a ward system starts to look inviting and a way to give residents a local representative they can go to with their concerns. It is interesting to note that Surrey, England, the town that our Surrey was named after, uses wards to select its council members.


Where I live, I know that councillor Judy Villeneuve can be counted on to address local issues as she lives in nearby Crescent Beach. Ask yourself who the residents of Whalley or Newton call up when they have issues they want dealt with at city hall? From what I hear from people in these regions is that they get plenty of promises from those at city hall but very little in the way of action. Toronto uses wards as does San Francisco to give residents an elected official close to home that they can trust and who will understand their concerns. With half a million people and counting, the ward system might deserve a second look in Surrey (and in Vancouver for that matter). If this concept intrigues you and you wish to support it, Gill 22 has assured me that he will be running for a councillor position in the municipal election that will happen this year on Nov. 15th. If you want wards, then go Gill.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



January 06, 2014

Tsk-Tsk Force

Happy New Year to all my friends and foes from across the Semiahmoo peninsula. I hope that 2014 ushers in a quieter year after the non-stop rat-a-tat-tat violence that has plagued the city of Surrey for the past 12 months. Even the New Year's couldn't escape the bloodshed with 53 year-old Newton hockey mom Julie Paskall , bludgeoned at the Newton Arena, being taken off life support on Dec. 31st to become the record 25th murder in Surrey of 2013. People were still sipping champagne in the early morning of the first when police responding to a domestic disturbance call in city central (read Whalley) were greeted by a 19 year-old woman plummeting from the 26th floor of a high-rise to the concrete below, an incident now being invested as a possible homicide by IHIT. While reaching a new high, or low depending on whether you think the gun is half empty or half full, the worst black eye of all is that Surrey has earned the dubious title of Murder Capital of Canada for 2013 with a rate of 5 deaths per 100,000 residents, an awful distinction I warned about in a TNT two months ago.

The homicide rate in Surrey should not come as a surprise as it is a result of the increased drug trade, criminal gangs and violent crime which has gone unchecked for some time. Remember back in January after three murders when RCMP Chief Supt Fordy told us it was only dangerous in Surrey if you were a gangster? It was inevitable that the violence associated with those looking to control crack cocaine, meth and other narcotics spread to the street level as addicts struggle to fund their addiction. It was actually amazing that no other civilian was caught in the chaos until Mrs. Paskall was attacked while going to pick up her son who was referring an ice hockey game at the Newton Arena. Unfortunately it has taken her demise to galvanize people into action and demand that something finally be done about this problem. Even in the Downtown East Side and their Mari-gras laissez-faire attitude to the open drug use in the area, they do not have the level of violence in Surrey. In fact, all of Vancouver with a population much larger than Surrey recorded only six murders last year, a record low for them. In Delta, where their police force operates under a "no call too small" motto, they have a quiet community making some ask if the line between heaven and hell is indeed Scott Road.

Mayor Watts hastily convened task force on violence crime was only created in response to public pressure and the threat to her rule from the upcoming civic election on Nov. 15 of 2014. You have to wonder how our politicians and police chief could sit on their hands while watching the city spiral out of control like crap circling down a toilet bowl into the sewer. Was Bill Fordy too busy spending time at the new E Division headquarters at Green Timbers Park to not meander down the streets into Whalley to see what a cesspool it was becoming, regardless of how many concrete towers were being erected? Was Watts too pre-occupied with the new downtown city hall to read the newspapers or watch the news and hear residents repeatedly asking for help from increasing crime, prostitution and drug activity? They now have redeployed 49 officers to focus on the crack houses and drug dealers linked to violent crime in Surrey. This should have been done at the beginning of the year in order to break the cycle of violence that continued unabated right up to the final day of 2013. Sorry to say but I wonder if Anita Huberman of the Surrey BIA will have plaques made stating "Surrey – Canada's Murder Capital 2013" and present them to Watts, her Surrey First councillors and Fordy so that they can put them on their mantels. If you think this is mean or undeserved, remember that this happened on their watch, making them as much to blame for the carnage as the thugs and low-life's who contributed to this unenviable record that now slanders our city.

Friends of mine who live in Whalley told me about crack houses in their neighborhood a year ago that were allowed to go about their business without interference from the police. I guess the cops were too busy tracking down mom and pop marijuana grow-ops in Surrey instead of busting the gangsters dealing cocaine and meth. Development has displaced some undesirable people from Whalley and they are migrating south into Newton plus other regions of Surrey resulting in increased crime there. The Panorama Ridge region is now home to several notorious gang families and it should come as no surprise that there have been drive-by shootings there not to mention the bodies found on nearby Colebrook Road. Local recovery houses are increasing in number, filled with addicts who have not kicked the habit and break into neighbors houses to get money for the next hit. A friend of mine who grew up and still lives in Newton is alarmed by the steady increase in addicts, dealers and prostitutes he sees on the streets. He was a victim of violence himself, being stabbed in the back 9 years ago while being robbed for his bike not far from the Newton Arena. It hasn't gotten any better since then with the Surrey Now newspaper headline this week reading "From Bad to Worse in Newton" and the Province's first newspaper of the year boldly pronouncing, "It's Just Not Safe."

Time will tell if Mayor Watts Talk Force, err…Tsk-Tsk Force, I mean Task Force lives up to its sizeable billing and actually puts a damper on the criminal's fun or if it is just window dressing putting a bandage on a festering wound. It's about time that Watts and Fordy give up on the futile support for pot prohibition and realize that police resources are better used against narcotics while marijuana should be legalized and regulated as in Colorado and Washington State. Our judges need to close the revolving door of justice and stop releasing violence criminals like Dean Jeffrey Anderson, charged in the Nov. 24 "booze can" murder, who was the subject of an RCMP wanted alert in 2011 listing him as a violent offender that was considered armed and dangerous. Residents of Surrey need to step up to the plate and be the eyes and ears of the police, reporting suspicious activities and taking videos with their legion of cell phones. Besides putting the heat on bad guys, we also need to hold both the politicians and police feet to the fire, ensuring that positive steps are being taken to curb the problem they have allowed to get so far out of hand. Lastly, put Agent K's "Gangsters Out Blog" ( on your computer's favourite list and follow the daily play-by-play as he exposes the underbelly of gangsterism in the city of Surrey, the province of B.C. and across Canada.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn




December 30, 2013

Reflecting on Safety / Shining a Light on Waste

There's been on ongoing mystery surrounding the Elgin area of Crescent Road and who has been adorning logs, telephone poles and street signs with a wide assortment of bicycle reflectors. These come in white, yellow and red and are in a variety of sizes and shapes, stuck into cracks on wood, screwed onto posts or taped onto metal poles. The new 30 kmh signs that Surrey installed along the dangerous S-curve at the Elgin ESSO gas station also have thin wire hangers attached to them with several reflectors dangling in the wind. This puzzle was finally solved when a letter writer in one of the local newspapers recently stepped up to take credit for the rather dazzling light display. Surrey resident Jerry Steinberg admitted he was the person responsible for putting up the bicycle reflectors as a way to draw driver's attention to them. He had noticed that many people are either oblivious to the speed signs or blatantly ignoring them, driving through this windy stretch of roadway at "double or triple the limit." While he believes his reflector campaign has been unsuccessful, Jerry hopes drivers will notice when they get speeding tickets or have their cars impounded by the RCMP for excessive speeding in this go-slow-zone.

Mr. Steinberg is not the only person who has been brightening up the Crescent Road raceway this year as Surrey's Engineering Dept. decided it would be a great idea to install cats-eye reflectors to the asphalt to help with night-time driving. Rather than just glue yellow ones between the centre lines as is normally done, they also put white cats-eyes on the warning stripe at the right side of the road in both directions. While this definitely helped to illuminate the narrow lanes of Crescent Road, I don't know if it did anything to lower speeds on the notorious racetrack that has been the scene of numerous serious and fatal crashes, many involving drinking and driving plus excessive speed. When the multitudes of cats-eyes were installed, I wondered what would happen when we had our first serious snowfall and the city's fleet of snow ploughs began scraping the white stuff off the street. Well we have since had our first snow event of this winter and as I expected, many of the reflectors were torn from the roadway where they had been glued. As the snow melted last week, I saw reflectors from one end of Crescent Road to the other and thought it would be a good community project to clean them all up.

I took the large plastic tote that I usually use for moving firewood, strapped it onto a dolly and with litter tongs in hand picked up cat-eyes from either side of Crescent Road from 128 St. to the KGB. This took a couple hours of tedious work that became very difficult towards the end as the weight of the load steadily increased. When I was finished, I had collected a 100 L. sized container full of the reflectors that weighed in at 80 pounds. With five complete cats-eyes weighing a pound, I figured I'd picked up at least 400 and since many were badly damaged or with chunks missing, it is possible there are even more. This also does not include the many cats-eyes still hiding in tall grass, lost in piles of leaves, flung into the bush, ravines and streams or hidden by the piles of melting snow that were still present when I did my roadway cleanup. I also picked up litter as I went and realized that the cats-eyes accounting for around ninety percent of the garbage on the street. This problem is not only confined to Crescent Road as I have seen thousands of town off cats-eyes reflectors at the edges of the road, in gutters or strewn about in every imaginable location throughout Surrey. It makes me wonder how many truck loads are being destroyed in Surrey every year, let alone BC or Canada, and what the cost is to tax payers to purchase new ones and have them installed year after year? I found online prices for 3M road stud reflectors (aka cats-eyes) from $1.35 to $1.85 US a piece and this does not include the adhesive or installation.

Besides the obvious littering problem caused by all cats-eyes reflectors, there are many safety concerns associated with these hockey puck sized discs ending up everywhere. Along with losing the safety benefits of the roadway reflectors during the darkest and wettest part of the year, the ploughs have also damaged many more that are still attached to the asphalt, rendering them useless. Shards of sharp plastic, either from impact by the plough blades or from being run over by other vehicles were everywhere. Crescent Road is a bike route and a handful of cyclists whizzed by while I was making my rounds, risking a flat tire next to traffic. When the cats-eyes land upside down, they are basically invisible as the tar glue stuck on the bottom of them matches the asphalt of the road and it is possible these could cause a bicyclist to crash if they ran over one. The same safety problem also exists on the sidewalks where these plastic pucks tend to get thrown with the slush and snow, creating a tripping hazard for pedestrians. Compounding the problem, at night the wayward reflectors strewn about the streets are confusing to drivers as they produce a bizarre light show of white, yellow and red coming at them from every possible angle. Showing the need for keeping lane reflectors in place, there were four accidents on Crescent Road in the past few weeks; two that tore out Surrey street signs, one where a car plowed through a metal fence and hedge, plus another where a skidding car came to a stop sideways only inches away from a thick utility pole.

While constantly gluing cat-eye reflectors onto roadways after every winter seems to be the norm throughout the Lower Mainland, it is interesting to note what our neighbors to the south are doing. In Washington and Oregon State where I often travel, they grind small indents into the road surface and install the same cats-eye reflectors that we use here, making them impervious to damage from the snow ploughs. While there is some degradation of their reflectivity, mainly due to obstruction by dirt and water, they are much more reflective than one lying upside down in a ditch at the side of the road. Windy country roads in the States are fully illuminated and stay that way in the worse weather, regardless of how many times snow ploughs pass by. As an added bonus, they don't have tons of broken plastic scattered along their roadways creating a public safety hazard and litter nuisance. As you are driving through the Semi-pen, keep an eye out for broken cats-eyes (or those that are missing) and you will be surprised how many you see winking back at you from the side of the road. As for the heavy bin I now have of broken cats-eyes, I'm thinking of taking them into Surrey City Hall and presenting them to the managers of the Engineering Department while voicing my concerns that their current method of cats-eye installation is causing more problems than it solves.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


December 23, 2013

Christmas Wish List - 2013
If there’s one thing I love about Christmas it’s the annual traditions and in the White Rock Sun the year-end TNT is always special.  Here’s the list of naughty and nice gifts we hope Santa leaves under the tree for the movers, shakers and decision makers from the Semiahmoo peninsula, placed alphabetically so as not to offend anyone.

Tommy Alto Band

A new tour bus to replace the 15 passenger death-trap van wrecked near Hope while coming home from playing in Alberta which seriously injured two of the band members.  I hear Sensible BC’s “Cannibus” is for sale for $25,000 if that helps but they might not want to drive it across the US border. 

Cliff Annable, South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce Executive Director

A bright shiny diamond which is what you would get if you took a chunk of coal and put it under extreme heat and pressure for a long time.  In case you missed it, Cliff went against the Surrey Board of Trade and took a firm stand against dirty US coal trains running through White Rock.

Wayne Baldwin, White Rock Mayor

A hi-hoe excavator that he can use to dig up the antiquated BNSF Railway line through White Rock and south Surrey where people keep getting killed by trains and landslides from the bluff threaten to derail tanker cars of dangerous goods into Boundary Bay

Randy Caine, Hempyz owner

Similar to how White Rock separated from Surrey back in 1957, this time it instead votes to leave Canada and join the US where it becomes part of Washington State that recently voted to legalize and regulate the recreational consumption of marijuana, while the Sensible BC pot referendum here fizzled up in smoke.

Dave Chesney, WR Sun editor

Some Fisherman’s Friends lozenges as his throat probably gets sore from all of those “Yell it Like it Is” columns in the White Rock Sun.  A special thanks from yours truly for letting the “Pitbull” loose in the Semi-Pen every week where my bark is often worse than my bite. 

Helen Fathers, WR Councillor & White Rock Farmer’s Market Manager

Not that Santa thought she was a naughty girl this year but there will be no gifts under her tree as Helen got her present a couple of weeks early when the Clark Liberals announced on Dec. 11th that BC wine, beer and spirits would soon be sold at farmer’s markets.

Bill Fordy, RCMP Chief Supt.

Bags and bags of evidence allowing him to solve and lay charges in all of the record 24 murders, many gangland related, that have plagued Surrey this year likely making it Canada’s murder capital for 2013.  Hopefully Mayor Watts new task force gets the goofs with guns off our streets.

Robert Genn, artist

A big grandfather clock so that this acclaimed Canadian landscape painter who calls Crescent Beach his home can get more time to spend with family and friends after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a short time to live. 

Russ Hiebert, MP S. Sry/WR/Cloverdale

A geologist hammer as he may find himself between a White Rock and a hard place with folks on the Semi-pen wanting the BNSF train tracks to move inland and Cloverdale residents wanting it to stay put. 

Gordon Hogg, MLA S. Sry/WR

A fine bottle of over-proof rum imported from Barbados for the long-time local politician (sorry folks, inside joke there).  Real gift would be changing White Rock’s name to “Hoggville” in recognition of his family’s service to the community and Gordon’s lop-sided election results

Anita Huberman, Surrey Board of Trade

A weathervane to know which way the wind blows after repeatedly supporting business interests opposed by many residents of Surrey including the failed Gateway Casino.  Also a lump of dirty US thermal coal shoved in her stocking for endorsing the proposed U.S. coal port at the Fraser Surrey Docks.

Marvin Hunt, MLA & Surrey Councillor

A hat rack for the guy who is the new MLA for South-Surrey/Panorama while still working for free as a councillor for the City of Surrey.  We should be able to buy him a real nice one with the estimated $750,000 he saved taxpayers by not forcing an unwanted civic by-election.

Bill Lawrence, WR Councillor & Sandpiper Pub Owner

A really big shoehorn for his bar since its seating capacity was raised from 65 to 115 after being closed for two weeks in total by the BC Liquor Control Board due to overcrowding at the previous level.  Imagine the SkyTrain at rush hour, only with music, dancing, karaoke and drunks. 

Gus Melonas, BNSF Spokesperson

A new inland rail corridor through Surrey away from White Rock’s public beaches, crowds of people and the twin derailment risks posed by wave erosion and landslides along the Ocean Park bluffs.  Speaking of gifts and the BNSF, has anyone seen that caboose promised for the WR waterfront?

Larry Robinson, WR Councillor

No tongue in cheek humour here as the gift we would like Larry to get for Christmas is for his cancerous tumor to be removed and never return.  Thoughts and prayers are with you from across the Semi-Pen as we all wish for successful treatment and a speedy recovery.    

Jas Singh, God’s Little Acre

A huge helping hand with the farm for the food bank on 40th Ave. as it expands in 2014 to a whopping 60 acres, making it God’s Big Acreage.  If this gift doesn’t come, Jas will need a new bionic back to harvest the estimated half a million pounds of produce that he plans to grow for charity.

Stephanie Smith, Coal Free White Rock & Paula Williams, Communities and Coal

l-r Paula/Stephanie

These committed ladies who have worked tirelessly over the last year get to share the present that most people in the Semi-pen want, which is “No U.S. Thermal Coal” on the BNSF tracks and Port Metro Vancouver turning down the proposed Fraser Surrey Docks coal export terminal.

Dianne Watts, Mayor of Surrey

Saving the best for last, a trip to Vegas with $24,500 in spending money for casting the deciding vote to kill the controversial south Surrey Gateway casino project after vocal community opposition.  I bet that Surrey First would never turn this plan down, showing why I don’t waste my money on gambling.   

Merry Christmas everyone and have a happy New Year.
Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn



December 16, 2013

Death Knell for the Fraser River

I don't think I have ever been more disgusted with a governmental decision than the one earlier this week that should raise alarm bells and hackles with people concerned with the health and environmental sensitivity of the mighty Fraser River. I called a long-time friend today who has been a vocal advocate for the protection of the Fraser River Estuary for years and had to listen as they poured out their heart and sobbed about their fears that we were witnessing the industrialization of the world's greatest wild salmon river that is also an integral part of the Pacific Flyway for migratory waterfowl.

Over four years ago, I broke the story about how the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facility Corporation, a company owned by a consortium of commercial airlines operating out of the Vancouver International Airport or YVR, had plans to bring tankers full of jet fuel into the south arm of the Fraser River. The TNT's are still posted online below if you care to get the details and catch up on history (Beating the Drum, Jan. 30, 2012, TNT & Tankers, Apr. 19, 2010 and Fuelling a Controversy, Oct. 12, 2009). The environmental assessment of this project was supposed to have taken 180 days but extended to over 1,000 as problems were found, the project was sent back to the drawing board and changes made.

On Tuesday, the BC Liberals announced they had issued a conditional Environmental Assessment Certificate to the VAFFC for their plans to bring tankers of jet fuel into the Fraser River, build an 80 million liter tank farm upstream from the Massey tunnel and pump fuel across Richmond in a 15 km. pipeline to YVR. Their decision came after the BC Environmental Assessment Office concluded that the project was not expected to have any, "significant adverse effects." The rational given is contained in the Reasons for Minister's Decisions document available online at the link while the government news release is at Having followed this story for years and knowing much of the minute details behind the headlines, reading these links was enough to make me want to puke.

What I have learned is that this entire project is built on a foundation of lies, deception and greed, with the EAP process doing little if anything to protect the environment. While originally touted as a lack of jet fuel supply for YVR, the Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project (VAFDP) is about controlling fuel delivery to the airport to get the cheapest fuel available regardless of public safety or environmental costs. While 14 delivery methods were identified, only one was considered and utilizing rail from the closest refinery at Cherry Point was strangely never even on the list even though much of the airports fuel comes from this source. The projected fuel use numbers supplied were seemingly pulled from a hat with outrageous increases considered actually plausible. In 1987 a similar jet fuel supply plan for the North Arm of the Fraser River was turned down due to the environmental threat it posed and now this even more dangerous plan and its site upstream from the Alaksen, Reifel and South Arm Marshes wildlife preserves gets passed? I'd like to know how this happens less than four months after a jet fuel spill from a tanker trunk into Lemon Creek in the Slocan Valley decimated aquatic life and sterilized this waterway.

This decision was not based on credible science and did not consider other jet fuel delivery methods that made more sense. The health and protection of the Fraser estuary plus the safety of the public was basically ignored by the provincial Liberals and completely forgotten by Harper's Conservatives who delegated their environmental review responsibilities to Port Metro Vancouver who are in conflict by leasing land to the VAFFC. You would think that at a Federal port with Federal wildlife preserves for Federally protected fish and migratory birds, a project involving a Federal airport, Federal navigation and shipping laws and Federal piloting authorities, that the environmental review should be done by the Federal government? Richmond and Delta's opposition to the VAFDP plus 90% public disapproval of jet fuel tankers in the Fraser meant nothing, with not one minute of public hearing time ever behind heard. The community group VAPOR (visit that formed to combat this project called the process and decision, "a betrayal of the public trust" with the result being that, "fisheries and wildlife resources of the Fraser River are no longer being protected in a precautionary manner." Because they believe this project was not reviewed properly, VAPOR is now examining legal options to challenge its governmental approval.

I would not be surprised to see this terrible precedent be the first domino to fall leading to the environmental degradation, if not wholesale destruction of the Fraser River Basin, which was recently given a "Ramsar Wetland of International Significance" designation in September of 2012. With the Canadian government gutting environmental legislation protecting habitat and giving environmental project review powers to Port Metro Vancouver, the writing is on the proverbial wall made of concrete and steel. Unless there are huge public protests, massive civil disobedience or direct terrorist action (no thanks), expect the Massey tunnel to be replaced with a billion dollar bridge allowing panamax tankers and large freighters easy access to the Fraser Docks free of charge while people in cars pay the toll. The coal terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks will be approved by PMV, regardless of public opposition, health concerns or the many, "No US Thermal Coal" lawn signs seen in the Semi-Pen. In Richmond the PMV will ignore the ALR and pave over the prime 200 acre Gilmore farms for industrial use, while in Delta, expect massive development in the estuary and on farm lands near the docks and the soon-to-open SFPR.

I really like WR Sun editor Dave Chesney's suggestion on how to proceed with environmental reviews and come to think of it, would be fantastic for one of his "good ideas." He believes that the people in charge of making decisions affecting the environment should be held accountable if disaster strikes. Imagine how high the bar would be raised if politicians had to put up their homes, properties and investments as security against clean-up costs? If a tanker of jet fuel spills and destroys a salmon run and the livelihood of the people involved in the industry, then those who felt the project was justified should have to pay. Imagine Environment Minister Mary Polak and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman who signed off on this project having to put their money where their mouths are? Good luck on that one though as it would take politicians to enact such a law and that would be as likely as having them vote to cut their pay, perks or pensions.

If lawyers can't scuttle the VAFDP or nobody lies in front of the bulldozers, it is likely this unneeded and unjustifiable project will proceed as planned but there will always be one way to show your opposition. Vote with your wallet and vow to not fly in or out of YVR whenever possible or to utilize the airlines that are VAFFC members (list to follow, not proudly posted for some reason). YVR's website boasts they want to be, "a gateway of choice and an airport British Columbia can be proud of." Not in my books considering they endorsed this evil plan and welcomed the insane decision by the EAO and the BC Liberals. YVR, you're now officially on my "Do Not Fly" list.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

TNT Extra
As promised, here is the list of airlines that are current VAFFC members who support tankers of jet fuel in the lower Fraser River:
Air Canada, Air China, Air North, Air Transat, Alaska, US Airways, American, British Airways, Cargo Jet Canada, Continental, Delta, Lufthansa, Eva Air, Globespan, Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines, Jazz Air, KLM, Korean Air, Northwest, Sunwing, Philippine, Singapore, Skyservice, United, Westjet and Skywest. Book your travels and vacations accordingly.



December 09, 2013

Winter Classic – Surrey Style

Fry's Corner in the 60's


The sudden outflow of cold dry arctic air has pushed aside any thoughts of global warming as almost all of North America was turned into a deep freeze last week. Living in the Semiahmoo peninsula, we usually enjoy some of the best weather in the Lower Mainland and I often joke it's so nice here that it is even sunny at night. No such luck this time with temperatures reaching only to zero in the day and plummeting after dark mixing with the wind chill to hit readings of -14 Celsius. It is a stark reminder that we live in the Great White North and that Canadian weather occasionally extends to our little corner of the world, giving us a shockingly cold reminder what the rest of the country goes through on a regular basis. While I'm crossing my fingers hoping that my various palm trees and banana plants survived this wintery blast, the icy temperatures are a blessing in disguise for those who wish to practice a tradition that is as Canadian as back bacon, the maple leaf and bashing Toronto. It took a few sub-zero nights but ponds and flooded farm fields became coated with a thick layer of ice, allowing outdoor skating and hockey to once again happen in this region.

When I was a kid growing up in North Delta forty years ago, arctic outflows and cold wintery weather were the norm with heavy snow and icy conditions being far more common than now. Building snow forts, igloos made from snow balls and even tunneling across the yard in snow crusted with ice happened with regularity every winter. Imagine skiing down 64th Ave. and riding skidoos around the neighbourhood! My parents had a large concrete patio on the north side of the house out of the sun and I would often flood it, building up ice several inches thick and inviting friends to come over to skate or play some ice hockey instead of the usual one we played with tennis balls and running shoes. Back then there were plenty of ponds, open excavations and flooded fields that all turned into outdoor rinks as soon as the mercury plummeted. On several occasions, it was cold for long enough that we were able to safely explore Burns Bog by skating across the many large lakes and walking across the frozen peat. The last time it was cold enough for outdoor skating here was just over four years ago and I wrote about this now rare occurrence in my Dec. 14, 2009 TNT in the WR Sun titled "Things Are Just Ducky at the Fen" (scroll way down to read it). At the time Marty Vanderzalm who runs a business beside the King George Art Knapps was holding his "Free the Ice" campaign, protesting against bureaucrats trying to stop people from skating at the Serpentine Fen.

While the chain link fencing and signs remain in place from that time, it would appear that people are not paying too much attention about this old conflict. On Saturday, there were easily 500 people skating on the frozen surface of the Serpentine Fen. Vehicles jammed the parking lot usually reserved for dog walkers and nature lovers, with cars lining both sides of the KGB. Families, young children, teenagers wearing hockey jerseys and groups of young men pretending to be NHL stars all took advantage of the opportunity brought by the unusual cold to go for a skate and work on their hockey skills. While milk jugs frozen with water had previously been used for goal posts, several hockey nets had been carried onto the ice and while I was taking pictures a truck drove up with another set, making more games of shinny possible. Under sunny blue skies, it made for a perfect day of fun and memories, giving people from here the chance to experience what many Canadians take for granted throughout the long winter months. Even darkness could not stop the action with people parking their cars facing the Fen and putting the headlights onto the ice.

While ice skating at Fry's corner (176 St. & Fraser Hwy.) is a distant memory because of the new pumping station and fallow fields, there is another flooded farmer's field with a rather familiar name that is now open to outdoor ice skating. Local farmer Jas Singh has opened God's Little Acre at 16582 40th Ave. in Surrey to public skating, having flooded part of the vegetable patch with the help of several Surrey firefighters. This farm has produced fresh produce for local food banks and soup kitchens since 2011 and Jas is hoping for donations to help fund the purchase of $7,000 worth of seeds needed for spring planting. Since its inception, Gods Little Acre has grown from three acres that produced over 60,000 pounds of potatoes for the Surrey Food Bank in its first year, to eight acres of various vegetables in 2012 distributed to food banks across Metro Vancouver. This season 34 acres were farmed with an army of volunteers harvesting 200,000 pounds of potatoes, beets, carrots, squash, pumpkins, corn and other vegetables for the less fortunate and hungry among us. In 2014, Mr. Singh plans to expand the farm to 60 acres producing half a million pounds of food and to open B.C.'s first produce bank. There were an estimated 300 skaters on the pond when I arrived on Sunday, with Christmas music playing, popcorn and hot chocolate available by donation, skate rentals by Sports Replay plus night lighting from United Rentals allowing skating Saturday and Sunday until late.

If you missed your chance on the weekend to play some outdoor hockey or to go for a skate in the sunshine, it is likely your weather window of opportunity is quickly closing. The forecast for the next couple of days is snow flurries but after that the temperatures will rise and the rain will follow later this week, washing away the sheets of natural ice until the next big chill. Likely the next time there will be outdoor skating in the Lower Mainland will be the Tim Horton's NHL Heritage Classic on March 2nd when the Vancouver Canucks face off against the Ottawa Senators at BC Place in Vancouver. Of course, considering our usual wet weather, it is very likely the retractable roof will be closed for the game. If you would like to help Jas Singh and Gods Little Acre with their "Skate & Donate" campaign, they can be followed on Facebook at GodsLittleAcreFarm or their website at The following release taken from the south Asian community event calendar at will give you more insight into this worthy community cause.

In 2011, God's Little Acre was a 30 acre hay field. Leaving the corporate world behind, Jas Singh took on the challenge of turning this hay field into a potato field for those in need. The first year harvest successfully yielded 62,000 lbs of potatoes, all of which went to the Surrey Food Bank. Fast forward to 2013. To help God's Little Acre Society become more self-sustainable, we have initiated the God's Little Acre Club - an on-site market that will provide club members with quality, fresh produce well below retail prices (savings of 25-50%). We are growing a full range of vegetables and import a wide variety of BC fruit as well as other produce, similar to what is available at most retail outlets.

God's Little Acre employs the following farming practices to grow healthy, vital food for our on-site market. A huge variety of vegetable grown right on our farm behind the barn! Application of trace minerals back to the soil to allow proper nutrients into our diets (for more info, see Graceful Living). Limited or no use of chemicals (currently, 5% of crops grown use chemicals but the goal is to eliminate chemicals completely). We will not be going through organic certification in order to keep prices reasonable.

We are very excited about this retail vision and its potential to help finance our societies' operations while enabling hundreds of families to share great food at reasonable prices! To join the God's Little Acre Club go to and fill out the contact form and a God's Little Acre Club member will be in touch with you. If you chose to become a club member, you can also gift the goodness of fresh produce to an individual or family in need. Using the Buddy Card available with each membership, you can sign up seniors, individuals on disability, or single parents for free. If you don't have someone in your life that fits this description your Buddy Card will be passed on to a family in need through our membership matching program.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



December 02, 2013

Take Back the Tracks

Over the past three years of my TNT columns, I have written about railway issues in the Semi-pen a total of 22 times, possibly showing that I have a one-track mind. Many of these focused on the dangers of having the BNSF railway in its present location across a busy public beach and at the base of a slide prone bluff. Of greatest concern is the hazmat and inhalation toxic chemicals including chlorine gas that are regularly carried on this antiquated rail line, even during periods of heavy rains, strong winds and landslide activity, which I call "railway roulette." I started Surrey's United Naturists (SUN) partly as a way to bring public attention to public safety and environmental issues involving the BNSF Railway along Crescent Rock beach between White Rock and Crescent Beach. I've been a supporter of the local community rail safety group Smartrail and have endorsed their concept of relocating the railway to an inland corridor. Over the years I have sent countless emails to politicians at all four levels of government (including the GVRD) about the hazards found on our tracks, contacted transportation about dangerous practices I have seen there, plus made a detailed submission to the federal panel reviewing the Railway Safety Act. Imagine my surprise when it was announced that White Rock and Surrey mayors were co-hosting a public meeting looking into the possibility of rerouting the tracks and building a public walkway on the rail bed.

Of course I happily attended last Tuesday's meeting at the "Pink Palace" hotel ballroom that was standing room only with plenty of Surrey Firsters and all of White Rock's Council in attendance. Mayor Watts gave a short and sweet history lesson on the topic that began in 1995 with a joint US/Canada study on rail alignment which then led to the Delcan report in 2002 that identified possible realignment routes through south Surrey along with their costs. Mayor Baldwin stepped up to the microphone and then scared the hell out of most in the room by detailing a landslide derailment disaster scenario leading to the release of a cloud of chlorine gas that floats into a Crescent Beach while it is cut off by the stopped train. Following the mayor's speeches, questions were taken from the floor about the cost of this project and who would pay for it, the deaths and injuries on the BNSF tracks over the years, concerns over destroying farmland, and possibly relocating area MP Hiebert if he did not support realignment. Smartrail's Ken Jones, former Surrey-Cloverdale MLA and White Rock Councilor ended the Q&A by explaining how he had endorsed realignment since 1973 and how he estimated it would cost less than $100 million to move the tracks instead of the $350 - $400 million often quoted. The meeting adjourned after half an hour, leaving the crowd to survey the many information boards set up throughout the room and to mix and mingle with both mayors making themselves available to the public.

It all sounds so easy moving the BNSF tracks to an inland location but beyond cost, there are plenty of obstacles and many unanswered questions about the repercussions such a project would have. The biggest elephant in the room is whether the BNSF would be willing to relocate the corridor in the first place. In the past five years they have spent millions of dollars replacing the rip-rap boulders, laying down new continuous weld rail and replacing over 20,000 wooden ties. They have recently begun the construction of a new trestle bridge across Mud Bay and are planning on building a new bridge over the Little Campbell River at the Semiahmoo Reserve. It is doubtful that the BNSF would want to walk away from such large capital investments unless they were properly compensated for them. The other issue associated with the BNSF here is that they own the waterfront land where the tracks now sit and would likely either want to sell the property or be allowed to possibly develop it. Of course, any relocation of the tracks on our side of the border would have to align with the rail line in Blaine, further complicating the project and turning it into an international project involving the U.S. and Canada, rather than just the cities of White Rock and Surrey. Strangely absent from the conversation or story boards was the possibility of utilizing the existing rail crossing at Sumas and an inland rail route through Washington freeing up their waterfront from the ever increasing cross-border rail traffic that has increased 1,000% in the past nine years. The same also was true for high-speed rail with no consideration being given for a corridor that will eventually become impossible if development proceeds in Surrey at its current speed.

The impact of any of the four proposed relocation routes also needs to be considered as it has been over a hundred years since the previous rail line along 176 St. was closed and moved to the shores of the Semi-pen. How many acres of prime farmland will need to be taken out of the ALR and covered in ballast rock and creosoted ties? What will the impact be on air quality for man and animals on farms near the new tracks from belching diesel locomotives and coal dust blowing from trains? How will coal dust and other particulate matter affect vegetable and berry crops, will it contaminate grass that is fed to the many dairy herds in these areas, plus what long term impacts would this have on soil and water courses? What will the impact be on rural residents from increased rail noise and vibration, similar to what many White Rock and Crescent Beach residents are currently experiencing? Already local opposition is being heard with one of the folks at the open house taking to the mike to call for no trains on prime agricultural land and the statement, "we don't want your problem." I met with Russ Hiebert on Friday at his year-end open house and while voicing support for looking at the feasibility of this project, he cautioned that as the MP for south Surrey/White Rock/Cloverdale, constituents from across the riding would have strong feelings for railway relocation or maintaining the waterfront status quo. If you were to put yourself in his shoes, you'd realize that he could find himself caught between a proverbial White Rock and a hard place on this rather complex issue.

The rail corridor from Peace Arch Park to Blackie spit also has plenty of problems that will need to be overcome should the tracks be moved. Many people including myself have envisioned constructing a public walkway where the tracks now sit, possibly connecting with the existing Delta Dike Trail creating a marathon-length trail from the border to Tsawwassen. It is uncertain if the Semiahmoo First Nations would want to create a public thoroughfare along their property, separating the reserve yet again from the waters of the bay. Another question that needs to be answered is if Metro Vancouver would want to purchase the BNSF corridor for a regional park and as part of their Greenway Vision Plan that envisions a walking trail where the tracks now sit. How to keep people safe during storms when waves crash onto the tracks eroding the rail bed, trees topple from the heavily treed hillside, or when landslides measuring up to 10 feet deep and 150 feet across fall from the Ocean Park bluff still needs to be answered along with who would pay for the ongoing maintenance and cleanup. Even if the BNSF agreed to sell the corridor and leave the three bridges and trestles intact, there is still the thorny issue of who would operate the swing bridge at the Crescent Beach marina that is presently staffed 16 hours a day, 365 days a year, allowing for both train and boat passage. While it has been envisioned creating a version of Vancouver's famed Sea Wall out of the corridor, its dangerous and unstable location and collection of antiquated train bridges only add to the complexity of changing it from rail to trail.

The creation of a pedestrian trail on the existing corridor sounds inviting but this would have a substantial environmental impact on this relatively inaccessible location. Currently, walking on the tracks is trespassing and coupled with the danger from passing trains, most people wisely avoid the corridor between White Rock and Crescent Beach. For much of the year this rugged shoreline is home to tens of thousands of shorebirds and migratory ducks utilizing it for an integral resting point as part of the Pacific Flyway. Building a shoreline walkway and inviting thousands of people and possibly their dogs to this formerly quiet area might disturb wildlife in this location. The same can be said for the many bald eagles which nest in the tall Douglas firs growing on the Ocean Park bluff and the large numbers of great blue herons that currently wade in the shallow waters. Another concept that has not yet been considered is to follow West Vancouver's lead and rehabilitate the shoreline, removing the rip-rap boulders that cause the scoured cobble beach and restoring it into a functioning marine bluff ecosystem. Folks here need to realize that the railroad was built on the inter-tidal zone and that for the past 100 years it has resulted in a decimated shoreline that no longer supports a wide variety of life including sand lance and surf smelt, small feeder fish that are at the bottom rung of the foot chain that leads to herring, salmon and orcas. If you want to see the damage that the BNSF railway has caused here, simply visit Lily Point park in Point Roberts to see what Crescent Rock Beach looked like before it was buried under rock for the railway. The difference in shoreline, wildlife and ambiance is literally a night and day difference even though it is only a few miles away across Boundary Bay.

There is one more problem with the BNSF relocation concept that could rear its ugly head. For decades naturists and nudists have utilized the rugged strip of shoreline along the tracks for nude sunbathing and skinny-dipping. With nearly a million Fraser Valley residents and with Wreck Beach in Vancouver being so busy during summer months, not to mention a long drive away, people are flocking to Crescent Rock Beach to get away from the stresses of modern life, reconnect with nature and rid themselves of pesky tan lines. While some beach areas are separated from the tracks by a screen of vegetation, many other spots are in full view of the rail corridor, likely to the surprise of passengers riding the AmTrak along the waterfront. I doubt if anyone has considered how a public walking trail would work alongside a nude beach that is getting noticeably busier every year? At Wreck, the WBPS (Wreck Beach Preservation Society) has fought a lengthy battle to keep the GVRD from building an access road at the base of the bluff and while it is likely that nudists/naturists here would love to see the noisy dirty freight trains go, they likely would not appreciate an influx of tacky textiled tourists. It could be that the final result might be like in Whistler where at Lost Lake, a dock that is clothing-optional floats in full view of the public trail raising a few eyebrows from the many passing hikers not aware of the local customs.

The discussion on the merits and possibility of railway relocation has only just begun and public discourse and feedback is being sought out for this project. You can read the "Re-imaging the Corridor" Rail Traffic Safety report that is posted on the City of Surrey website and look at the various photos, charts and maps that were on display at the first public meeting. You are invited to share your thoughts on rail safety and answer the Re-imaging the Corridor survey on the City of Surrey's CitySpeaks website at the following link:
I've already given them my two cents worth including that until such time that the tracks are moved, there are several things that need to be done to improve both public and rail safety in this region.
- Institute a precipitation threshold that would close the BNSF tracks during periods of heavy rain when slides from the bluff can be expected. Utilizing a simple backyard rain gauge, I've noted that 2" of rain in 24 hours historically leads to mudslides onto the rail corridor.
- When the BNSF tracks are closed to the AmTrak passenger train due to slide activity, the tracks should also be off-limits to dangerous goods and inhalation hazardous chemicals such as chlorine gas which could instead be routed inland through the Sumas crossing in Abbotsford.
- If City of Surrey engineers find unsafe bluff slope conditions threatening safe rail transportation they should be able to contact BNSF or Transport Canada and have the tracks closed until the threat is dealt with. In the past I have been warned by Surrey staff to stay away from areas where more slides were expected and watched as trains carrying tankers of chemicals rolled by below.
As to whether the tracks will ever be relocated inland and a waterfront walkway built around the Semiahmoo peninsula, only time will tell. If you believe as Mayor Watts does when she said that a nature trail on the current rail bed would be, "something the community will treasure forever", then become involved, take the survey, give your thoughts and become part of the process.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



November 25, 2013

Expanded lot adds hundreds of new spaces to South Surrey Park and Ride

November 12, 2013
New parking spaces help customers move around the region


Starting today, 367 new parking stalls at the South Surrey Park and Ride are now available to customers. Located on the west side of King George Boulevard, the new stalls combine with the existing parking lot for a total of 840 parking stalls available to park and ride customers.
The BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure funded construction of the new expanded lot which TransLink operates. A time-lapse video of the construction of the new lot is available online.
"Government invested $4.5 million to expand this important Park and Ride because transit infrastructure supports this growing community," said Surrey-Panorama MLA Marvin Hunt. "The extra parking spaces will allow more people to use transit."
"The expanded parking lot will supply much-needed parking in South Surrey and provide commuters with more transportation options," says TransLink's Chief Operating Officer, Doug Kelsey. "We encourage our customers to use Park and Ride facilities and carpool programs to more easily connect to the regional transit network."
The entire Park and Ride facility at South Surrey now features five motorcycle spots, 17 accessible stalls and 10 kiss-and-ride stalls. The lot is open all week, but overnight parking is prohibited.
As of Monday, November 4, 2013 parking at the South Surrey Park and Ride costs $2/day or $40/month. These new fees are in line with TransLink's Park and Ride Policy and contribute to the operating, maintenance and capital costs of the facility. Impark will collect payment for the facility.
Carpool spaces are available via the TransLink website to customers with a valid South Surrey Park and Ride Carpool Parking Pass.

I wish I could operate my business without worrying about capital outlay, the needs of my customers, or the operating costs associated with expansion. I must admit the parking lot is very well constructed with smooth asphalt, good signage, bright lighting and healthy landscaping. There is only one problem; nobody uses it! This new lot has been open for three weeks and I have yet to see one person bother to take the $4.5 million lot for a test drive. Check it out for yourself, use it as an impromptu racetrack like I did and marvel at this vast empty expanse of asphalt. If you are tired of rush hour traffic or stop and go traffic, cruising through the new "Pay & Ride" lot should get your blood flowing either from adrenaline as you slalom around the speed bumps or from realizing what a huge waste of money this project really was.

There are two fundamental reasons why the Park & Ride expansion was flawed from the start. The first is that with the commencement of pay parking, many transit users have altered their behavior and are catching the bus from home, driving to work, or parking somewhere else. It is not uncommon to see much of the back rows of the old lot now sitting empty during the busy parts of the day. If the existing lot is empty now, imagine how many spaces will be available when Impark jacks the rates to $3 a day to match the other Translink lots in Surrey, as they have already warned they had the power to do. The other problem with the beautiful empty new lot is the fact that the closest parking stall to the bus loop is 250 metres away (0.25 km as measured on my Jeep's odometer). From the far end of the deserted asphalt, it is 350 metres and you can't take a short cut across the KGB because engineers figured out people would do this and installed a high security fence. I'm surprised that Translink doesn't have a shuttle bus to bring people from the far lot to the bus loop, instead of forcing potential customers to walk a minimum distance of half a kilometer in total to ever utilize this space.

I used to meet my employees at the Park & Ride, with one coming in on the bus and the other utilizing it for parking while working. With the new $2 a day rate, the person with the car has now taken to parking at an undisclosed location on a quiet residential street somewhere in south Surrey. At first he parked with all of the other folks who are suddenly lining both sides of the KGB south of Crescent Road. While Translink collects their daily parking fees, the city of Surrey has got into the action and is now ticketing vehicles parked in this legal parking area. What they are nailing people for is parking within 3 metres of a driveway, a ticket that will cost you $30 if paid within 7 days or $45 if paid after that. I know this because my co-worker picked up one of these tickets after steering clear of a fire hydrant and the no parking areas. We have seen plenty of other cars with these tickets stuck under their wipers and expect this to continue until Surrey puts up no parking signs forcing vehicles back to the Park & Ride lot. The other person profiting off this change is barista Al Nameth from Holy Smoke coffee at the tee-pee who is telling people to spend the two bucks they save on parking on a cup of his organic hand-roasted java. Needless to say, his business has improved nicely since November 12th and at least you get your money's worth.

There is another huge oversight involving the south Surrey Park & Ride that puts pedestrian and commuters at risk. You would think that the engineers who design such places would possibly consider that some people might actually walk to the loop and catch a bus from there. There are no sidewalks leading to the parking lot from the Elgin area and yet I frequently see people walking along the shoulder of the KGB heading to and from Crescent Road. What makes this even more dangerous is that there is no crosswalk for pedestrians crossing the KGB at the parking lot entrance. You cannot push a button and wait for the walking man sign to cross as there is none. Instead people jog across traffic when the light changes, dodging vehicles who do not expect them. The nearby Park & Pool lot by the Nicomekyl bailey bridge also still offers free parking and folks are now parking there for the day and making their way across the KGB in the dark, often crossing at the corner where the street lighting is not that bright. I believe it is only a matter of time with the increased pedestrian traffic and the long winter nights that someone is going to get run over and killed because of this serious flaw.

As if the money spent building this white elephant are not enough, it requires upkeep and maintenance to keep it operational. There are 28 street lights located throughout the new parking lot which burn brightly from dawn to dusk, creating hydro bills on par with a large grow-op. With the cold weather, rock salt has been spread all around the lot and I am sure that if it snows that Translink will have a contractor clear the entire lot at great expense, then apply more salt. It is only a matter of time before illegal dumpers start targeting this area as it was not long ago that I drove into the old Park & Ride lot and found a mountain of debris including a cracked hot tub shell in one of the main driveways, obviously dumped on purpose by someone too cheap to take it to the landfill or transfer station. Considering that my employee had his vehicle stolen and destroyed from the Park & Ride lot earlier in the year, it is surprising that Translink would not have installed close circuit cameras to deter theft and provide customers with some security, especially the many women who park there early in the morning or late at night.

Until parking numbers warrant the new south Surrey Park & Ride lot actually being used, there is no sense in keeping it open and paying for lighting and maintenance that is not required. Translink should gate this area off until such time as the old lot becomes full (if ever) and save the money they are currently spending on upkeep and maintenance. They could also have saved reduced costs by not painting numbers on every single one of the 840 spots as the pay booths require your vehicle licience plate number, not the stall number. Think about this multi-million dollar boondoggle the next time that Translink cries poverty and tries to come up with new revenue sources (read taxes) to feed its already bloated bureaucracy.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



November 18, 2013


Sensible BC volunteers were out in force this weekend with the political styled "Cannibus" dropping in on the Cloverdale Public Market giving people there the opportunity to sign the petition to hold a referendum next year supporting the decriminalization of marijuana in BC. With Canadian provinces having jurisdiction over policing and the administration of justice, Sensible BC is proposing an amendment to the Police Act so that both the RCMP and municipal police forces will be instructed not to spend time, money or resources on cases involving the simple possession of cannabis. Their "Sensible Policing Act" would decriminalize the possession of cannabis in BC while leaving the rest of the current laws concerning cannabis in place. If you think that this is a bold innovative step, consider that the residents of Washington and Colorado states voted this year to legalize the growing and sale of marijuana and will be regulating its production and distribution while taxing and controlling its sale for both medicinal and recreational purposes.

Sensible BC's grass-roots campaign to have a referendum on decriminalizing cannabis in our province has to clear some high hurdles before it can proceed. Just like the successful anti-HST referendum spear-headed by former premier Bill Vanderzalm, they need to collect 10 percent of the registered voters from every one of the 85 electoral districts in B.C. This means that they will require signatures from over 400,000 people spread across the province, with all signatures being gathered in a 90 day period. The signature campaign began in September and has less than a month to go with the final date for signature submissions on December 9, 2013. Recently Sensible BC leader Dana Larsen admitted in an interview that the referendum process is "extremely challenging" and that they were well short of the numbers required. While signatures are now being submitted in ever greater numbers, they will need exponential returns and an increase in the legion of canvassers and the locations where they can be found. Information about Sensible BC and joining in this historic referendum is posted on their website at or on their Facebook page, "Join the Campaign for a Marijuana Referendum" which now has over 69,000 likes.

At Crescent Beach on Saturday, several Sensible BC canvassers including my converted activist wife Sheryl were on hand braving the winds and cold temperatures to gather more signatures in their referendum campaign. At the table was Ocean Park resident David Hutchinson who I had met earlier in the year at a political protest over changes to medical marijuana access regulations that was held in front of our MP Russ Hiebert's office. Mr. Hutchinson was recently featured in local newspaper stories concerning his family's unfortunate incidences of cancer. David's wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and passed away in Peace Arch Hospital in December of 2009. To compound this tragedy, two weeks before his wife died his then 16 year-old daughter Beth was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given 8 to 14 months to live. After a total of five brain surgeries and courses of chemotherapy and radiation, Mr. Hutchinson turned to medicinal cannabis to help combat Beth's disease. He found research showing that the THC in cannabis releases dopamine in the brain causing cancer to consume itself while cutting off the blood flow to the tumor. Beth's neuro-oncologist reviewed the research and prescribed her medical marijuana that took six months of waiting before Health Canada issued her a license for this natural herbal medicine.

Beth Hutchinson

Unfortunately Beth's health eventually took a turn for the worst four years after her initial diagnosis and she passed away on October 25th at a Ladner hospice. She has posted YouTube videos related to her condition ( ) under the title BethsBrain along with maintaining a Facebook page (Beths Brain "An Unusual Case") about her life and dealing with cancer. Before her death, Beth wrote the following letter that she hoped would one day be read at a cannabis conference. It has been forwarded to lawyer John Conroy (, Queens Counsel from Abbotsford who supports patient access to medicine and who may use this letter as evidence as he leads a constitutional challenge on proposed Medical Marijuana Access Regulations changes put forth by the Harper Conservative government.

I'd really rather not have to make this video as I've always been quiet about my condition, however I wish to voice my outrage at Health Canada before I have no voice at all. No one in 3 years has ever suspected I have had 4 Grade IV Glioblastomas and 4 brain surgeries to remove them. I often joke that I've had more surgeries in the past few years than I've been to the dentist. My experience with Western medication and conventional treatment has had some ups but many downs. It was when I was told at 17 years old that there was nothing more that could be done in order to treat my cancer that my father took the initiative to start researching other options. It was on April 20th 2011 that he announced to me at dinner that he thought I should consider taking cannabis. Since 4/20 is an infamous day in the cannabis community I naturally thought he was kidding. When he showed me the research that was going on internationally I felt for the first time in a while some hope.
It took a long time for Health Canada to process my paperwork. I had been given a lifespan of 6 months and Health Canada took far longer than that. If it had not been for compassionate clubs in Vancouver I'd have been without medication completely. I was also surprised to not receive an actual health Canada ID card along with my documents. I phoned to find out why this was and was told that it was because they'd recently not been able to make enough cards for everyone needing cannabis. As drivers licenses, compassionate cards, care cards, and many other forms of ID are being made every day I was not pleased with this answer. Upon telling them that I was aware that they had not printed these cards for two years I was finally told that the two passport style photos I'd sent in were in fact purely for identification reasons. It made me feel like a criminal. A criminal for seeking a cure for cancer.
I frequently find myself in an interesting place when the topic of cannabis arises. Many people are uninformed and misled like I was a few years ago. They assume that cannabis can kill you, yet don't realize that there is nothing on record of someone dying because of a pot overdose. They believe it is addicting but don't realize that only 9% of people get addicted, the same percentage as people getting addicted to Starbucks. They also think it turns people into trouble makers or dangerous people. I take high amounts of cannabis daily and the only thing I'm a danger to is cake. People also tell me that it must have been dangerous for it to be criminalized in the first place. The initial reason was that it was such a profitable crop that it was threatening the lumber industry. Even George Washington grew hemp. I've also been faced with people telling me that pot addicts can't become successful people. I had a 4.0 GPA, was in 2 school shows and helped direct a third, worked 2 jobs and got into UBC and UVic all while taking cannabis. Not to mention that some of the most famous musicians of the past and present frequently partook in smoking pot. The illusion that marijuana is a dangerous, harmful substance needs to be shattered. Even if you don't like cannabis, the facts are there. As logical people we need to ask ourselves why substances like nicotine and alcohol that frequently lead to violence and death are legal when cannabis is not.
Whether you agree that cannabis is more beneficial than harmful or not one thing that I hope can be agreed upon is that medication should not be denied to sick people. The cost for me to take a medicinal plant that helps with my sleep, anxiety, nausea, headaches, appetite, and pain will rocket from $300 a month to $3000 for no logical reasons. By April next year we may not be able to afford my medication. If Health Canada is allowed to make these changes I may be denied the medication that is helping me more than anything I've taken provided by a pharmaceutical company. Something is wrong within our health system and government and as a nation we need to speak out against it. I may be someone who has a terminal disease, but it is our government that is truly sick.
Beth Hutchinson

I would like to thank Beth's father David for letting me post this letter from his daughter and to share it with the residents of the Semiahmoo peninsula including many locals who personally knew this energetic and talented 20 year-young lady. Hopefully it will make you reflect on our draconian marijuana laws, prohibition of pot and the use of cannabis for medical treatment. Sensible BC is actively seeking more canvasses for this region and the referendum campaign needs signatures for it to be successful. In closing, I would like to add the final Facebook message that Beth posted the day before her passing: Thanks to all those who have helped me with both my major bucket list and help me achieve what I thought was impossible. Thank you to those who have sent pajamas, gingerbread houses, and the little things that make life worth living as well!

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn provides essential information for an informed debat aabout cannabis policy in Canada



November 12, 2013

Lest They Forget

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

"In Flanders Fields", war poem written during WW1 by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae

Remembrance Day holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many Canadians as we show our respect to members of our armed forces, veterans and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice whether in times of war or peace. I have known a great many veterans over the years who fought in battles from World War 2 to Afghanistan and was always spellbound by the tales they had brought back home with them. A customer of mine fought in Korea, a US Marine Sergeant buddy did three tours in Vietnam and a young friend I know from the rifle range is currently a member of the 3PPCLI regiment. My parents are both veterans having served in the RCAF where even during peacetime, death was never that far away. My father has told me about near mid-air collisions in jet fighters, performing a "dead-stick" landing instead of ejecting, the loss of many buddies in crashes and the time an officer and Chaplain came to his room to collect his personal effects when he was mistaken for another pilot who was killed. Anyone who puts on a uniform to defend their country and its freedoms deserves the utmost of respect and it is our duty to ensure that those injured in service after being put in harm's way are properly taken care of.

Tensions were running high this year as Remembrance Day celebrations focused attention on the ongoing battle between veterans and the Conservative government over the New Veteran's Charter that was enacted in 2006 and the way that our injured soldiers are compensated. The charter replaced a pension for life system with a lump-sum one-time payment that critics, including retired general Rick Hillier who was commander of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, says does not look after veterans over a long period of time. Adding to the resentment are several recent cases where soldiers injured in Afghanistan were medically discharged just before completing the 10 years needed to qualify for a military pension (federal politicians qualify for their gold-plated pensions after only 6 years in office by comparison). Canada's Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent has voiced concern that the Charter is not protecting our most seriously disabled soldiers who don't qualify for pensions when they turn 65, with many veterans likely to be destitute during their retirement years. A recent news story about the government not helping to fund burials for impoverished or destitute veterans has many questioning their priorities and commitment to our former soldiers. Rubbing more salt in the wound, the Conservatives have also announced cost-cutting plans to close Veteran's Affairs offices country-wide, resulting in a protest on Saturday in Sydney Nova Scotia that attracted 2,000 poppy wearing people.

There may not be enough money to fund Veteran's Affairs or properly look after injured soldiers, but there's plenty of cash to throw away on government advertising. Over the past month we have been barraged with countless Remembrance Day television ads courtesy of our federal government, inviting us to visit the Veterans Affairs Canada website at for Remembrance Day information. While it is a great site with plenty of history, you have to wonder what the budget was for all those slick commercials and how many veterans this money could have benefited. The same can be said for the $28 million that the Conservatives decided to spend this year celebrating the War of 1812 and loyalist's victory over advancing American Forces on Nov. 11, 1813 that prevented the capture of Montreal. Harper is so dedicated to this jingoistic pursuit that after attending the Remembrance Day ceremony at the War Memorial in Ottawa, he presided over the War of 1812 celebration at the Chrysler Farm near Morrison Ontario to mark the 200th year anniversary of what is often referred to as, "the battle that saved Canada." Why we need to spend so much taxpayer money saber-rattling over a war with our American neighbors two centuries ago that nobody really gives a damn about needs to be questioned.
On the way home last week I noticed a small white sign posted at the end of a neighbor's driveway that read, "Fight for our Wounded Veterans – I had heard CKNW's Jon McComb editorializing on 980 AM about the failings of the Veteran's Charter and on online petition that had been started to show support for our troops and veterans. The following is taken directly from their website: Canada's soldiers. They fought in Bosnia. They fought in Afghanistan. And now they're fighting against their own government. I'm Jon McComb and Canada's veterans ombudsman says the Veterans Charter is failing some of the most severely wounded and disabled soldiers. He wants the Harper Government to address these "urgent shortcomings". With Remembrance Day right around the corner, you can help fight for our wounded veterans. See below for links to our online petition and Facebook page. Obviously I'm not the only one who isn't impressed with the Conservative government's treatment of our injured soldiers as the petition now has 12,630 signatures and the CKNW Facebook page has over 1 ,000 likes. A related petition on the website titled "Government of Canada: Our wounded veterans deserve life-long support" has garnered an amazing 47,550 signatures.

Closer to home White Rock Council (invitation to the cenotaph), the City of Surrey (saluting veterans and Canadian forces), S. Surrey/White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg (freedom is never free…, thank you to those who fight to defend ours) and local Surdel MLA's (to those who fought for our Freedom and those who continue to defend it…., thank you) all had quarter page colour advertisements in the local fish wrap. Not to be left out, local MP Russ Hiebert had his own ad (honour the bravery of our men and women in uniform) featuring a large "Lest We Forget" over the shadowy silhouette of a saluting soldier. The irony is that many Canadian veterans feel all-but-forgotten by Harper's federal government and are appalled that after coming home from war, they have to battle with the Conservatives for respect and proper funding. Considering that it is likely all 308 members of parliament across Canada from the various political parties took out the same type of ad, possibly in several newspapers or on-line publications, I would love to know what the total budget for this public relations exercise was. Instead of telling our soldiers that we support them, how about actually showing them and putting proper funding in place to ensure quality of life for our damaged or disabled veterans into their golden years.

Remembrance Day may now be over but fighting for dignity and respect for our disabled veterans will continue until changes are made in the New Veterans Charter. The Harper government has announced it plans to appeal a BC court ruling for a class-action lawsuit involving veterans of the Afghanistan war who allege that eliminating the life-long disability pension violates their Canadian Charter Rights. If you wore a poppy last week then take the time to get involved in this fight and sign the CKNW petition, email or phone your local MP supporting our troops and contact the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Hon. Julian Fantino to voice your concerns. You might also want to remind Mr. Fantino about the quote posted on "The Minister" section of the Veteran Affairs website: "We owe a tremendous debt to those who have served the interests of our country, in preserving our freedoms, ensuring our prosperity and securing our future. They warrant our support and assistance and we are committed to delivering for them." — The Honourable Julian Fantino. Something tells me he might have forgotten about this statement soon after arriving in Ottawa.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



November 04, 2013

Canada's Murder Capital for 2013

From the very start of this year when gangsters started dropping like flies in Surrey I was very concerned about the murders plaguing the city. It seemed that every time I opened my computer or picked up an old-fashioned newspaper that the headlines were screaming about yet another homicide in Surrey. The rather macabre killing or dumping of four people on Colebrook Road only added to my angst, especially after finding out that two people had been shot there only hours after I drove down this quiet rural roadway and told my co-worker that the police should have the area under surveillance. The $80,000 spent by City Hall on placing video cameras on Colebrook along the bottom of Panorama Ridge has stopped the bloodletting in this area but this does not mean that the problem has gone away. In the past week alone a man was gunned down in his car in Fleetwood in the early morning and on Halloween day, a woman's body was found in Hi-Knoll Park near 192nd St. located in the eastern section of none other than the infamous Colebrook Road. Between the potholes, lack of shoulders, deep ditches, absence of street lighting and bodies used for speedbumps, it's got my vote for the BCAA "Worst Roads" campaign (vote at It is not surprise that many people in Surrey are now referring to it as "Killbrook" Road and avoiding it like the plague, especially at night when it often turns deadly.

With two months left to go in the year Surrey has already recorded 20 homicides, a staggering number for a city whose population eclipsed the half-million mark this summer. By comparison, the City of Vancouver recently had its fifth murder of the year and their population is 630,000 people, which also includes the rough-n-tumble Down Town East Side and plenty of well-established organized crime groups that are armed to the teeth. It's hard to imagine that the suburb of Surrey has a murder count four times that of the city of Vancouver to date for this year. The 4 homicides per 100,000 residents put it in the running to win the dubious title of Canada's murder capital of the year for 2013. Winnipeg won the murder capital numbers game in 2012 with a record 35 homicides for its 715,000 residents, a title it unfortunately has held 16 times since 1981. It's rather tragic that my wife Sheryl moved from Winnipeg to Surrey partly to get away from the violence in urban Manitoba. In 2011, Edmonton took the title after 47 people were killed there, numbers that have dropped dramatically since that time. Thunder Bay was the top dog in 2010 with a homicide rate of 4.2 per 100,000, just above the current rate that we have in Surrey with two months still to go till the end of the year. A little closer to home, in 2008 and 2009 the bible belt of Abbotsford became Canada's murder capital when it was caught up in a gang turf war involving the UN and Red Scorpion gangs, turning this around completely by recording no homicides in 2011.

When Surrey Shirts created the controversial, "Better Safe Than Surrey" design featuring 6 bullet holes and "the future dies here" that altered the new city logo turning it into a hand gun, it was not meant to cast Surrey in a dim light. The cross-Canada news reports about the ongoing violence here unfortunately imprint the problem on the minds of Canadians coast to coast far more than any simple T-shirt. This apparel with its anti-gun/anti-gang images was created to bring attention to this problem and to stir community conversation about how it could best be addressed and conquered. It should be noted that they were first drafted back in the summer of 2012, long before the current rash of shootings, stabbings and bodies littering the sides of quiet dark roads in Surrey. We have a gang problem here, we have a drug problem on our streets, we have illegal handguns flooding north from the States, and we have young people with no morals or remorse who think nothing of shooting people down in cold blood. These factors along with challenging economic times, lack of education and employment opportunities coupled with cultural differences and social pressures all combine to create the ongoing violence we have been witnessing. I'm glad that Halloween is now over as every time I heard load bangs I caught myself listening to the noise trying to decide if it was fireworks or gun shots. A friend of mine who lives in Newton said it sounded like a war zone after dark last week stretching into the wee hours of the morning as Halloween and Diwali celebrations morphed into one.

Lost in all the headlines about the many murders that have happened in 2013 is the lack of stories concerning charges laid in Surrey homicides. While police have filed several charges in cases going back over the past few years, there has only been one person charged with homicide for a death in Surrey in 2013, leaving 19 cases still under investigation. With the formation of IHIT and the E Division headquarters being in Surrey, you would think we would see more people arrested and held responsible for the most heinous of crimes. Unfortunately modern police work is not like on CSI where murders are investigated and culprits charged all in the space of an hour. The Surrey Six shooting suspects who are currently in court were arrested years after the gangland massacre with it only recently making its way to court. I'm sure the RCMP have plenty of leads and even suspects in many of these 2013 cases but they need evidence that will likely lead to a prosecution. In killings involving gang members, the perpetrator could be any one of many enemies, or even a person unknown to the victim who had been assigned or contracted for the murder, making the possibility of a conviction extremely remote. With the police, knowing whose responsible is one thing, being able to prove it is quite another.

Let's hope that 2013 is an anomaly and that the next few months are quiet and do not added to the carnage we have already witnessed in Surrey. The Surrey First council has to make decreasing the murder rate here a top priority and begin focusing its efforts to stop kids from becoming involved in gangs. Community leaders, social workers, teachers, church and temple elders, the police and parents all need to work together to tackle this problem that continues to give the City of Surrey a bad name. It saddens me when I tell people from across Canada that I live in Surrey and they respond with, "You mean where all the shootings happen?" While Surrey will eventually surpass Vancouver in population size, it has a lot of growing up to do in order to call itself a world-class city, including putting a stop to the senseless slaughter of its citizens. Every death on the streets only adds to the black eye that Surrey has because of the seemingly non-stop killings we are witnessing this year. Surrey's "the future lives here" slogan will mean nothing if we become known as Canada's murder capital, something that I'm crossing my fingers won't happen.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

UPDATE From Surrey RCMP November 04 12 noon

Police warning sex trade workers after body found at Surrey park

IHIT is now warning other sex trade workers, after Lisa Ann Zielke's body was found at Hi-Knoll Park nearby where several pieces of furniture had been disposed of. RCMP believe the furniture dumped in Hi-Knoll Park maay have been dumped close to the time the body of LISA ANN ZIELKE was dumped in the park. IHIT is also issuing a warning for sex trader workers in Surrey to operate with extra vigilance.

If you recognize this furniture and have any knowledge of who may have dumped it off, please contact the IHIT Tipline at 1-877-551-4448



October 28, 2013

Surrey's Getting SASSY

def. Sassy: Lively, bold, and full of spirit, cheeky. Possessing the attitude of someone endowed with an ungodly amount of cool.

Supporting youth in our community, especially considering all of the social and economic pressures they face in our modern fast paced world, is essential in welcoming them to become contributing members of society. With this thought in mind, you may want to consider attending the third annual 2013 SASSY Awards (Service Above Self Surrey Youth) billed as "a celebration of youth achievement" being held on Friday night, Nov. 1 at the Bell Centre for the Performing Arts just up the street from Surrey City Hall. I can guarantee you that with the talented musical talent that has been booked for this evening, you'll be thoroughly entertained by the up-and-comers who will take the stage.

The SASSY Awards honour Surrey and White Rock youth aged 16 to 21 who are making a difference in our community by demonstrating the ideal of "service above self." They are sponsored by the Semiahmoo Rotary Club in partnership with the City of Surrey, the Surrey School District #36, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, along with the White Rock and Central City Rotary Clubs. Six awards will be presented in the categories of Against-the-Odds, Athletic and Sportsmanship, Community Service, Environmental Leadership, Performing and Visual Arts, plus Youth Leadership with all award nominees having a chance to win a vacation courtesy of White Rock Travel and G Adventures. Each Award recipient receives a stylized SASSY Award trophy, a $1,000 bursary and $500 to donate to the registered charity of their choice.

This year's awards show has attracted some incredible young talent from the community including the twin sister act of Alanna & Brianne from White Rock (winners of White Rock Sun's Diamond in the Rock 2013), the VIDOS (winners in the Surrey YouthFest Battle of the Bands 2013) and Stolen (runners up in the Surrey YouthFest Battle of the Bands 2013) who will open the evening's festivities. The featured headline group of the night will see the return of FRESHH Hip Hop Dance Crew who were previous runners-up in Canada's Got Talent, Canadian National Hip Hop champions for several years running and who are past gold and bronze world medalists at Hip Hop International in Las Vegas. You might have seen them before when this group had the honor of performing at the Closing Ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The emcees for this gala are Nat and Drew, the morning crew of the Virgin radio 95.3 FM station with a special salute to the local Tommy Alto Band who were involved in a serious automobile crash near Hope this summer that critically injured two members.

Proceeds from the SASSY Awards go toward youth related projects by local Interact and Rotarary Clubs, furthering the theme of "youth helping youth." Tickets for the Friday Nov. 1st SASSY Awards Show are $15 for students (under 21) and $25 for adults, available online at or in bulk at (be advised that they are going fast). The Bell Centre for the Performing Arts is located at 6250 - 144th Street in Surrey with doors opening at 7:00 pm with the show starting at 8 o'clock. For more information on this SASSY Awards, check them out online at, on FaceBook at or contact Bill Brooks at / 604-250-5013. All of the listed bands can be found on their websites, FaceBook page or performing on YouTube should you want to check them out. Support Surrey and White Rock youth by attending this amazing show and I hope to see you there. I'll likely be the tallest guy in the place, proudly wearing a black "Surrey" jersey and matching SRY hat if you care to meet.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



October 21, 2013

The Curse of Colebrook ( there's an app for that)

Dark and early on Thursday morning I was driving westbound on the notorious Colebrook Road west of the KGB in Surrey, using it as a shortcut to a jobsite I have in nearby Panorama Ridge. With thick fog and no street lights, it made for extremely limited visibility in the inky blackness. I commented to my co-worker beside me that it would be very difficult to see the interchange ahead where Colebrook Road crosses the CN/CP railway at 131A St. and how we wouldn't want to end up on the tracks by mistake. In mid-January I attended an accident scene at the very same spot where a freight train had hit a car that had become stuck on the tracks at night, seriously damaging it and pushing it half a kilometer down the rails. Fortunately there were no injuries as the driver had already made his escape and the engineers were only shaken up. There was no change of this happening to us for as we approached the crossing a coal train approached turning on its triple high-beam lights as the crossing's red warning lights started flashing and the and gates closed across the road.

Colebrook Road crosses the tracks at the same spot that is also the intersection for 131A St. which is a small rural side road leading to several quiet farms. To the side of the beam of my headlights, I noticed a dark SUV parked backwards facing traffic on the wrong side of the road. Besides the strange parking job, something did not look quite right with this vehicle and I soon realized that the three tires I could see from my vantage point were completely flat. I quickly ran through a variety of explanations as to how this could have happened; had the vehicle been stolen and dumped, had it been vandalized and the tires slashed, had it been involved in an accident or had the tires been shot out gangland style? With the coal train still rolling by, I exited my work truck and cautiously walked towards the vehicle after telling my co-worker to call 911 if anything sinister happened. As I got closer I noticed the outline of a person sitting in the driver's seat with their head slumped forward. For a moment I feared the worst until they sat back, opened the vehicle door and stepped out into the gloom to meet me.

I asked the young man if he was okay and what had happened to flatten three of the four wheels on the Chevy Trail Blazer. He informed me that just as I had been talking about in the foggy darkness, he had missed the corner while driving on Colebrook Road and had crashed onto the tracks with the steel rails ripping apart the rubber and damaging several of the aluminum rims. The SUV became stuck in the loose ballast rock that surrounds the wooden ties and hi-centered on the rails. The driver told me that he had only been able to back out of harm's way with help of the four-wheel-drive, saying that that without it he would have had no choice but to abandon the Blazer on the active train tracks where it would have been struck by the passing train. The time between the accident and the train arriving was only three minutes, giving little time to contact the police or CN operations in order to stop rail traffic. I told the man to thank his lucky stars and to make sure he bought a lottery ticket as it seemed that this was his lucky day. He thanked me for my concern, said that he had a great excuse for why he was going to be late for work and went back to using his cell phone to find the number for a tow truck, which was what he was doing when I first walked up.

An hour later after finishing our work in Panorama Ridge, we once again travelled on Colebrook Road and stopped to check out the damage in the light of day, take some pictures of the wreck and inspect the crash scene. There were plenty of fresh scratches on the metal railway tracks plus rubber marks where the driver had managed to back off the corridor and drive his badly damaged vehicle to a safe spot on nearby 131A St. From police road-marking spray paint, older skid marks, other scratches on the rails showing rust and tire marks in the gravel, it appears that this corner has been the scene of multiple accidents where vehicles have missed the corner and drove onto the tracks. With no street lights at the crossing and little warning signage, it is very easy for drivers to miss the turn or drive too fast through the chicane across the rail corridor. In fact, there is only one yellow and black chevron turn arrow sign in each direction and they are beat up and bent, making them less visible in dark and foggy conditions. As I have said in the past, bad engineering causes accidents and crashes at this corner should come as no surprise. After the car/train crash on Colebrook last January at this location you would have thought that safety signage at this corner would have been reviewed and improved. Instead, nothing was done and we could have easily had another crash in the same spot which also threatens a derailment on the busy rail line leading to Deltaport and Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank.

Having travelled last weekend through Washington State, I was impressed by the road markings and signage on their streets and highways which differ remarkably from ours. Signage there is clear and easy to read, properly located in relation to driving hazards and relatively uniform across the state. On dangerous intersections with plenty of truck traffic, they even use different sizes of stop signs likely relative to the history of previous crashes. I saw stop signs three feet across at one T-intersection at the bottom of a steep hill, four foot wide stop signs used at the intersection of two major truck routes and even a large stop sign with imbedded flashing red digital lights around the perimeter of the red octagon at a blind corner. I could only wonder what had happened to warrant such special signs but I can tell you with certainty that you will not see this done in this province. That could possibly change, especially in the City of Surrey if people here take the opportunity to utilize a new problem reporting system available for smart cellular phones called the Mobile Citizen Service Request App.

Available from the City of Surrey website at the following link ( it allows you to download the SeeClickFix app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices. You can use this app to notify the city about needed repairs or to request service to city infrastructure by following the basic format below listed on the website:
take a picture of your issue and send it to us,
show the issue location with the smartphone's built-in GPS,
pinpoint the location with the drag-and-drop map marker,
select from list of issues — no typing required,
view your submitted requests and get their status,
view other requests in the area, and
stay up-to-date with issue status updates
Citizens with cell phones can become the eyes and ears for City Hall, fixing problems as they arise and asking for changes that will make Surrey safer. Simply download the SeeClickFix app and let city workers know how to make necessary improvements as you become aware of them. Working together, we can alert them to deficiencies which cause automobile crashes, lowering our accident rate, ICBC rates and MSP premiums. Think about that every time you hear a siren or watch emergency services workers heading to yet another accident scene in the big city of Surrey BC.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn




October 14, 2013

Another Day - Another Death

 You have to wonder why we pay all the taxes that we do and yet wait for months for governments to respond to simple requests.  I recently wrote about having “Ocean Park ” placed in the empty portion of the highway sign at the Hwy. 99/King George Blvd off-ramp.  This does not require a new sign or any alterations other than a few dollars in reflective vinyl sheeting and yet the Ministry of Highways cannot manage to complete this sensible request.  Even our elected MLA’s Hogg and Hunt seem to have little power to persuade the bloated bureaucrats to get off their fat asses and make this basic change.  Much more concerning is the city of Surrey’s failure to fully upgrade the signage on Crescent Road to improve public safety and lower the fatality rate on the Semi-Pen’s most dangerous road.  While I do not yet know the exact date, around three weeks ago another vehicle failed to negotiate one of the tight corners of Crescent Road, crossing through the oncoming lane and plowing into trees above a ravine just west of 144 St. near King George Blvd. 

A couple of small white metal crosses with red reflective ends now mark the spot where 29 year-old Johnny Bear (nickname maybe?) met his untimely demise.  When I first noticed the crash site, it was littered with broken car parts including pieces of a shattered aluminum tire rim.  Shortly after, a small cross was erected with the debris piled around it, likely as a warning to others to slow down on south Surrey’s infamous racetrack.  Now a larger cross has been erected and moved closer to a big cedar tree that had a traffic control sign showing “SLOW” attached to it years ago after another fatal accident in the exact same spot.  This most recent crash happened in the 30 kmh zone between 144 St. and Elgin road that is an anomaly for a main arterial road.  Fortunately it happened at the first curve and not the next one where the ESSO gas station and several fuel pumps sit unprotected from traffic except for a small asphalt curb.  While Crescent Road has changed little in decades, the amount of traffic it receives, the speed of late night drivers and the rate of serious crashes requires that safety upgrades need to be done before more lives are lost.

I completed a detailed safety report regarding Crescent Road back in June, forwarding it to the Surrey Engineering Department plus mayor and council and presenting it in person to the Safety & Infrastructure Committee at City Hall.  This was after a close call of my own earlier this year where an oncoming driver swerved fully into my lane on Crescent Road near 132 St., forcing me off the road to avoid a nasty head-on collision.  While many of the recommendations I suggested have been instituted, there are others which have been ignored.  To date the upgrades include turn ahead and 40 kmh warning signs on many corners, chevron turn signs at the deadly 13300 block corner, installation of cat-eye reflectors along this dangerous roadway, cutting back of trees blocking speed signs and extra 30 kmh signs between Elgin Road and 144 St. to make this speed limit legally enforceable.  While the city saw fit to post the extra speed signs so that motorists could be ticketed, they ignored the idea of yellow diamond warning signs with “30 Kmh Ahead” on them before the low speed zone or to use fluorescent yellow “SLOW” signs below the 30 Kmh regulatory sign framed with a black and white sunburst to help attract driver’s attention.  Also the newly posted chevron turning arrow signs near the 144 St. crash site were not properly aligned with the roadway to make them visible to approaching drivers.  Had these simple changes been made, it is likely that Johnny Bear would have slowed down, negotiated the curve and made it safely home.  Instead we have yet another roadside memorial on Crescent Road and a young life cut far too short.  This is a prime example of how bad engineering can contribute to accidents just as much as poor driving and excessive speed.

If Surrey wants to make Crescent Road safer and stop the carnage there, here are the remaining recommendations left from my report.  If you frequently drive down Crescent Road, take note of the safety improvements and the areas where signage changes would likely lower both the speed of traffic and the fatality rate.  If this terrible waste of life pisses you off as much as it does myself, then get on the phone or send an email to your local politicians asking that something finally be done about this ongoing problem.  If they can spend $80,000 to install cameras on Colebrook Road after four dead bodies were discovered there earlier this year, Surrey can cough up a few more dollars to properly alert drivers to the hazards they face on Crescent Road and possibly save some lives in the future.

30 Kmh Ahead Warning Signs. 
The 30 Kmh zone between 144 St. and Elgin Road needs to have signs alerting motorists to the 30 Kmh zone ahead.  These have a white and black 30 Kmh speed limit sign with an arrow on top, surrounded by a yellow and black sunburst to attract motorist’s attention to the danger.  Delta has them, Langley has them, even Washington State has them, why not Surrey?

Windy Road Ahead/Speed Kills Signage.  At either end of Crescent Road near 128 St. and 140 St., “Slippery Road” signs featuring a skidding car should be posted alerting motorists to the danger.  Because of the history of bad high-speed crashes and fatalities, additional “Speed Kills” signs should be posted below these in order to help slow drivers down.  These would send a serious message to all drivers to the dangers on Crescent Road.
Curve Ahead and Windy Road Signage.   These new signs are a welcome improvement but the square yellow 40 Kmh signs below them should be highlighted with a white and black diamond sunburst to attract attention to the danger.  This was done near KGB near 8 Ave. after a single fatal accident there several years ago and should be for copied for all of the deadly corners of Crescent Road.  Once again, this is standard operational procedure for Delta and Langley at high accident locations.

Cat-Eye Reflectors.  The recent replacement of cat-eye reflectors to the surface of Crescent Road was a big improvement for night driving but unfortunately the first time it snows it is likely the plows will rip off most of these optical safety devices as has happened in the past.  If possible, slight grooving in the roadway and having the reflectors sunk into the asphalt would be preferable to help illuminate the roadway during the dark winter months when many of the serious crashes happen

Turning Chevrons Signs.  While 3 large “Turning Chevron” signs have been posted on the deadly curve in the 13300 block, they need to be properly placed in order to be viewed by oncoming traffic.  An additional series of them are also needed at the other dangerous curve in the 13480 block just west of Elgin Park that was the scene of two serious crashes last winter alone involving four vehicles and eight people that has been the scene of previous fatal accidents.

Lighted Speed Signs.  Surrey promised to install lighted radar signs showing motorists their speed at several locations on Crescent Road but these have failed to materialize to date.  Langley has used these with great success to lower speed and fatalities on 72 Ave. east of 200th St. and in the ravines on 56 Ave. from 232 St. to 248 St. that regularly saw serious accidents and ongoing deaths.

Additional 50 Kmh Signage. 
Extra speed signage on Crescent Road would likely help to lower traffic speed.  “Strictly Enforced” signs below might also help to alert motorists to the dangers of racing on Crescent Rd.  The straightaway between the 13300 and 13480 block crash corners also could use 50 Kmh. signs in both directions.   Regular police enforcement of speed on Crescent Road should also be instituted outside of the 30 Kmh zone that most drivers simply ignore.

Lawn Protectors and Road Edge Rocks.  Many residents of Crescent Road have protected their lawns with concrete blocks or jagged rocks and even boulders in several locations which are much larger than allowed.  These must be moved the required distance from the asphalt instead of sitting directly next to the roadway as prohibited by Surrey by-laws as these can shred tires or damage suspensions leading to a loss of control and crashes as has happened in the past.
Improved Road Drainage.  Water runs across Crescent Road in three of the high-crash corners, likely contributing to hydroplaning in wet weather and loss of control.  If possible, shoulders should be graded to keep run-off from roadway at the three corners located at 14390, 13490 and 13285 Crescent Rd.

If you have information about the latest Crescent Road fatal crash, the time and date that it happened, the name of the person who died, or contact information for their next of kin, I would appreciate you contact me through the WR Sun editor.  Hopefully they can help to persuade the City of Surrey to take all necessary steps to make Crescent Road as safe as possible.  One more roadside memorial is too many and I’m just happy I didn’t end up with my own marker there earlier this year.  One last thing; to the driver who didn’t even stop to see if I was all right after forcing me off the road, slow the hell down before you kill someone which might also include yourself a-hole.      
Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


October 07, 2013

The Silk Road Leads To White Rock. Or Does It?

I suspect that many of us are unfortunately becoming accustomed to opening our morning paper or clicking on the White Rock Sun website and reading stories about murder and mayhem in the big city of Surrey B.C. Another drive-by shooting, targeted gangland hits, bodies found dumped on the side of country roads, car crashes, hit and runs, SkyTrain assaults; the list goes on and on as monotonous as a skipping record. While south Surrey has seen some of this wild-west mentality with a murder earlier this year at the upscale "More-Gun X-ing", White Rock has managed to keep a relatively low profile except for a woman who was shot in the leg during a suspected grow-rip there several years back. With its affluent, well-educated and elderly population, the "City by the Sea" often seems miles away from its neighbor which surrounds it on three sides. That reputation may have taken a serious beating this week when White Rock was identified by the FBI as the location of an international murder-for-hire conspiracy in a plot likely to one day become a blockbuster Hollywood movie.

This story goes back to Feb. 2011 when the Silk Road Anonymous Marketplace underground website was first launched, creating a black market on the deep web offering products and services from a wide variety of illegal drugs and narcotics to computer hacking services and contract killings. Created by 29 year old Ross William Ulbricht, aka "Dread Pirate Roberts", the site operated out of a San Francisco internet café as a "Tor hidden service" technology with multiple levels of encrypted security systems allowing online users to use it anonymously without their computer url's being identified or communications monitored. Payments were made in bitcoin currency, cryptographic money used on the internet for money laundering and hidden transactions. In its short time online, Silk Road is alleged to have facilitated $1.2 billion in sales from almost a million users in 10 different countries, generating $80 million in commissions, earning SR the nickname, "the of illegal drugs." Needless to say, Silk Road quickly became known across the world (I first heard about it over a year ago) and attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, the DEA and the FBI. On Oct. 2, Silk Road's founder was arrested and charged with a variety of offences and the website's domain and servers were seized.

Besides the various drug, computer hacking and money laundering offences that Mr. Ulbricht or Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) has been charged with in two different affidavits, it is also alleged that he resorted to violence to protect his illegal empire. Charges filed in Maryland District Court detail how an undercover agent was able to gain DPR's trust through a $27,000 cocaine deal brokered on the Silk Road site. The agent was later approached about the possibility of beating a former Silk Road employee who had stolen the bitcoin currency from multiple users of the site. In a later message from DPR, prosecutors say that the plan was changed from torture to murder in order to keep the target from acting as an informant against Silk Road. Ulbricht allegedly paid the agent $40,000 before the targeted killing with a final $40,000 being received after staged photos were sent to him showing the employee apparently being murdered. In a rather chilling message received from Ulbricht by the agent, DPR laments, "I'm pissed that I had to kill him but what's done is done. I just can't believe he was so stupid…, I just wish people had some integrity."

Documents filed in the southern district of New York detail Mr. Ulbricht's involvement in another contract killing scheme that extended to the Canadian side of the border. The target was a Silk Road user named "FriendlyChemist" in White Rock who had somehow hacked information on Silk Road customers and their transactions who was attempting to extort DPR for $500,000 to pay drug debts owed to another SR user codenamed "RedandWhite that later accepted a $150,000 contract for murdering this married father of three children. The following is the sworn testimony taken directly from the New York court documents giving an inside look at the details to this murderous scheme in the Rock:

a. Beginning on March 13, 2013, a Silk Road vendor known as "FriendlyChemist" began sending threats to DPR through Silk Road's private message system. In these messages, Friendlychemist stated that he had a long list of real names and addresses of Silk Road vendors and customers that he had obtained from hacking into the Computer of another, larger Silk Road vendor. Friendlychemist threatened to publish the information on the Internet unless DPR gave him $500‚000‚ which Friendlychemist indicated he needed to pay off his narcotics suppliers.

b. In one message to DPR dated March 14, 2013, Friendlychemist elaborated on the consequences for Silk Road if he followed through on this threat: "What do u . . . think will happen if thousands of usernames‚ ordr amounts‚ addresses get leaked? All those people will leave sr [Silk Road] and be scared to use it again. those vendors will all be busted and all there customers will be exposed too and never go back to sr."

c. On March 15, 2013, Friendlychemist provided DPR a sample of the usernames‚ addresses‚ and order information he intended to leak. Also, as proof that he had obtained the data from the vendor whose Computer he claimed to have hacked‚ Friendlychemist supplied the vendor's username and password on Silk Road so that DPR could verify it.

d. On March 20, 2013, DPR wrote to FriendlyChemist stating: "Have your suppliers contact me here so I can work something out with them."

e. On March 25, 2013, a Silk Road user named "redandwhite" contacted DPR, stating: "I was asked to contact you. We are the people friendlychemist owes money to. What did you want to talk to us about?"

f. On March 26, 2013, DPR wrote to redandwhite stating‚ "Just to be clear‚ I do not owe him any money. I'm not entirely sure what the best action to take is‚ but I wanted to be in communication with you to see if we can come to a conclusion that works for everyone. Friendlychemist aside‚ we should talk about how we can do business. Obviously you have access to illicit substances in quantity, and are having issues with bad distributors. If you don't already sell here on Silk Road‚ I'd like you to consider becoming a vendor."

g. Later on March 26, 2013, redandwhite responded: "If you can get Friendlychemist to meet up with us, or pay us his debt then I'm sure I would be able to get people in our group to give this online side of the business a try."

h. On March 27, 2013, DPR wrote back: "In my eyes, Friendlychemist is a liability and I wouldn't mind if he was executed . . . . I'm not sure how much you already know about the guy, but I have the following info and am waiting on getting his address." DPR provided a name for Friendlychemist and stated that he lived in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada‚ with "Wife + 3 kids." DPR added: "Let me know if it would be helpful to have his full address."

i. Meanwhi1e‚ after not hearing anything back from DPR since March 20, 2013, Friendlychemist sent a message to DPR on March 29, 2013, stating: "u leave me no choice i want 500k usd withn 72hrs or i am going to post all the info i have. . . . i hate to do this but i need the money or im going to release it all. over 5000 user details and about 2 dozen vender identities. wats it going to be?"

j. Several hours later on March 29, 2013, DPR sent a message to "redandwhite‚" stating that "Friend1yChemist" is "causing me problems," and adding: "I would like to put a bounty on his head if it's not too much trouble for you. What would be an adequate amount to motivate you to find him? Necessities like this do happen from time to time for a person in my position."

k. After redandwhite asked DPR what sort of problem Friendlychemist was causing him‚ DPR responded‚ in a message dated March 30, 2013: "[H]e is threatening to expose the identities of thousands of my clients that he was able to acquire . . . . [T]his kind of behavior is unforgivable to me. Especially here on Silk Road, anonymity is sacrosanct." As to the murder-for-hire job he was soliciting‚ DPR commented that "[i]t doesn't have to be clean."

l. Later that same day‚ redandwhite sent DPR a message quoting him a price of S150,000 to S300,000 "depending on how you want it done" —"clean" or "non-clean."

m. On March 31, 2013, DPR responded: "Don't want to be a pain here‚ but the price seems high. Not long ago‚ I had a clean hit done for 80k. Are the prices you quoted the best you can do? I would like this done asap as he is talking about releasing the info on Monday."

n. Through further messages exchanged on March 31, 2013, DPR and redandwhite agreed upon a price of 1,670 Bitcoins - approximately $l50,000 - for the job. In DPR's message confirming the deal‚ DPR included a transaction record reflecting the transfer of 1,670 Bitcoins to a certain Bitcoin address.

o. Several hours later on March 31, 2013, redandwhite wrote back: "I received the payment. . . . We know where he is. He'll be grabbed tonight. I'll update you."

p. Approximately 24 hours later, redandwhite updated DPR, stating: "Your problem has been taken care of. . . . Rest easy though‚ because he won't be blackmailing anyone again. Ever."

q. Subsequent messages reflect that, at DPR's request‚ redandwhite sent DPR a picture of the victim after the job was done, with random numbers written on a piece of paper next to the victim that DPR had supplied. On April 5, 2013, DPR wrote redandwhite: "I've received the picture and deleted it. Thank you again for your swift action."

It should be noted that these same documents outlining the murder-for-hire plot in White Rock acknowledge the FBI contacted the RCMP who had no record of there being any Canadian resident with the real name for FriendlyChemist that DPR gave to RedandWhite as the target for the contract killing. While there have been 18 homicides in Surrey already in 2013, there were no murders in White Rock on or about March 31, 2013 when this event supposedly happened and no persons are missing. In fact, it has been well over a decade since the last homicide in the Rock, a record we would like to keep intact. Whether this alleged murder-for-hire was an elaborate fabrication by law enforcement authorities from south of the border still needs to be revealed. Until then, if you happen to know any shady characters who go by the internet user names of "FriendlyChemist" or "RedandWhite", or can provide any background information about this bizarre caper, my guess is that the White Rock RCMP would be more than happy to hear from you.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn




September 30, 2013

Safety Training in White Rock


In the "City by the Sea" the recipe for disaster is quite simple. Take the main marine recreational site for a million Fraser Valley residents, line it with a public promenade and put an industrial railway through the middle of it. The surprise is not that people get hit by trains down at the beach, but how few get mowed down, seriously injured or killed. Mrs. Anita Lewis who became the latest statistic on July 14th is now the 19th person killed on the train tracks along the Boundary Bay waterfront since the tracks were relocated from an inland route through Surrey over a hundred years ago. Add to this the 10 other people who have been struck and seriously injured and you have what I call the "BNSF Hit List." White Rock's Mayor Baldwin is on record saying that he "will resist" rail fencing and other safety measures that he feels are basically a knee-jerk reaction by Transport Canada and the BNSF to yet another train/pedestrian accident at the beach. I'm of the opposite mind-set, believing that not enough is being done to alert pedestrians to the deadly threat that trains, especially the Amtrak Cascades passenger train, pose to people who must cross the tracks to access the shoreline or even the promenade through East beach.

The editor of the White Rock Sun, Dave Chesney has been wondering for years what happened to the signal arms that previously were located at the end of the pier, which disappeared years ago. I know that he has repeatedly asked both the city of White Rock and the BNSF Railway, who had authorized their removal but has never received an answer to his questioning. While this busy pedestrian crossing is marked with the same railway signs and lights you would see at a rural street crossing, there is little to alert people to the need to "Stop, Look & Listen", the safety slogan used by CN and CP. When mile long coal trains come lumbering along, pedestrians routinely will cross the tracks in front of the train rather than waiting for the five to ten minutes for these 125 car monsters to roll on by. Mr. Chesney has even told me about what he calls the, "running of the strollers" where mothers hurry to push their kids in strollers across the tracks before the trains pass, wondering how long it will be before one of these children get dumped onto the rails. When eleven-year-old White Rock Elementary student Leif Everson was killed by a train near the railway station/museum building in 1997, safety railings were erected along the length of the promenade to limit pedestrian/train collisions. With the ever increasing population of the Fraser Valley, people wearing head phones, talking on texting on cell phones or generally walking around oblivious to the dangers of crossing the tracks, more needs to be done to save people from themselves.

I went to the promenade this weekend to review the train safety mechanisms in place and was surprised and disturbed by what I found. At the west end of West beach, there is a boat ramp where cars can simply drive across the tracks that have no flashing lights, warning bells or signal arms. While there is plenty of signage proclaiming "No Parking", there is little to point to the train danger, not even stop signs for vehicles crossing the tracks. Heading east towards the washroom building, there are 10 gaps in the double safety railing allowing people to cross, albeit with "DANGER – Trespassing on Railway Property is Illegal" signs threatening legal action posted nearby. While warnings about the trains could have been painted on the walkway, instead there is a crude yellow dog with a crossed out circle around it, signaling they are more worried about dogs on the promenade. Between the washrooms and the pier the safety railing is continuous until it reaches the main pier crossing, funneling the majority of pedestrians into this large crossing where the promenade goes from the north to south side of the tracks at the entrance to the historic White Rock pier. The lack of proper pedestrian warning signs or signal arms at this location is beyond belief considering the foot traffic in this location and it is asinine for White Rock, the BNSF and Transport Canada to not improve this dangerous situation. They do however have one of the yellow "No Dogs" signs painted to the bricks at this spot as I guess they don't want Fido to get flattened by a train.


At East beach from the Semiahmoo Reserve lands to Eagle Hill (call it the Hump if you still want), there are four pedestrian crossings marked with railway crossing X signs plus a sign stating, "NOTICE – Trains Do Not Sound Whistle" along with the times of night. It was the last of these crossings across the street from the Sandpiper Pub where the latest accident occurred. Just beyond this are twelve parking spots with no safety railing allowing people to walk back and forth freely across the tracks. This corner of East beach is becoming a favourite haunt of windsurfers and kite boarders, especially since Feral Boardsports sent up their rental shop and all kinds of gear is dragged across the tracks in this location. Further down at the Semiahmoo First Nations, the large parking lot near the WAG has been fenced with high chain link and there are three gates, with only one being unlocked and that only during the daytime. A very large sign is posted above the passageway reading:
WARNING – By Going Through These Gates
- There is a potential danger of injury or death
- You are trespassing on the BNSF Railway lands.
- You are entering at your own risk
- Semiahmoo First Nations will not accept any liability for injury to property, person or loss of life once a person exists Semiahmoo Park.
Something tells me we should put the Semiahmoo First Nations in charge of railway safety and proper pedestrian signage for all along the White Rock waterfront. Their message reads loud and clear and is obvious and impossible to miss.

As the Green Party of BC Transportation critic and a rather well known community safety advocate, here is my list of recommendations to the City of White Rock, the BNSF Railway and Transport Canada on safety improvements along the promenade which would reduce the likelihood of pedestrian/train accidents in the future:
- At the west end of West beach heading to Crescent and the east end of East beach heading towards the border, large signs should be posted on either side of the tracks warning about the danger from trains to help reduce the rail corridor's use as an extension of the promenade.
- The West beach boat launch needs flashing red lights and bells to warn drivers to the danger from oncoming trains plus stop signs on either side of the tracks.
- The ten crossings at the west side of West beach should be reduced to a manageable level of three or four with these pedestrian crossings being signed with railway crossing signs similar to East beach
- The main pier crossing where the promenade also changes sides of the track should be fenced off to restrict pedestrian traffic to the crossing and signal arms with flashing lights need to be installed on either side of the corridor.
- Bold brightly coloured signs stating, "DANGER – Stop, Look & Listen For Trains" should be posted on both sides and for both directions of all pedestrian and vehicle traffic crossings.
- A bright yellow/orange stripe of curb paint should be applied to the pavement across the entrance to all track crossings with the words, "STOP – LOOK – LISTEN" written in black for each direction.
- Red flashing lights with electronic bells when trains are approaching should be installed at all pedestrian crossings along the promenade.
- Safety railing needs to be installed near Feral Boardsports so people in this area use the signed pedestrian crossing rather than just stepping from the parking lot onto the tracks.
- A bar of steel needs to welded on the top of the existing promenade safety railings to that people will not sit on them, something that now happens while trains are passing by only feet away.
While I realize that whistles are a contentious issue, I believe that adjustments need to be made to them as well. Rather than have an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for whistling, dusk to dawn would be more effective as the trains could adjust to the seasons just as pedestrians do. When Anita Lewis was hit during the summer it was still light out and yet the train did not whistle upon entering White Rock. Folks also need to realize that since 1975, the bulk of the pedestrian/train accidents that have occurred in White Rock have involved the sleek AmTrak passenger train which is much smaller and quieter than the BNSF freight trains. There is also the issue of the AmTrak's serene green white and brown colour scheme versus the BNSF locomotive's garish orange, yellow and black. With its quieter horn, smaller headlights and scheduled runs, I think that the Amtrak should always whistle when nearing either end of the White Rock beaches plus at the main pier crossing to alert pedestrians to its passing.

Of course, there is another way to ensure that pedestrian/train accidents are eliminated from the White Rock waterfront and that is to relocate the BSNF Railway back inland to a safer inland route likely near 184 St. When you look at the money that has been poured into this short stretch of track over the past five years including rip-rap boulder erosion control, 20,000 new creosote ties, continuous weld rails, landslide debris cleanup plus the new Little Campbell and Serpentine bridges, these millions of dollars would have gone a long way to build a new track through Surrey as proposed by SmartRail, a local community rail safety group. With the fierce rain and wind storms this weekend, I wonder how long it will be before we see trees falling onto the tracks and mudslides pouring from the Ocean Park bluffs, all which threaten to derail passing trains on this ocean railway. Train traffic through White Rock is only going to increase, especially if the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export plan is rubber stamped by Port Metro Vancouver, and growing populations in Surrey and surrounding municipalities ensure that the beaches of White Rock will only get busier. All of the safety precautions in the world cannot stop stupidity or that one moment of indiscretion which leads to tragic consequences. White Rock is a seaside city and it is high time that they stop getting railroaded into the $400,000 annual ransom payment to the BNSF for the parking lot lease and work to get the locomotives off the waterfront. The other option is more trains, more noise, more diesel smoke, more coal dust, and more deaths. The only positive is that with all this, the beaches, pier and promenade may not be so crowded in the summer.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


September 23, 2013

20 Years of Cleaning Up Canada


This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Great Canadian Shoreline cleanup that is an initiative sponsored by the Vancouver Aquarium and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which runs from September 21-29 this year. There are 19 sites on the Semiahmoo peninsula waterfront from Peace Arch Park at the border, across Semiahmoo bay and White Rock beach, along the rugged Crescent Rock beach, through Crescent Beach/Blackie Spit, the Nicomekl and Serpentine rivers and Mud Bay. While some of these areas are being cleaned by private groups, there are still many areas that are looking for public volunteers to join in the effort. You can get information on how to get involved in the clean up by visiting and clicking on the link to find a cleanup in this region. With many people choosing to live here so they can be close to the water, it is not surprising that this event attracts such a large amount of participants.

While the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up occurs every fall, I don't wait for this one organized event to pick up litter debris and flotsam from the shores of the Semi-pen. When I'm planning on visiting the waterfront, I often take along a garbage bag and even have litter tongs which assist in picking up garbage or reaching into blackberry bushes to grab litter without getting scraped by thorns. It never fails to amaze me how many people visit the ocean and litter on the beach, often leaving alcoholic beverage containers, coffee cups or small garbage bags full of dog poop that have been picked up, tossed aside and left to rot. The city of Surrey used to have signs reading, "Pack Out What You Pack IN" at access points to the beach but many of these have disappeared over the years and should be re posted to alert the idiots amongst us for the need to not litter on the waterfront. Smokers enjoying the fresh air down at the beach don't seem to realize that their cigarette butts and packaging constitute one of the largest sources of litter that is found along beaches across Canada. A small sealable container or even a sandwich bag to hold cigarette butts should be part of the beach bag contents for any smoker, instead of using the sand as an ash tray.

In the spring and fall I take it upon myself to clean the 6.5 km. of Crescent Rock beach shoreline at the base of the Ocean Park bluffs from Crescent Beach to White Rock, with the assistance of a few selected friends. I would not recommend this adventure for the faint of heart as the terrain is extremely rough and treacherous. Removing the debris from this relatively remote and hard to access area is difficult and I enlist the help of the BNSF Railway to remove bags of debris that are left near the tracks for pick up and disposal. In the early spring, most of the garbage collected along Crescent Rock is flotsam that has been deposited from waves, wind and current, including plenty of commercial fishing gear, rope and floats. Landslides onto the tracks during the rainy season often bring buried debris dumped decades ago from houses at the top of the bluffs with old tires, household appliances and even a kitchen sink being found and removed. The fall cleanup often involves litter that has been left at the shoreline or which has drifted in from the popular public White Rock beaches. From Kwomais Point to West Beach in White Rock, you will find plenty of plastic water bottles and their small screw tops, broken flip-flop sandals and kid's beach tools including plastic pails, rakes, shovels and molds that have drifted away during the summer months.

To give you an idea of the size of the litter problem on our waterways and the amount of debris collected, in 2012 the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup attracted 57,442 volunteers who descended on 1,815 different locations, cleaning 3,102 km. of shoreline which filled 12,895 garbage bags full of debris, weighing a staggering 136,036 Kg. This garbage is tracked and itemized, giving a detailed picture of the problem so that sources of litter can be identified and hopefully controlled before being released into the environment. Taken from the Vancouver Aquarium website, here is the detailed numbers for the top twelve items collected during last year's cleanup.

Canada's Dirty Dozen List For 2012
2012 Rank

Number of Items Collected
Cigarettes/Cigarette Filters 416,955
Food Wrappers/Containers 98,835
Bags (Plastic) 69,790
Caps, Lids 69,725
Beverage Bottles (plastic) 2 liters or less 38,202
Beverage Cans 37,210
Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives, Spoons 34,458
Straws, Stirrers 32,338
Beverage Bottles (glass) 29,198
Bags (paper) 28,315

Hopefully these numbers will make people think twice about refuse control and littering on our beaches, along with considering helping to control this environmental problem. There is nothing worse than going for a walk along the beach and seeing it covered with garbage. Remember the "pack it in, pack it out" slogan, don't take glass bottles to the beach, bring a container for cigarette butts and ensure that you take your garbage plus any other litter you find along your travels. The more people who help to reduce this problem, the cleaner our beaches will be and hopefully the ignorant pigs among us might possibly change their ways if the shorelines are pristine and spotless. If you see people littering or leaving garbage behind at the beach, take the opportunity to educate them about this issue, inviting them to take part in the annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, instead of being part of the problem.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


September 16, 2013

Itching to go Swimming


With the final days of summer upon us, I have taken to spending as much quality time as I possibly could relaxing in the sun's rays down at Crescent Rock beach just south of Crescent Beach. Last week there were plenty of evenings where the sun was a brilliant yellow ball and the water flat like glass without a breath of wind, allowing sunbathing until the very end of the day. It was so hot in fact that swimming offered a refreshing cool down and many of the other people who were there took frequent dips into the waters of Boundary Bay. One of the beach regulars who lives in the Ocean Park area regularly swims in the ocean there and I was surprised that she was staying high and dry up on the shore. When I went to talk to her, she informed me that several weeks ago during the hottest part of the summer she had contacted "swimmers itch" and showed me the measles like rash that still persisted on much of her skin. Taken from the Health Link BC website, here are the Coles Notes versions of everything you need to know about swimmers itch and how to best avoid it.

Cercarial dermatitis or swimmer's itch is a temporary itchy rash caused by small worm-like parasites called schistosomes that spend their life cycle as parasites in the bodies of water snails and in the blood stream of aquatic mammals, ducks or other waterfowl. During their life cycle, schistosome larvae leave their snail host and swim near the surface of the water, looking for bird and mammal hosts. These larvae might mistakenly get on your skin if you are swimming or wading in water, with the small parasites burrowing under your skin. They fortunately cannot survive in humans and will die almost immediately with a resulting allergic reaction to these tiny larvae causing swimmer's itch. These parasites can be found in many lakes, ponds, and coastal waters in British Columbia usually in the warm summer months. Wind near the shoreline can push the tiny larvae to the edges of lakes where they float near the surface. The swimmers itch around Crescent Beach is a result of a species of an invasive snail from the Atlantic coast that is found in the eel grass beds there.

There is no sure way to avoid swimmer's itch entirely unless you stay away from lakes, ponds, or beaches but there are certain precautions you can take to reduce your risk of exposure. Make sure you speak to locals, health officials or parks representatives about the water condition before going for a swim. Check for warning signs at public beaches, lakes and picnic areas that state swimmer's itch may be present and avoid areas with lots of weed growth that can harbor snails and larvae around plants. Using a pier or dock to enter the water may help reduce your risk of exposure as there tend to be more larvae near the shore. Applying waterproof sunscreen before bathing may help reduce the number of larvae from penetrating your skin. Most importantly, dry yourself off with a towel as soon as you come out of the water and if possible, have a shower and dry off right away. Showering will not remove any larvae that have already burrowed under your skin and swimmer's itch cannot be spread from person to person. Young children who wade and splash in shallow areas of lakes and ponds may be at higher risk of contacting the schistosome larvae because they constantly are in and out of the water, usually play close to shore where the parasites tend to be and have more sensitive skin than adults.

Swimmer's itch symptoms can range from a mild irritation to a very severe, itchy red rash. Scratching can cause severe pain and swelling, or allow your skin to become infected. The severity of symptoms will depend on how many larvae get into your skin, how sensitive you are to them. As you start to dry off and the larvae begin to burrow into your skin, you may feel a slight tingling sensation. Small pin-sized red spots will appear, which grow into larger red rashes within several hours. As these red spots increase in size, the tingling feeling becomes a strong itch. A rash may appear within 12 hours after infection that may last from 2 to 5 days and symptoms persisting as long as two weeks. Repeat infections are usually worse because people become more sensitive to the larvae and develop stronger allergic responses with subsequent exposures. If you discover that you are suffering from swimmers itch, there are a number of steps you can take that may reduce some of the itchiness. Common treatments and advice include avoiding scratching, applying calamine lotion and using antihistamines. Taking shallow lukewarm baths with 3 tablespoons of baking soda in the water, applying cool compresses or having colloidal oatmeal baths are recommended homeopathic remedies. While not serious, if swimmer's itch leads to a skin infection from too much scratching, you should see your local health care provider.

I hope that this TNT does not scare people away from the beach or leave them afraid to go into the water. Knowledge about this problem and the easy steps that can be taken to avoid it should allow most people to "ditch the itch." It was interesting to note that the lady at Crescent Rock beach had been swimming that day with several of her friends but she was the only person who was affected. There is scientific evidence that hot, sunny, calm days make exposure to the lovely parasite which causes swimmers itch much more likely. Of course, who but the most fearless Polar Bear enthusiast would want to go swimming when it is cold, cloudy and windy? I'll take my chances with the itch, enjoying the best of the west coast lifestyle that the Semiahmoo peninsula can offer which means going for the occasional dip in the waters of Boundary Bay.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



September 09, 2013

Signs of Decay

The next time you are taking the King George Blvd. exit south into the peninsula from Hwy. 99, take note of the large freeway sign on the off-ramp pointing the way to White Rock (straight ahead arrow), Crescent Beach (right hand arrow) and the bottom portion of this sign that is mysteriously blank. Before the off-ramp changes that occurred years ago when the original park-n-ride lot was first built, the bottom portion of the sign previously pointed the way to Cloverdale. It has always amused me that the Ministry of Highways who have jurisdiction over them would simply cover up the old lettering with a reflective piece of green vinyl and not bother to use this existing sign to possibly help drivers, visitors and tourists to find their way through south Surrey. Now originally I thought that since the first two sections pointed to the main beaches here, it would be entertaining to have the words "Crescent Rock Naturist Beach (with a right facing arrow) cut from reflective white sign vinyl and attach it myself, utilizing my work truck, high-vis safety vest and some orange cones to make the installation look official. The cost of such a publicity stunt would be approximately $20, utilizing the same local sign company that has recently decked out several of my company vehicles. I must confess, in the past I've been known to spend my own money on signs just to make a political point or raise public awareness about an important issue.

Fortunately my commitment to civic duty overcame my quirky sense of humor and I decided that, while it would be far less fun, having the words "Ocean Park" installed in this blank spot would be much more appropriate. This was a rather easy decision to make as on the far side of the antiquated bailey bridge as you head south is a rather dilapidated sign that has "White Rock, Canada - USA Bdy, Crescent Beach" and even "Ocean Park" (imagine that) written on it. With my various contacts throughout the Ministry of Highways where I have previously lobbied for median cable barriers on Hwy. 99, helped to initiate the investigation into the Serpentine River bridge guardrail failure and called for concrete barriers to be installed on the "Nic" and "Serp" river bridges, I figured that getting them to stick a few bucks worth of vinyl lettering on an already existing sign would be an easy task. After all, while this was not a glaring public safety problem, it was a simple request and a project that certainly wouldn't break their yearly budget. To add a little weight to this proposal, I solicited and received the approval from the Ocean Park Business Association who agreed to my idea and gave me their blessing to get this job done. I figured that being the Green Party of BC Transportation Critic and WR Sun columnist couldn't hurt my chances either.

Back in April, I sent an email out to the Transportation Ministry staffers along with area MLA's and the head of the Surrey Engineering Dept. requesting this change and attaching a photo of the blank highway sign. I also brought it to their attention that there were several other rotten old wooden signs located on both sides of the Nicomekyl River bailey bridge on the KGB in dire need of replacement. This was just prior to the BC Provincial election and it was not surprising that the politicians did not respond to this correspondence but I believed it would illicit some response from the Ministry, which was not the case. Feeling that I had let the OPBA down, I followed this up with another email in August, asking the new Surrey-Panorama MLA "Marvelous" Marvin Hunt and long-time Surrey-WR MLA "Good-ol" Gordon Hogg if they could help with this proposal. I titled the correspondence "Ocean Park" or "Nude Beach" to get their attention and of course heard back immediately from Mr. Hogg, even getting into some rather hilarious banter on what other wording we possibly be posted (sorry folks, sworn to secrecy but please let your imaginations run wild). Here's the rub as this TNT now turns from nice to nasty; this quick and easy fix should have been done years ago when the off-ramp was moved and once it was brought to the Highway Department's attention, it could have been changed in only a few days. I'm now at the point where I'm ready to have my sign guy cut the vinyl lettering and stick them up myself. Since "Ocean Park" and "Nude Beach" have the same number of letters the cost is the same, which leaves me with an interesting dilemma. I'm not sure whether I want to go with the "Ocean Park" to finally correct this glaring oversight or put up the "Nude Beach" for some cheap laughs and to rub their noses in it. Either way, I'm pretty sure that I'll get my twenty bucks worth.

The highway signs coming off Hwy. 99 are like welcome mats inviting you home or bringing newcomers into our wonderful community. Unfortunately the roadway signage at the KGB on both sides of the Nicomekyl bridge are an absolute disgrace to the taxpayers who live in the Semiahmoo peninsula. Made of plywood, they are decades old with the edges on them rotting away and large holes plainly visible. Speaking of visibility, they are so ancient that reflective vinyl was not used on the background, making them useless at night. Is this how we want to welcome people into south Surrey and White Rock? While the City of Surrey recently replaced a "White Rock, Crescent Beach, Ocean Park" sign on Crescent Road near 128th St. (likely after my original email about community signage involving Ocean Park), our Ministry of Transportation seems to think that the old signs on the KGB match with the bailey bridge, which sounds much like the PNE wooden roller coaster when you drive over it. It's bad enough that the Province of BC downloaded highway's maintenance onto the City of Surrey years back but at least they could spend a few bucks and spruce up the entrance way signs so that it does not look quite so ghetto. Amazingly while the one sign points towards Seattle, it says nothing about White Rock or south Surrey which seems rather odd. Check out the pictures for yourself and when you see what I'm talking about, phone or email the Ministry of Highways, Mainroad or our MLA's to get something done about these antiquated eyesores.

Since I've got the kid gloves off, it's time to also take a swing at Surrey over a long-simmering beef I've had with them. When the lovely "the future lives here" signs were installed several years ago (scroll down into the TNT archives for info on this fiasco), I informed everyone at City Hall from the Heritage Committee to Mayor Watts that the historic wooden Surrey freeway signs (with the iconic beaver on top) should be salvaged, with restored ones placed in front of the Archives and Museum buildings in downtown Cloverdale. While I have repeatedly asked about the fate of these signs, no one has the guts to actually come out and admit that they were all thrown in the dump. The worst part is that I considered removing and refurbishing one of these signs myself to ensure that it would be retained as part of our civic history, never considering that they would be destroyed. To make matters worse, I was in Cloverdale over the summer and saw the sorry excuse for the sign that currently sits in front of the Surrey Archives building. While I realize they store relics from the past there, it would appear that this faded sign is older than the building that previously was Surrey's City Hall during the previous century. Note to the members of Surrey First; how about creating a replica "Welcome to Surrey" freeway sign with the iconic beaver in forest green, sunburst yellow and bright white to replace the ones that were destroyed? Simply carve the word "Archives" in the space under Surrey and you have an appropriate heritage sign for this location. If you are going to stick residents with a modern sign featuring the new Surrey logo and slogan, at least have the common sense to write, "the past lives here" on any new sign for in front of the Archives building.

Signs do more than point the way from one part of town to the other or give information about various civic facilities. They say a lot about the community and need to be properly maintained in order to keep up appearances, protect property values and attract investment. I know there are many businesses in Ocean Park that would love to have their corner of the Semi-Pen given the credit it is due by adding their name to the KGB exit from Hwy. 99. The rotting derelicts on either side of the Nicomekyl bailey bridge are a disgrace and if the Ministry of Transportation won't replace them, the Cities of Surrey and White Rock should buck up and do it themselves. As for the Surrey Archives building, there is a chance to make up for past mistakes and recreate one of the former "Welcome to Surrey" freeway signs with the iconic beaver for the middle of historic Cloverdale. As for that blank spot on the KGB off-ramp sign at Hwy. 99, keep an eye on it when returning to the Semi-pen as one way or the other, I can promise you that it won't be staying empty for very much longer.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



September 03, 2013

White Rock's Top Shot

Jim Paton being chaired after one of his Queen's Prize wins in Bisley UK


You would think that when a resident of the Semiahmoo peninsula wins a major Canadian championship that their efforts and accolades would be splashed across the sports page of all of the local newspapers. Unfortunately this is not the case when the sport is full-bore rifle shooting, utilizing a .308 calibre rifle with iron sights to consistently deliver accurate bulls-eye's at ranges from 300 to 900 metres. The competition was the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association's (DCRA) 2013 Canadian Fullbore Championship held at the Connaught Ranges at Ottawa in mid-August. This major international shoot that has been held since 1891 (except for during the two great wars) attracts individuals and teams from across the globe including many from B.C. While I was unable to attend due to business and family commitments, White Rock's Jim Paton again showed why he is one of the most recognized and feared marksmen on the planet.

For the fourth time in his illustrious shooting career, Mr. Paton took home the gold medal in the Canadian Target Rifle Championships, beating out all competitors from across the Great White North. He also won the prestigious Aggregate for the 21st Century featuring the combined scores of 24 different ranges against all competitors. To top even this, Jim won his third gold cross winning the first place prize in the MacDonald Stewart Grand Aggregate which is the most hotly contested award. About the only major aggregate that he didn't win was the Governor General's Prize (that he has already won a record 5 times) in which he finished a very respectable third, taking home the bronze medal. I could go on and on with the various other aggregate and individual awards that Mr. Paton also won at this year's Canadian target rifle matches including detailed scores but they are all available on the DCRA web page ( under their results tab. Besides a tip of the hat from me, Jim deserves the respect and admiration of south Surrey and White Rock residents for his amazing accomplishments.

Regular readers of this column know of my lifetime association with shooting sports and may remember my first mention of Jim Paton back on August 7, 2012, with the article titled "Semi-Pen Shooters on Target." Simply scroll down if you wish to know more about long range target rifle shooting which includes the British Columbia Rifle Association ( that regularly utilizes the General Volkes range in Chilliwack for competitions. For those looking for international competition, the UK NRA holds yearly matches in Bisley England, the US has their Spirit of America matches and every four years, the world long range matches are held in various continents along with the storied Palma Match team shoot putting country against country. If you have the time and money, you can travel to target rifle destinations across the globe with friends of mine having visited South Africa and Barbados for team shooting this year to name a few. While TR shooting is no longer an Olympic sport due to asinine political reasons, it still plays an important part in the Commonwealth Games which brings us back to White Rock's Jim Paton.

The next Commonwealth Games will be held July 23 – August 3, 2014 in Glasgow Scotland and for the fourth time Mr. Paton will be representing Canada along with Ontario's Des Vamplew, another well-known heavyweight in shooting circles. While Jim's trophy cases are stuffed with many outstanding awards from his years as a top marksman, it is likely the gold and silver Commonwealth medals that he has previously won for Canada that are the most cherished. You have to qualify for the Canadian team by shooting your way onto it and it is no surprise that Jim is going to represent out country in Scotland. While I am not a gambling man, my money would be on him as he is very mentally strong and uses a meticulous and analytical approach to the game which makes him so hard to beat on the range. You may have the best rifle, the most accurate ammo and be in the best possible physical shape, but unless you have keen mental discipline and ability to deal with stress, you will never reach the upper echelon in the target rifle world as Mr. Paton has done time and time again. Shooting fullbore target rifle alongside Jim Paton is as challenging as shooting a round of golf with Tiger Woods and with likely similar results.

If you would like to try your hand at target rifle shooting, a great local place to start would be the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club ( at 1284 184 St. in the Hazelmere Valley that has smaller .22 rimfire rifles you can use. The BCRA also has an under 25 team to attract young shooters to the sport including rentals of .308 rifles and equipment along with knowledge and expertise. As luck would have it, the team coordinator is Jim Paton's wonderful wife Anna who can be reached for more information at With aging demographics, rifle associations are now looking to attract younger people to the sport who are tired of video games and want to try their hand at real marksmanship. Target rifle shooting is a life-long sport, something I have been doing competitively myself for almost 40 years. Jim Paton is even older than me and he cannot keep on representing Canada forever so we need fresh faces to fill his very big shoes. To show how even seniors can enjoy the sport, my father Bob Pitcairn has just qualified for his record 44th Canadian Bisley Team that will travel to England next year for the UK NRA Championships. He finished in 14th place on the 18 person team, not bad for a guy who is 75 years young and still shooting perfect scores and winning matches.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



August 26, 2013

Pirates of the Peninsula

Q. What's a pirate's favourite letter?
A. You'd think it was R (arr!) but they love the C (sea).
Note: This joke is best told in your best drunken pirate drawl.


Earlier this week I had an experience down at the Crescent Beach Marina which certainly was a wake-up-call for yours truly. Near sunset I was down at Crescent Rock beach with my wife walking her dog when my friend Robin passed by on his boat far offshore just as the sun was setting. I knew it was him as he'd invited me to go out for a ride earlier that day, a request I had to unfortunately turn down due to a late work schedule. After climbing the 190 stairs of the so-called "101 Steps" staircase and making our way home, I thought it would be fun to pay him a surprise visit since we had not seen each other for a while due to our busy schedules. I grabbed a couple of wobbly-pops before heading out the door thinking it would be fun to toast the end of the summer and find out what he had been up to during the last month.

When I arrived at the marina, Robin had already pulled his boat from the water and was busy securing it for the ride home back to White Rock. The smile on his face got even wider when I presented him with an ice cold beer in an insulated cozy to boot. His buddy who had made the trip joined in the celebration, pulling a bottle of brew from his own cooler to join in the celebrations. I should note that when we are on the water, having a few bevies is the norm over the couple of hours that we are usually at sea but Capt. Robin is a responsible skipper and does not partake in the festivities. We gave each other hearty cheers and were standing around the back of the boat giving details of our summer exploits, adventures and related debauchery as three men suddenly free from female supervision often do. Our comradery and laughter did not go unnoticed though as a man dressed in dark clothes casually approached us out of the night. It was only when he was a couple of steps away that I noticed the semi-automatic handgun he was carrying on his hip.

The sudden shock at seeing a man packing a pistol subsided only slightly when I realized that he was an RCMP officer and we were likely to find ourselves in trouble with the law. Rather surprisingly the man either did not notice our drinks in hand or decided to ignore them, asking us nicely if any of us could open the electronic gate on the driveway to let some police cruisers onto the property. Robin's friend went with the constable to open the gate while we quickly stashed the open cans of brew, thankful that we had apparently dodged a bullet sort of speak. A couple of squad cars drove by, making their way down to the dock where a power boat was being pulled from the water surrounded by a group of young men. Behind them came a rather industrial looking boat bristling with antennae and sporting a pair of powerful outboard motors. While a trio of old farts talking about their glory days had somehow flown under the radar, the boys at the ramp had attracted the attention of the police with it being followed to shore by the RCMP patrol boat.

The White Rock police detachment recently warned that they are continuing to focus on road safety, releasing they had charged 55 impaired drivers during the two months of summer. What many people don't realize is that the RCMP now has a dedicated marine enforcement unit which patrols the waters around Boundary Bay. Talking to a couple of the officers while they investigated suspected impaired boating by the young bucks at the dock, we found out that besides drunken skippers they were also on the look out for smugglers running drugs, guns and people across the US/Canada border plus any other nefarious activities they might come across. What they don't patrol for is fishing violations or illegal shellfish harvesting that are still under the control of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans or DFO. Adding to their enforcement powers, police boats from Washington State and BC can cross the border and make arrests under the new Integrated Cross Border Law Enforcement Operations Act recently passed by the Conservative government. Small crews composed of US and Canadian police officers now go back and forth across the marine border, making arrests subject to the laws of the country they are in. The days of making a run for the border to evade police boats has effectively been ended.

Watching the young men at the dock being interrogated, the trailered boat dropped off in the parking lot, the truck being towed away and the drunken sailors taken away by taxi and cop car, the seriousness of impaired boating became very apparent. I can only imagine the costs associated with paying for towing and storage, ICBC fines and higher insurance rates plus looming legal bills for the skipper who had obviously decided to join the party on board. Let this be a warning to all of those on the high seas that they'd better keep clean and sober, with the RCMP cruising the local waters looking for those breaking the law. As for my buddy Robin and his merry group of rum-running Peninsula pirates, we will continue to ensure that the Captain is sober and that his mates get a ride home or are more than legal to drive after our epic voyages around Semiahmoo Bay. That being said, the Jolly Roger skull and crossbones flag we have been known to fly on our trips had been quietly retired as we know you never want to poke a bear, or taunt the bulls for that matter.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



August 19, 2013

Texada Time Warp

While I may have taken time off from my regular work for summer vacation, there is no rest for the wicked when it comes to this TNT column. Last week's offering was typed on an I-Phone in Half-Moon Bay near Sechelt after I found out there was no Internet connection at my friend's rather remote cabin. This week is little different as this piece is once again being written on my so-called Smart Phone as my wife and I are stuck in a massive ferry line up in Langdale after the Queen of Coquitlam broke down. Dedication is using extra large thumbs to hunt and peck type on a very small touch screen keyboard. I hope you all appreciate the extra effort that has Sheryl laughing at my situation as we sun tan on the side of the road waiting for traffic to finally move.

As part of our Sunshine Coast summer holiday that included stops in many coastal towns, the final destination after three BC Ferry rides was the largest of the Gulf Islands, the 50 mile long Texada Island in the Salish Sea just north of Nanaimo and west of Powell River. Long known for its quirky inhabitants that has included rum runners, American draft dodgers, hippies and pot growers, the island is also a mining Mecca with iron, copper, silver and gold being extracted over the years. Crushed rock, aggregate and limestone used to make cement are the more recent industrial targets with Lafarge Canada Ltd. and Lehigh Northwest Cement Ltd. that operate cement facilities in the Lower Mainland holding many mining claims on Texada. Lafarge also owns Texada Quarrying Ltd. which will soon be linked to the Semi-pen if the BNSF Railway and Fraser Surrey Docks get their way.

This Texada Island waterfront location is already used by Hillsborough Resources Ltd. for its Quinsam coal mine operations near Campbell River on Vancouver Island. If Port Metro Vancouver okay's the coal export terminal plans for the Fraser Surrey Docks, US coal will be moved through White Rock and Crescent Beach on the BNSF tracks, off-loaded next to the Fraser River and then barged to Texada where it will be put onto ocean-going ships taking this thermal coal to Asia. While there is plenty of opposition to this plan in Washington State and communities in the Lower Mainland for various health and environmental reasons, the opinion of Texada Is. residents has until now gone unreported.

During the three days we spent on Texada, I had plenty of opportunity to talk to a variety of people from a wide cross section of society on their thoughts regarding the plan to barge coal from Surrey to their island at levels 20 times the level that is currently exported. While mining has been an important economic generator on the island, almost all residents feel that the promised 25 new jobs were trumped by environmental concerns including coal dust into the Sabine channel, global warming concerns and sea level rise. Even heavy duty equipment operator Gord whose work truck sported a "TEXADA" licence plate, questioned how coal could be safely delivered to the quarry during winter storms with high winds. While work on the Fraser Surrey Docks is on hold pending PMV approval, he informed me that Lafarge has been busy at the Texada quarry getting it ready to handle the expected influx of American Powder River Basin coal.

Texada Island is used as a crossing point for both the natural gas pipeline and undersea electrical cables that supply Vancouver Island, making it a tempting location for a liquefied natural gas plant. Plans back in 2007 to build a LNG export terminal were quickly scuttled by stiff local opposition to the dangers involved, lead by the "Texada Forever - LNG Never" campaign. While island residents don't appear to support the influx of US coal, there does not seem to be any united effort to stop it. The prevailing thought among Texada residents is that Port Metro Vancouver approval of the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export terminal proposal is a done deal unless the "townies" can stop it.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


Powell River latest community to oppose coal shipments Metro Vancouver, New West and White Rock are also saying no!

POWELL RIVER (NEWS1130) – There are more concerns over coal shipments from BC to Asia.

The people of Powell River are the latest to question the potential health and environmental hazards.

The American coal is transferred from train to barges on the Fraser, before being shipped from Texada Island.

Environmentalist CaroleAnn Leishman says a weekend meeting was designed to share her concerns with others.

“To have open barges of coal being transported up the channel through three provincial parks, stockpiling coal on Texada which is a stone’s throw across the water from us, it’s definitely going to impact our area.

She says people were shocked by what they learned.

They’re eager to discuss ways to prevent the shipments.

In case you missed it, please listen to our recent interview on CKNW, on the Jill Bennett Show. You can find it on their Audio Vault dated August 18. Choose the 7:00 am option and then scroll the grey bar to approximately 48 minutes in.


August 12, 2013

Trouble Brewing Up On Avenue A

That's Horse Crap!

I don't know when it happened but Panorama Ridge is now part of South Surrey. Some put the border at #10 Hwy., others as far north as 64 Ave., which is likely due to property values similar to the Semi-pen. I know that for the WR Sun, Panorama Ridge is part of our sphere of influence and with gangland shootings, parks being bulldozed for roadways, bodies dumped on Colebrook Rd. and coal dust from passing trains, it has already seen plenty of attention from yours truly. While I am a big fan of the ridge and its spectacular views of, you guessed it - the Semiahmoo Peninsula, there is a problem with this neighbourhood that is really crappy. That is the presence of stables and isolated hobby farms with plenty of horses that get ridden throughout the region. Unlike people who take their dogs for walks and clean up the do-do (scientific term for excrement) from even the smallest chihuahua, the cowboys and mainly cowgirls that use the Ridge like a range don't other to clean up after their 1,500 to 2,000 pound pets.

If you think that this is a small problem and that I am making a mountain out of a molehill, consider the following; horses produce about eight piles a day and 50 lbs of droppings a day. That means one horse creates about nine tons of manure per year multiplied by the number of animals calling Panorama Ridge home which likely numbers in the hundreds. Riders take their mounts for walks around residential areas, without a thought for cleaning up after their big farm animals. To make matters worse, they don't stick to the roadways but instead meander along the boulevard lawns in front of palatial estates. This leaves deep hoof prints in manicured turf along with mounds of manure for homeowners to deal with. The only bonus is the free organic topsoil that mowers chop into the lawn which unfortunately leaves the machine smelling like a horses ass.

As funny as this might sound, it appears that horses are somewhat like dogs in that when one horse poops in a spot, they all want to leave their mark as well. This can be a major inconvenience if the target happens to be in front of your driveway. Customers of mine who live on the main McClelland Rd. that snakes across the ridge constantly have large piles of horse crap deposited in their driveway. This means that when they come home they drive through the feces, filling the tire treads and tracking it up the driveway and into their garage. To make matters worse, the next time the vehicle is driven the tires spray the manure throughout the wheel wells. If you can imagine your house and car smelling like a barn then you can understand why some folks on the Ridge are not impressed. Nothing like having that new car smell or that of an expensive leather interior replaced by the scent of a horse's butt.

Last week I was in the Chilliwack valley miles away from the nearest house or farm when I saw a sign asking horse owners to, "scoop their poop". It seems odd to me to have people clean up after their animals in the middle of the forest while tons of manure are likely dropped throughout Panorama Ridge on a weekly basis. Would it not be possible for riders to carry a bag attached to their saddles along with tools to clean up the copious calling cards their beasts leave behind? I'm surprised the West Panorama Ridge Ratepayers association have not made an issue of this and sought relief in the way of a by-law from Surrey city hall.

All of this brings us to the City of White Rock and the RCMP's decision to have an officer in red serge on horse back along with a police dog patrol the crime-ridden sand flats and shoreline. While there is no doubt that this is surely a hit with the tourists, I question the use of police resources along with asking about who cleans up after the horse named Justice and his canine companion Yukon? Does the officer remove the waste from the beach or is it left for the tide to flush out like a toilet bowl into the bay? Considering the high E-Coli readings at many of the Lower Mainland beaches and lack of rain this summer, I'd like to know what if anything is being done to combat this problem? While Feral board sports is doing rather well with rentals on East beach, I wonder how long it will be before some entrepreneur offers horse rentals at the beach with stables on the reserve land? If it can happen in Panorama Ridge, then WR beach may be next with the RCMP leading the Calvary charge. If there really is "Justice" in this world, this wont be allowed to happen.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn


Aug. 6, 2013

Backyard Habitat

When my wife and I moved into our matrimonial home at Crescent Park in South Surrey, it was an overgrown jungle with very little open space and hundreds of large shrubs. While the house was quite well maintained, the yard likely scared many potential buyers away as the landscaping would need plenty of work and lots of money in order to correct years of overplanting and neglect. When I began work on the property, the first job was to hack back and reduce many of the trees and shrubs crowding the house and overhanging the roof. Unfortunately some trees that had been planted too close to the building needed to be removed and while I appreciate the role that trees play in our environment, this was needed to protect the foundation and keep rodents and raccoons from tearing at the roof or nesting in the attic.

I have since replanted many trees on our quarter acre property along with hundreds of shrubs and perennials, many that were rescued either from the dump, various job sites I've worked on, or development sites that were waiting for the bulldozers to flatten and clear. We still have plenty of large trees on our lot as do our neighbors, creating a bit of an urban forest in our little corner of the world. There is a tall scraggly oak in our backyard which takes up room, blocks light, is usually infested with a variety of insects and which sheds leaves for much of the year. While I thought it would make some really great firewood, my wife Sheryl decided that it should stay as it provided habitat for many of the birds and animals which visited our property. Rather reluctantly, I put the chainsaw away (yes, I do own one and am familiar with its use) giving in to her feminine charms and being aware of the adage, "happy wife, happy life."

That being said, I decided to take note of what lowly animals would bother to visit this sad excuse for a tree. What I have witnessed is a large menagerie of critters which think that this bug-infested oak tree is the greatest thing since sliced bread! We have three varieties of squirrels that frequent this tree, especially in the fall when it is full of acorns, much to the delight of our little dog that spends countless hours looking up at them. There are a wide variety of song birds which visit, everything from English Sparrows to Golden Finches, Robins, Evening Grosbeaks, Stellar Jays, Nuthatches, Chickadees and the like. This spring, we had Band tailed Pigeons, large 15" long birds feeding on the fresh new shoots at the very top of this tree. While I'm an avid outdoorsman and spend plenty of time outside, this was the first time I have ever seen this particular species of bird that is now adapting to life away from the forest. Needless to say I know look at the oak tree quite differently and it is definitely off the chopping block.

The neighbor's trees are also a prime example of how residential yards can become prime habitat for wildlife. The folks two doors away have a very large and majestic Douglas fir tree that is sometimes used by passing Bald Eagles to rest and likely survey easy pickings from the surrounding yards. The two tall Western Red cedars on our property have attracted both Grey and Screech owls over the years, likely feeding on and helping to control south Surrey's rather large rat population. A nearby birch tree whose top is slowly dying from a borer beetle draws in three varieties of woodpeckers that hammer away at the dead wood feasting on the bugs inside. In the lot directly behind our house, small falcons known as Merlins or pigeon hawks took up residence this year in an old crow's nest and had four young, resulting in aerial combat all summer as they zoomed around chasing startled robins that often flew to us for protection. If you are a bird watcher or ornithologist as they are known, you wouldn't have to leave our backyard as it can often put on quite the feathered air show.

All of this talk about trees, habitat and wildlife brings us to the city of White Rock which might consider the possibility of actually planting trees, especially when ones are cut down that impact the animals which use them. Case in point is the four Douglas fir trees that were toppled on Victoria St. a few months ago that would have become a public danger when the roots were cut for a nearby development. These trees were used as a roost for bald eagles and they were chopped down without considering the impact on these majestic birds, their value to the community or that of the tourists which visit the city by the sea. It is high time that White Rock show environmental leadership as West Vancouver has done and place some civic importance on trees before the hillsides facing Semiahmoo Bay are clear-cut and the eagles have no place to go. Getting rid of their two-tier tree policy that is based on neighbourhoods and property values and having one policy for all tax-paying residents would also be an asset.

Since most cities have a two for one replacement policy for large trees, I'd suggest that for the Victoria Dr. debacle, White Rock should plant eight Douglas fir trees on its various road end properties. Outlawing so-called "vegetation control" that saw the "Eagle Hill" (formerly known by its fornication name - the Hump) chopped down several years by the BNSF would also help create more habitat and the Railway might also consider planting a few larger trees on this slide-prone hillside to help stabilize the slope. Even a few of the locust trees along the promenade could be replaced with fir trees so that in time they could be used by eagles and a host of other species. I know of a commercial nursery that has 20 foot tall Douglas firs for sale at $200 should City Hall be interested in giving nature in White Rock a little "re-leaf." For those residents who complain that a single tree can somehow destroy a 180 degree view, it would be no worse than the telephone poles, overhead wires or monster houses that are being built for blocking sightlines. As a bonus, you might get to enjoy the company of eagles in your own backyard, instead of having to resort to the Hancock Wildlife Foundation's various eagle cams (visit, including the White Rock one that is actually located in Surrey.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



July 29, 2013

Crop Dusting on "Coalbrook" Road

It might be safe to say that I have a one-track-mind with this week's "TNT" as it is now the third week in a row where the topic of discussion is railway related. This certainly wasn't planned as I had a wonderful piece ready concerning urban wildlife in the Semiahmoo peninsula that I thought would be of interest but then I made the mistake of heading home on the infamous Colebrook Road along the base of Panorama Ridge in Surrey on Thursday evening. If you thought that Colebrook was only dangerous because of the gang shootings and dumped bodies that have piled up there this year, think again. If you drive along this quiet agricultural road on either side of 152 St. from 125 A to 168th, lead is something you should be concerned about (no, I don't mean from bullets) along with mercury, arsenic, other heavy metals plus polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs contained in coal dust being released from passing coal trains.

If you are a news junkie or keep your eyes on the local newspapers, you likely heard last week about the issue of a CP coal train filmed spewing coal dust as it crossed Hwy. 99 in Delta. This video was shot a few months ago and is now posted on YouTube for your viewing pleasure at "Coal Dust! CP ES44AC 8924 at Delta, BC + more (13-05-19)." This video has sparked concerns from environmentalists and conservationists about the proposal to allow a coal post at the Fraser Surrey Docks and how it appears the glue-like surfactant applied to the top of the open coal cars is doing little to retain dust during transport. CP spokesperson Ed Greenberg has assured the public that their company takes this matter seriously and that since the release of this video, CP has increased the volume of sealant sprayed on the coal cars both at the mines and halfway to the coast along with adding monitoring crews to address the problem. Marko Dekovic, Port Metro Vancouver's manager of government affairs is on record stating that, "This appears to be an anomalous event." I am here to say that this is complete hogwash and that I have seen plenty of coal dust recently blowing off passing trains and have a picture and video to prove it.

The first time I saw coal dust spewing from a train was on the same Hwy. 99 overpass in Delta where the posted YouTube video was taken. This spring I drove my work truck underneath the bridge and the cars had large black swirls of dust billowing from the top of the train, so much so that it looked as it had a smouldering fire on board. To give you an idea of how heavy the coal dust was, my passengers and I quickly rolled up our open windows and pulled our shirts over our mouth and nose to avoid inhaling it. A month ago I was driving west on Colebrook Road in Surrey between 152 St. and the King George Blvd. railway overpass and a CP coal train heading west was releasing enormous amonts of coal dust into the air, not to mention clouds of diesel exhaust from an apparently defective locomotive. Thankfully the wind was blowing from the south taking the clouds of soot and smoke away from the convertible I was driving so I didn't have to choke on it. The cloud was so thick that it almost blocked out the setting sun, creating a disturbingly beautiful dark orangey-red artificial sunset. My latest experience was on Thursday July 25, again on Colebrook Road in Surrey, and what I saw there literally took my breath away.

Finishing work in Panorama Ridge, we took the 125 A "cheater" road down from Panorama Ridge onto the flats, turning east onto Colebrook road that runs adjacent to the CN/CP Railway main line. A CP freight train loaded with coal cars was heading in the opposite direction and we quickly realized that this train was releasing coal dust in such large quantities that it looked like there was a low black cloud drifting across the road in front of us. To make matters worse, a lone bicyclist was also travelling east at that time heading into the dark dust storm blowing from the train. I stopped my truck, rolled up the windows and jumped out to take pictures and video of the black sooty mess. The bicyclist rode off into the waiting malestrom, waving his hands in front of him to no effect as the rear of the train passed. After recording this disturbing event, I caught up to the bicyclist and stopped him to chat about his experience. He said that his eyes were burning from the coal dust and that he had needed to take a drink to wash the dust from the back of his throat. I'm hoping there are no serious health effects from this experience as I was exposed to this dust cloud almost as badly as the unlucky bicyclist. This is not an isolated event as I found out that Bob Campbell, past president of the West Panorama Ridge Ratepayers Association, had the same biking experience on Colebrook that left him with burning eyes and irritated lungs.

To make matters worse, the tracks along Colebrook Road are lined with farms on both sides, including many blueberry farms that are now being harvested. Just back from where I took my picture and video was a field with approximatley 40 people picking blueberries for market. They would have been exposed to the same cloud of coal dust that I photographed, along with the crop that they were working on. Considering that there are 4 coal trains on the BNSF line and a conservative estimate of 10 trains a day on the CN/CP line, it is possible that these unfortunate folks are getting dusted with coal on a continuous basis throughout the day. The same goes for the crop they are picking that has not been washed by rains or irrigation in nearly a month during this summer dry spell. It is likely that the fruit contains a fine film of coal dust carrying whatever toxins were dug up in the mines that it came from. I used to purchase blue berries from a family owned farm on Colebrook Road and have previously picked blackberries from near the BNSF tracks in Crescent Beach. I can guarantee you that I will not be eating fruit from anywhere beside a train track carrying coal in the future after seeing the dust storm from this latest dirty train. With the hundreds of acres of blueberries planted by the train tracks through Panorama Ridge and Cloverdale, make sure you wash them well or you might end up eating blackberries instead. Unfortunately this is not exactly the type of publicity that the upcoming Cloverdale Blueberry Festival on August 10th needs.

For those in the Semiahmoo peninsula that are concerned about the health and environmental effects associated with the planned increase in coal traffic through this region and the proposed coal port at the Fraser Surrey Docks, there is an upcoming meeting this week that you may want to attend. The information for this latest of coal related event in White Rock is listed below and it will feature Dr. Frank James who is the Health Officer for San Juan County, Washington State. I'm planning on attending to learn what effect the coal dust exposure may have had on me besides the coughing and wheezing that I have ben experiencing ever since getting dusted courtesy of CP Rail. Keep an eye on YouTube as I'm hoping to have my Colebrook Road video posted under "CP Coal Dust Train Surrey - July 25, 2013" once I can work out the bugs with my so-called Smart Phone. If you think that a picture is worth a thousand words, just wait until the latest video featuring coal dust from a train blackening the sky on its way to a Lower Mainland coal port is made public. It should be interesting to hear the railway and port executives try to explain this latest coal dust "anomaly."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


This afternoon I was driving down Colebrook Road at about 2:30 and had to stop for a passing train. It was a CP train and the coal dust that was blowing off the top actually limited visibility on Colebrook Road. It seems that it is not only the US coal trains that are not being sealed properly but this is also happening with Canadian coal trains. I read Don's article with interest (and a degree of skepticism) but having seen the dust blowing off the train I saw today it is clear that there's a real issue that needs to be dealt with seriously



July 22, 2013

Still Swinging On The "Nic"

There are many different businesses operating in the Semiahmoo Peninsula and various jobsites with a special charm all their own, but there is one location that offers unparalleled views of both sunrises and sunsets on the water, a birds-eye view of nature on land, sea and in the air, plus a front row seat to see both boats and trains. This is none other than the manned swing bridge over the  Nicomekl River next to the Crescent Beach Marina that has been in place for more than a century, allowing boats to pass through this choke point on the river and for BNSF Railway trains to continue to their far-flung destinations. There is a small cubicle attached to the side of the tracks that shelters the workers who control whether the railway bridge is open to rail or marine traffic. For those with a fascination for trains, it is known as "bridge 127.6" and the operators can be reached by phone for eye-witness reports on everything from sea conditions to the operational status of the tracks.

While the railway bridge over the Little Campbell River has been attracting much attention as of late including that of White Rock Mayor Baldwin because of corrosion and maintenance safety issues, the swing bridge at South Surrey's marina should also be on the radar for Mayor Watts and her council. This is not because of fist sized holes like at the Little Campbell, even though I must say that the Nicomekyl swing bridge that was built in 1904 could use a little sprucing up and definitely some new paint to keep the salt water and rust at bay. At issue on the Nicomekyl is the BNSF employees who man the bridge on two shifts from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., allowing large boats and yaughts to make their way safely under the trestle bridge and letting BNSF freight and AmTrak passenger trains roll by. It is quite possible that we may soon see the end of an era with these jobs eliminated through automation.

Last week, both the District of North Vancouver and Port Metro Vancouver expressed their concern regarding plans announced by CN to remove the staff who operate the Second narrows rail lift bridge that is located under the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge. On top of this, two other movable span bridges at New Westminster and Lulu Island are also part of this scheme that will see all three bridges monitored by camera from a centralized location and open and closed as needed. With railway safety on many people's minds after the incination of the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, changes such as this where human eyes and brains are removed from a situation and replaced with remotely operated cameras are sure to raise safety concerns. While CN has boated that, "The centralized system will streamline our operations while continuing to follow the marine navigation rules and maintain safety", Port Metro knows nothing of the risk assessment reportedly completed for this project or if Transport Canada has already signed off on CN's plans.

Both the Second Narrows and Fraser River see much greater levels of marine and train traffic than the  Nicomekl River and it would be surprising if the BNSF are not looking at automating the swing bridge by the marina as well. This would remove a human presence from the mouth of the Nicomekyl, with railway and marine safety being controlled by electronic equipment from a centralized command centre. Getting rid of the eyes and ears on the track might sound wonderful from an economic standpoint, taking many highly paid railway personnel off of these important structures, but you have to wonder what surprises our good friend Murphy might have in store for them. Equipment failure, power outages, heavy fog, vandalism, trespassing and bridge impacts are events that could likely throw a curve-ball into CN's plans to safely replace the men and women who have performed this important job since 1904. I guess they have never heard of the old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

With all of the possible negative safety repercussions that could conceiveably happen by removing people from the Nicomekyl swing bridge and automating the systems, there is one change that will likely be welcomed by boaters. Currently if you want to leave or enter the Crescent Beach Marina, the swing bridge will not be opened during the night, effectively stopping all large boat traffic. If this bridge was automated, there would be no reason for it to not operate on a 24 hour basis, allowing boaters to come and go as they please. This would eliminate people racing up the dredged channel past Crescent Beach trying to make the 11 p.m. curfew or having to anchor beyond the train bridge and waiting till morning to reach the dock. This bonus may sound appealing, but it can only happen if any automated system is proven safe and fool proof. With the size and length of the trains now crossing on the BNSF tracks and the frequent shipping of hazardous goods and bulk petroleum products, the safety of trains crossing the mouth of the Nicomekyl River should be paramount, not the money the Railway might save by axing a few jobs.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



July 15, 2013

Disaster Training

The runaway train carrying tankers of crude oil that derailed in Lac-Megantic Quebec on July 6th, incinerating the centre of this sleepy little town and killing an estimated 50 people, should serve as a warning to the residents of the Semiahmoo peninsula as to the inherent dangers associated with rail traffic. It certainly has got the attention of White Rock's Mayor Baldwin who is suddenly making plenty of noise about the state of the steel railway bridge over the Little Campbell River near the Semiahmoo First Nations reserve. While the deplorable condition of this nearly century old structure has been known for some time, a recent YOUTUBE video showing rust holes and rot in the structure ( is now attracting plenty of public attention. Not surprisingly, the BNSF Railway has announced it will now repair or replace damaged bracing and bearings along with having a plan for a new $1.3 bridge. Unfortunately this dilapidated structure is not the only safety problem facing the BNSF Railway as it moves commodities along the shoreline of south Surrey and White Rock.

When I first moved into south Surrey over a decade ago, I became very concerned with the state of the BNSF Railway's infrastructure. The rails at that time were the old segmented variety and many of the rail ends were pounded flat and fractured. A friend of mine who helps maintain CN tracks came down for a visit and was shocked at the lack of track maintenance that was being performed at that time. I joined up with members of SmartRail, a community rail safety group located here in the Semi-Pen, to bring media and public attention to the problems we were seeing on the BNSF tracks. Since that time the BNSF has replaced the old track with stronger continuous weld rails, installed 20,000 new wooden sleeper ties, regraded drainage ditches and shored up the rip-rap boulder wave defences. When this work was first being completed it was believed it was because of community safety concerns, including those expressed to the Railway Safety Commission in submissions by both SmartRail and Surrey's United Naturists. Now many are left wondering if it was instead done to support the heavy coal trains that we are now seeing on an ever more frequent basis rolling along the waterfront of Boundary Bay.

Even with the safety improvements, there are still plenty of potentially deadly safety problems with running an industrial rail line through this region. By far the most serious concern is the geological instability of the Ocean park bluffs between White Rock's west beach and the end of Bayview Ave. in Crescent Beach. This marine bluff is composed of glacial till laid down in stratified layers of sand, gravel and alluvial clay. During periods of extreme precipitation as we often get here in the fall and winter rainy season, this material becomes saturated and then slides down onto the tracks. Over the years I have inspected dozens of landslides that have impacted the BNSF railway corridor. While most people think of a mudslide as being a simple slurry of dirty, slides off the bluff often carry hundred foot evergreens roots and all onto the tracks. The largest slide on record was one that was 150 feet wide by 10 feet deep on the tracks. In 1984 the city of Surrey engineering department recorded 64 mudslides onto the BNSF corridor in only two weeks during heavy rains. I have personally seen dozens of slides including one that hit a train near Crescent Beach that was stopped for an even larger one down the tracks. There have even been two occasions over the years where freight trains have been stuck near Ocean Park because of landslides on either ends of the tracks. People cutting trees for views or draining water onto the face of the bluff contribute to the slide threat faced by passing freight trains with heavy vibrations known as "train tremors" often initiating slide action that can be seen in a YOUTUBE video of a derailment of a BNSF train in Everett Washington (

Besides coal, forest products and mixed freight, the BNSF carries a variety of toxic and flammable materials along White Rock's beaches. Dangerous goods including tanker cars of inhalation hazardous chemicals including chlorine, ammonia and sulphur dioxide gas often roll by from the Canexus chemical plant in North Vancouver to markets in the US. The chlorine gas was considered such a serious terrorist target during the 2010 Winter Olympics that the plant was closed for a month for "routine maintenance" and the tankers of chlorine gas moved to Washington state where they were held under armed marine guard until the festivities had concluded. It was chlorine gas that was responsible for the largest evacuation in Canadian history in 1979 when a ruptured tanker car of chlorine forced the evacuation of a quarter million residents from the town of Mississauga in Ontario for five days. Besides poison gas, the BNSF regularly ships large quantities of gasoline and diesel fuel from the Cherry Point refinery near Blaine to service the Lower Mainland market. Other dangerous goods such as caustic soda, sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid complete the witches brew of chemicals and petrochemicals that move through this region, with most people oblivious to the danger or the damage to the environment should a derailment and/or fire happen here. While using rail is one of the most safest and environmental responsible way to ship large quantities of goods, it is not without risks should something go seriously off track as happened in Lac-Megantic.

What really scares me about the BNSF Railway is the manner in which they deal with landslides here from the Ocean Park bluff. After a mudslide buries the tracks, they close the line to the AmTrak passenger train as per American Railway Safety regulations for either 24 or 48 hours, giving the hillside above the tracks time to drain. The same cannot be said for freight trains which are often given the green light to travel tracks soon after the tree and mud are removed from the tracks. After a rather large landslide several winters ago, myself and White Rock Sun editor Dave Chesney climbed a staircase up the bluff to examine what had possibly caused this event. We found a large bowl that had failed, leaving a large overhanging chunk of ground, behind which was a large crack in the ground 15 feet away, pointing to the possibility of more slide activity. Several Surrey engineers were on site taking measurements and they warned that it was unstable and could let go at any time. When returning to the tracks, we witnessed a BNSF train heading south carrying 9 tanker cars of chlorine gas, each capable of carrying 60 tonnes each. That night, the cornice did fail, once again burying the tracks in even more landslide debris. After this mess was cleaned up, the hillside collapsed for the third time, fortunately without hitting a passing train. This practice that I call "railway roulette" must be stopped for if it is too dangerous for the Amtrak passenger train, then it is certainly too dangerous for hazardous chemicals, flammable petroleum or toxic gas to be shipped here while the slide threat still exists.

The fiery deaths of 50 people in Quebec is shocking as it happens from one singular event, but most people do not realize that White Rock has its own bloody history associated with the Great Northern/BNSF Railway tracks. I spent plenty of time in the Surrey archives researching the list of train accidents over the years and found out that there have already been 18 deaths and 10 serious injuries on the line over the years. You can review this list that is posted on the safety section of the SUN website at Many of these involved people that were distracted, listening to music on headphones, or who were hard of hearing. When you mix industrial freight and passenger rail traffic with the main marine recreational site for a million Fraser Valley residents, it is a recipe for disaster as surely as leaving as loaded freight train unattended with no brakes on a hill above a town. While the tragic result may not be as explosive, eventually the body count of people killed by trains on the White Rock waterfront will surpass that of Lac-Megantic as long as the tracks remain in their current waterfront location. Instead of allowing this, the concept of relocating the BNSF Railway tracks to a safer inland location away from crowds at the beach crowds and the slide prone Ocean Park bluff needs to be explored.

UPDATE 7 a.m.

Surrey Fire Chief LEN GARRIS on the Phillip Till show on CKNW this morning in response to rail safety through our area said "I think looking at the statistics for rail safety (2006) I would say the rail companies have a very good safety record. Low on my list of concerns of products shipped through our area are coal and oil as those two products are far less combustible than chlorine and propane that are shipped through our area."


Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


July 08, 2013


Surrey Strong

As if the twelve murders in Surrey this year, four bodies dumped on Colebrook Rd. plus five other shootings weren't enough to give people across Canada a negative image of the City of Surrey, we now have a couple of "self-radicalized" home grown terrorists making front page news across North America. Surrey residents John Stuart Nuttal (38 years) and his girlfriend Amanda Korody (29 years) are accused by the RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) of planning to bomb the Canada Day celebrations at the Legislature buildings in Victoria. Their alleged weapon of choice were three pressure cooker bombs packed with shrapnel, similar to the improvised explosive devices used to bomb the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April that killed 3 people and injured 264 others with many badly maimed. Fortunately the RCMP had been tipped off to this pair's odd behaviour by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and had been investigating them as part of "Operation Souvenir", ensuring that the IEDs were not operational. Nuttall and Korody have been charged with, "conspiring to place an explosive in or against a place of public use, a government or public facility, with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a terrorist group."

On Canada Day my wife Sheryl and myself attended the Canada Day celebrations in Cloverdale featuring a bevy of musical entertainment including Crystal Shawanda, Sloan and Platinum Blonde to name a few of the bands. In a rather strange twist of fate, I was wearing Surrey Shirts latest design, the bold "Surrey Strong" muscle T-shirt. The artwork is tied to the Boston Marathon bombing with its message similar to the "Boston Strong" that became a community rallying cry after the explosions that rocked the finish line of arguably the world's most famous road race. The red and white font used in the Surrey Strong is the same lettering that has been used by the Boston Red Sox baseball team s since 1933. This shirt design marks the City of Surrey breaking the half million resident mark, which utilizing Stats Canada census figures happened on June 5th, 2013. At no time during the creation of this design that was first considered just after the fateful April 15th day in Boston, was the possibility of a terrorist bombing in Surrey ever considered. I realize that the city has issues and an obvious gun and gang violence problem but to think that Surrey could be a target for such radical attacks seemed a distant impossibility. With the revelations about the Victoria Canada Day bombing plot, you have to wonder if the celebrations in Cloverdale were ever considered by the two alleged Surrey terrorists as a possible target?

I have been going to the Canada Day celebrations at Cloverdale for decades and have always appreciated this free musical event, the tens of thousands of smiling faces in the red and white crowd, and the opportunity to celebrate Canada's birthday knowing there were fireworks waiting when it was over. This year I noticed plenty of security changes to the event site that I believed might be directly linked to the Boston bombing and increased security threat at large public gatherings. I noticed security cameras located on either corner of the stage, plus a black "Mobile Command Centre" van parked at the rear of the field featuring a large pole with two security cameras mounted on it. The van belonged to ITC security and plenty of their employees were present and highly visible throughout the site. The RCMP also had a heavy presence including many members patrolling on bikes plus even some officers dressed in their historic red serge uniforms. There were city of Surrey signs posted at all entrances to the park warning that due to security concerns people entering the grounds were subject to search of their belongings. While I was wearing a media pass around my neck, I was still approached on several occasions to have a look inside the backpack I was wearing. Fortunately the most dangerous things in my possession were a bottle of tap water plus several Surrey Girl shirts. It was reassuring to know that the security forces were keeping an eye on the crowd and trying to stop trouble, especially after hearing about the brawl involving 100 drunken youths at the Langley Canada Day celebrations causing the cancellation of the fireworks.

While it is obvious that terrorism can happen anywhere, it is unfortunate that it had to originate here in Surrey but it is not the first time that this problem has surfaced in this region. In Canada's worst case of mass murder, Air India Flight 182 was blown up by a bomb on June 23, 1985 while the Boeing 747 was flying over the Atlantic Ocean near Ireland. The bomb that brought down this plane was constructed on Vancouver Island and loaded onto the plane at the Vancouver Airport, killing 329 people, with 268 of them being Canadian. On the same day, another bomb that was part of the same Sihk militant conspiracy exploded in Tokyo's Narita airport killing two baggage handlers and injuring four others. Its intended target was Air India Flight 301 that was carrying 177 people on board. In the LAX Los Angeles Airport bombing plot, al qaeda linked terrorist Ahmed Ressan was arrested by a sharp-eyed custom agent entering Port Angeles Washington on a Ferry from Victoria. In his possession was 120 pounds of various explosives including a nitroglycerin based compound that had been created in a Vancouver hotel room. His target was the New Years party for the Millenium 2000 celebrations that likely would have killed or injured scores of people had the plan not been thwarted. In 1982, the group Direct Action, better known as the Squamish Five, brought 550 kg of dynamite from Vancouver to Litton Industries in Toronto in an attempt to blow up vital components of the U.S. Cruise missile program with the explosion injuring 10 people.

Unfortunately it is impossible to completely secure public festivals and keep them immune from terrorist attacks. While I must commend- the ITC security team and the RCMP personnel for their work on Canada Day in Cloverdale, there were plenty of holes in the security apparatus, none of which I care to detail here. We do not have security cameras on every street corner as exists in much of the UK after bombings and terrorist actions there and we cannot afford police on every block. In crowded public areas and celebrations, especially those like Canada Day where terrorists can get more bang for their buck (literally), it is up to the public to keep an eye on their surroundings, watching for those who are intent on harming people to make a political statement. The catch word being used to describe this is "vigilant", which is defined as "keenly watchful to detect danger; wary." You need not shy away from public events, big crowds or public transit but become highly aware of your surroundings and those people around you realizing that the possibility of a terrorist threat is very small. By working together, we can keep Surrey safe and make Surrey strong, hopefully avoiding the possibility of terrorist action from those who wish to do us harm. I hate to admit but while many people scoffed at Councillor Al Campbell's idea a year ago of putting security cameras on the pier and promenade in White Rock, after this latest bombing plot the concept has suddenly gained instant credibility.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


July 01, 2013

Lord of the Flies


I trust that everybody enjoyed the long weekend, especially with Canada Day falling on a Monday, giving most people a three day break from work. While my newspaper was not delivered today there were other workers not so lucky who had to put in their customary eight hours, regardless of whether Monday was a stat holiday or not. I had just rolled out of bed and was making a strong pot of organic Holy Smoke coffee when I heard the garbage truck on the next street over. If you remember in the not too distant past, when there was a holiday there would be no pick up and the day would simply be bumped to one day later in the week. Unfortunately with Surrey's introduction of the three large totes and the automatic garbage truck that only uses a driver, skipping pickup day, whether on a stat holiday or not, is no longer the case. I managed to get my compost and recycling cans to the curb in time with robe flapping in the breeze likely giving the neighbours a good show if anyone had been there to witness it.

The reason why I say that my neighbours were not home is because it was obvious from their refuse containers that they had left out for the long weekend. With pickup on Monday, why would anyone put their garbage cans out on a Friday which was the case?. Judging from the many vacant spots at the park-n-ride lot on Friday morning, it is safe to say that many people booked themselves a four-day long weekend, meaning they would need to put their carts to the curb mid-week for pickup. Some resourceful people, realizing the safety implications of alerting thieves to their schedules, enlisted the help of their neighbours unlucky enough to be staying in town to roll out their totes on pickup day, and also roll them back in when they had been dumped. When I went out after breakfast to collect my bins I watched a husband and wife from down the street work as a team to bring in four different sets of garbage cans from surrounding houses. Kind of makes you wonder what Surrey was thinking when they went to holiday waste pickup, especially when you factor in the time-and-a-half labour rates? I'd love to know why the fixed dump day system is not in use with the new trucks, especially when you take into consideration the problems on long weekends?

With only every two week pick up for both garbage and recycling, you certainly wouldn't want to miss your day as then it would be almost a month between dumps. Can you even try to imagine the smell from one of the large grey garbage cans after sitting for a month, especially if they have been in the sun which is often the case as they won't fit in many people's garages? Its certainly rude enough after two weeks, especially if you have things like dirty diapers sitting in the trash. At least the brilliant minds in the Engineering Department figured out that organic compost collection should be done on a weekly basis to encourage recycling and also reduce odours. When the totes were first dropped off and began use last fall, smell wasn't that big of an issue with our cold weather and heavy rains. This weekend with near record temperatures and lots of sunshine certainly showed some stinky flaws with Surrey's new collection system plus another problem that is really bugging me.

Besides the big grey toters, Surrey also dropped off small green compost bins for under the kitchen sink that could be used to move waste from the cooking area to the grey toter with the green lid. As I exposed in a previous TNT, while the air holes on the lids precluded even fruit flies from getting in, it did not sit flush with the green can, allowing flies to have a smorgasbord at their disposal. Unless you dumped your food scraps after every meal and rinsed the residue, you would have a nice bug collection that would be released every time you started cooking. Now that it is hot, the same problem is happening on a much larger scale with the large grey compost totes. Not only have fruit flies moved in by the millions, larger house flies have also proved the Surrey saying that, "we don't divide, we multiply." Throw in some prawn and crab shells along with some left-over pieces of steak early in the week and you have a recipe for a disgusting disaster by collection day. The last time I dared open the compost toter, there was plenty of what looked like grains of rice stuck to the walls, which upon further inspection were hundreds, if not thousands, of wriggling fly maggots. After seeing that rather rude-spectacle I'll be swearing off rice for a while.

With no room beside our vehicles in the garage, and the side of the house stacked with cord wood, we keep out three grey totes in a nice cubbyhole near our front door. Unfortunately now that means if you come over for a visit, you must endure the lovely smell of garbage, rotting food and clouds of flies. Thankfully these totes sit in a shaded location otherwise it is likely that the stench and bug collection would be even worse. With the hot spell we are experiencing, we've had our doors and windows open and have noticed a large increase in the number of flies in the house, far above anything we have ever experienced before. While Surrey may go on about the benefits of their new solid waste collection system and how it is diverting waste from the landfills, it is definitely without its drawbacks. We are now ensuring to hose down both the garbage and organics totes when they are dumped to help reduce the odour problem plus layer yard waste on top of food waste to keep the flies to a minimum. Unfortunately unless all of my neighbours are doing this, which is unlikely since most were away this weekend, I think we might be having to buy a few more bug screens for the house before the end of the summer.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



June 24, 2013

What The Cluck?

Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. To get to Surrey of course.

Oh sure, I just had to resort to a chicken crossing the road joke to get this latest installment of The Naked Truth rolling. I sure hope this doesn't ruffle any feathers at Surrey City Hall as I beak off and possibly end up with egg on my face. Seriously though, with all poultry metaphors aside, the issue of allowing chickens in residential yards in Surrey is once again going to be making its way before Council. This is after the city's Agricultural Advisory Committee recently endorsed a pilot project for small lot flocks of chickens. Currently you need to have at least a one acre lot and then are allowed to keep only 12 chickens.

This initiative was spear-headed by south Surrey's Kate McMaster who ran a fowl (cheap pun intended) of Surrey's by-laws by keeping chickens on her quarter acre property. In response, she formed "Surrey Backyard Chickens" on Facebook that already has 208 likes on the social media site and started a local chapter of CLUCK, the Canadian Liberated Urban Chicken Klub. If you think she is alone in wanting to raise chickens, consider that Ms. McMaster claims there are 20 illegal coops in her neighbourhood, with Surrey's Bylaw Enforcement having 41 complaints of backyard chickens with 20 calls already this year. In Vancouver which allowed four hens in their backyards since 2010, they have 100 people registered to raise poultry along with plenty of others likely doing it under the radar. Personally I am aware of three chicken coops on larger lots in south Surrey that are all under an acre in size. I also know of one rather brazen community figure who also used to keep chickens on a small lot in the Crescent Heights subdivision, with that person being non other than myself.

I didn't get into raising chickens as a way to flout Surrey's by-law, a girlfriend of mine at the time living in Milner in Langley had a large rural yard and at least a dozen chickens in her flock. These were not your run of the mill white or brown laying hens but exotic looking Asian birds that laid eggs varying from speckled brown to blue, green and even a light pinkish hue. My two then young daughters were fascinated by my friend's mini-farm and took great delight in parading around with chickens tucked under their arms. When they started pressuring me to allow them to bring home a couple of their feathered pets it was difficult for me to say no, especially after tasting their eggs! We had an unusable portion of our pie-shaped yard under a large spruce tree and I went to work fencing it off, building a chicken coop, placing netting over top and purchasing the various feeding and watering stations we would need. While the chickens were free, I remember spending over $300 on materials for the enclosure, which would have bought a lot of eggs including the free-run organic eggs available at the store.

The couple of chickens we took home brought an amazing amount of joy to not only my two children but kids from around the neighbourhood who would flock to our house to see the birds plus help with collecting their eggs. Releasing the chickens into the yard was always an interesting time as they would search around the garden looking for bugs and weeds to eat while scratching at the soil in and around my plants. We fed them the organic store bought chicken feed, supplementing their diet with a steady supply of fresh kitchen waste we knew they would find palatable. There was very little smell associated with raising them and I did use their manure as an organic top-dressing for various garden plants that required a rich nitrogen source. Because we had hens and not roosters, there was no tell-tale "cock-a-doodle-do" sound that you would expect at first light but instead just a quiet clucking noise except for the times when they were alarmed. While four neighbouring properties all bordered on the coop, nobody complained to me about the chickens or reported them to the by-laws department. While I was concerned about adding to south Surrey's rat problem, I never saw any sign of rat activity around the enclosure and took steps to ensure that there was no excess food or feed left to attract them. My daughter's pet chickens eventually stopped producing and lived out their natural lives in our backyard.

If Surrey votes to allow backyard hens for urban properties, there are some basic things you need to know about raising chickens. You only want hens, not roosters and because chickens are hard to sex will need to buy what is known as pullets that are 4-6 weeks old. Don't worry, hens develop eggs without roosters, producing them regardless of whether they have been fertilized. You have to collect fresh eggs daily so that your chickens don't get broody and want to sit on the nest lowering productivity. Expect 4-6 eggs per week from a healthy chicken, which should continue output anywhere from six months to five years. There are many varieties of chickens that have different characteristics and requirements making some research by yourself into the breed that suits your needs a necessary step. Urban predators including raccoons, possum, hawks and even eagles have been known to target chickens so their enclosure must be well-built and able with withstand these animals. Birds can be purchased online from Craigslist or from the weekly auction at Fraser Valley Auctions on 56 Ave. near the Langley Airport that has been selling farm animals for 25 years. Plan in advance to find a veterinarian who specializes in birds, their diseases and medical treatments.

This is not the first time that the issue of allowing chickens on small residential properties here has been raised with Surrey resident Touraj Ghanbar-zadeh trying to interest Council in the merits of allowing poultry back in 2010 without success. Hopefully this time around with Vancouver and other Lower Mainland cities already allowing backyard chickens the members of Surrey First will give this concept their approval. You can help by liking Surrey Backyard Farmers, joining CLUCK and taking the time to contact members of Council and Mayor Dianne Watts individually to express your support, hen-pecking them not to chicken-out when it comes time to vote on this issue.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Check out Surrey Backyard Chickens Facebook here



June 17, 2013

Too Much Monkey Business on the Semiahmoo Peninsula

The Banana Belt

With both myself and my wife Sheryl being born in friendly Manitoba (me in Portage la Prairie, her in Winterpeg), we really appreciate living in B.C.'s "banana belt", especially when talking to relatives still living back east during the winter months. In my 45 plus years of living in the Lower Mainland, I've seen a steady increase in temperatures here with winter becoming less about ice and snow and more about clouds and rain. As a kid, I can remember ski-dooing in Delta and Surrey, skating at Fry's Corner (176 St. & Fraser Hwy.) and creating backyard skating rinks occasionally. Those days appear long gone with this so-called winter forcing me to scrape frost from my truck's windows twice this year. As the temperature has slowly risen, our ability to grow tropical plants has also steadily increased so that varieties which would have been unthinkable 30 years ago are now commonly sold in garden centres throughout the region.

While Ontario brags of having Canada's banana belt in a region south of a line which runs approximately from Grand Bend to Toronto, it cannot hold a candle to BC's banana belt which includes the southern Gulf Islands and Victoria. On the periphery of this climatic zone are corners of the Lower Mainland including Steveston in Richmond, Ladner and Tsawwassen in Delta, plus south Surrey and of course White Rock that are protected by Vancouver Island's rain shadow, ensuring warmer temperatures, less precipitation and more sunshine. This might explain why almost all of the Lower Mainland's meteorologists and TV weather personalities call the Semiahmoo peninsula their home. Hardy Chinese windmill palms started finding their way into landscaping plan lists about 30 years ago and some of these are now as tall as a two-story house. Tsawwassen even uses palm trees in their centre boulevard on 56 St. that runs south towards Point Roberts giving it a Californian feel. As exotic as a palm tree may look, it doesn't have the tropical lushness that can be achieved with a banana plant I should know as I've got them by the bunches.

The most common winter hardy banana species commonly grown here is the Japanese fibre banana (Musa basjoo). With proper care, well-grown plants can shoot up to 7 metres tall with broad yellow-green paddle shaped leaves 2.5 metres in length, making for a rather stunning display. Once a shoot is planted, it will usually grow for three years, pushing up new shoots called pups that can be transplanted or left to form a grove. When mature, the banana plant will produce a giant terminal bud in the shape of a foot-long green acorn that seemingly will appear overnight as it will be concealed by leaves. Inside this reproductive pod are layers of large golden specialized leaves called bracts which will lift up and then drop off, revealing rows flowers and miniature bananas. To ensure good growth, dig a large deep hole when planting and fill it with organic topsoil and compost. If you want massive plants, water every time using a five-gallon bucket of water with a handful of 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer. These plants usually flower in the late fall and the fruit never fully develops but even if it did they are inedible, with the foliage being used in its native Japan to wrap food before it is cooked.

There is a ever-widening grove in the middle of my front yard that frames the house in the summer plus another smaller clump in the backyard which gives our patio a jungle look while also fanning in front of our upstairs bedroom window. These can be purchased from Coconut Grove in Langley, Harris Nurseries in Ladner or sometimes from more local garden centres and occasionally even at the big-box chains. David Hunters in Newton at 72nd Ave. and 152 St. has a large grove in front of their business that do rather well even though little is done to offer them winter protection. If you are lucky, you can pick up a pup from a friend or neighbour who is looking to thin out their grove. Unguarded they will generally freeze to the ground and have to begin growing back from that level, stunting their height. If you want two story plants, in the fall place a deep mat of grass clippings around the trunks for warmth followed by a thick layer of large leaves to a depth of 1.5 feet, topped with shredded leaves to hold in place. Cut off the long leaves and wrap the thick stems with foam or plastic insulation (bubble wrap works well too), then cover with some old sheets and finally wrap again with tarps, preferable green ones which blend into the surroundings. I place empty black nursery pots on top to keep rain out and hold tarps in place plus tie string around them to stop winter winds from ripping the tarps away.

Last fall the largest of our banana trees flowered as expected with the fruit never reaching maturity. When freezing temperatures threatened, I cut the stalk level with the ground knowing this plant would not regrow. Imagine my surprise when I was sitting on the patio last week enjoying some sunny weather and I noticed that one of our other backyard bonanzas was already starting to flower! Because of this, it is likely that fruit will actually have time to develope this year into 15 cm. long bananas. Even more shocking was that the front yard grove also had a flowering plant, something which I have never seen in the seven years that I have grown banana plants here. Whether this was because of the layers of wrappings that I installed in the fall, the lack of below zero Celsius temperatures this winter, or the result of global warming is unclear. What I do know is that I will soon be adding to my collection of five different varieties of palms and variety of colourful tropical cana lillies. Next on the horticultural list is to include Meyers lemons, key limes and even an orange tree to my tropical paradise, something my neighbour has recently done. Heck, at the rate we're going, we might even have pineapples and coconut trees next, which is a good thing because we do like drinking pina coladas while relaxing on the patio or soaking in the hot tub.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



June 10, 2013

"Oh the noise! Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise!
There's one thing I hate, all the NOISE, NOISE, NOISE, NOISE!"

Dr. Seuss's Grinch complaining about all the noise the Whos make.

I can certainly relate to the big green guy from Dr. Seuss's "How the Grinch stole Christmas" and his thunderous disapproval of noise that his raucous neighbours the Whos make. In fact, one of the reasons I moved to the Semiahmoo peninsula was to get away from noise from traffic, transportation and industry, especially since I spend most of my days with ear plugs crammed deep into my aural canals. When I'm relaxing at home, puttering around in the garden, chilling on the patio or sunbathing at the beach, I prefer the peaceful solitude of silence. Lord knows, you certainly pay enough to be fortunate enough to live in such an idyllic part of the Lower Mainland and it is one of the reasons why property values in the Semi-pen are so high. Unfortunately the sound of silence is being broken more and more frequently by jet airliners and BNSF locomotives as they increase their commercial transportation activities here regardless of the disruption they are causing and without any consequences to their finances or operations.

I grew up in Sunshine Hills in Delta, which is now under the new YVR inbound flight path created several years ago, making this neighbourhood unlivable by my standards. I also resided in Richmond for several years, getting to watch a continuous line of planes flying into the airport only blocks from my house. My father was a pilot who flew for CP Air/Canadian Air Lines so it is not like I'm anti-plane or afraid to fly, I just don't want to listen to the whine of jet engines above my head on a constant basis. Needless to say, I was one of the first persons to realize that something had changed dramatically back in the spring of 2007 when Nav Canada altered flight paths for YVR without any public or governmental notification. This resulted in commercial jets strafing neighbourhoods in White Rock and south Surrey, including the public beaches. The public uproar about this draconian change resulted in the formation of SCAANS (south Surrey Citizens Against Aircraft Noise) along with the Surrey Airspace Task Force that I was a part of. When this protracted fight against the Orwellian Nav Canada came to its final conclusion, the GRIZZ STAR flight path was moved to the centre of Boundary Bay and it was promised that flights would be directed away from the Semiahmoo peninsula.

Unfortunately it would appear that new air traffic controllers at the Nav Canada brain centre in Newton have not been educated about keeping jets away from south Surrey. While they did not promise to make it a no-fly zone, their controllers were to instruct incoming pilots to keep towards the centre of Boundary Bay, even when on visual and not GPS approach. It is getting more and more common to see large commercial jets now flying over Ocean Park at all times of the day, something which is fairly constant if you happen to live in the formerly quiet hamlet of Crescent Beach that now resembles Burkeville in Richmond at the end of the main runway. These over-flights can be seen on YVR's Webtrak ( which gives an on screen review of the flights in the GVRD airspace. This is not a case of people moving next to the airport or a rifle range and then complaining about the noise; it was a change in Nav Canada's operations that brought commercial jets to this formerly quiet region. When I go to the beach, I would like to look up and see soaring bald eagles, ungainly blue herons and even the lowly seagull, instead of watching Boeing 747's and Airbus A-320's. As the BC Green Party Transportation Critic, if we keep seeing overflights for no other reason than the pilots wanting to give their passengers a look at the nudists sun tanning on Crescent Rock Beach, I'll have to go make some noise at the Nav Canada offices and invite our federal Conservative MP Russ Hiebert to come along for moral support.

As if this was not enough, the BNSF Railway that runs across the waterfront of the Semi-pen has been seeing a slow but steady increase in train traffic. With this comes the increased noise from the diesel locomotives, the grinding of brakes and wheels on the rails and of course, the high-decible blasts of the air horns compliments of the train engineers. White Rock has become ground zero for train whistling in this region with American engineers seeming to take great glee in horning the hell out of the city, especially late at night. I was even told about one train that recently went the entire distance from east to west beach with the horn on full blast. Whether this was for a safety reasons, a mechanical malfunction, or simply a malicious action remains unknown. Even on the tracks between White Rock and Crescent Beach that are deserted and hard to access have "whistle stop" signs on each and every curve to alert anyone stupid enough to be walking on the rails to the threat of an approaching train. This ensures more horn blasts as the trains pass through Ocean Park, not to mention Crescent Beach with its two level road crossings there. Add to this the ground vibrations from the heavy coal trains we are now seeing plus plans to open a coal transfer facility at the Fraser Surrey Docks and this explains why we are now seeing long-term residents who have lived near the tracks for years now listing their homes and moving to greener and quieter pastures.

You have to wonder when White Rock City Hall will begin pressuring the BNSF Railway to reduce the air horning on the waterfront, especially from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. when people are trying to sleep? In New Westminster, which suffers from having trains from the BNSF, CN, Canadian Pacific and Southern Railway on their tracks and in several train yards, residents are waiting for the Canadian Transportation Agency to rule on an application to ban late-night whistling in their tiny waterfront city. Last year Surrey banned railway companies from blasting their horns at a number of crossings along Panorama Ridge and they are in the process of rerouting Colebrook road to the north side of the tracks to eliminate the main crossing in that region. Part of the reason for this project was because a study revealed that train traffic on these tracks will increase from 18 trains a day currently to 38 by the year 2021. With a doubling of the Amtrak passenger trains and plans to ship an additional 4 million tonnes of US coal per year on the BNSF tracks, we can expect to see a ever increasing amount of train traffic here and I'm going to be the whistle-blower, letting everyone know that unless steps are taken to ban unnecessary or late night horning, this problem will continue to grow to the point that nerves will be frayed beyond the breaking point and property values will plummet.

People here are rightly concerned about the effects of pollution, whether it be coal dust from open topped rail cars, diesel particulate in exhaust from locomotives and jet engines, or the global effect of green house gas release from commercial and industrial transportation. What we need to realize is that noise pollution is also a threat that has long-term pervasive effects on those who are subjected to it. Dr. Paul Van Buynder, the chief medial health officer for the Fraser Health Authority confirmed that train noise could be a health concern while attending a town-hall meeting in New Westminister last week, calling for a public health assessment before the Fraser Surrey Docks coal port is approved by Port Metro Vancouver. While he did not have anything to say about Nav Canada and their commercial airliners above the Semi-pen airspace again, if you are bothered by the jet noise, contact them by email at giving the particulars about the disturbance, making sure you copy MP Russ Hiebert so he knows of your concerns at For information about a specific plane, check out the YVR WebTrak site that allows you to watch flight paths, receive data on the plane type, height and speed, plus decibel readings from nearby noise monitoring terminals.



June 03, 2013

The 1-2 Punch

Surrey Board of Trade's ANITA HUBERMAN

When Ross Buchannan was added as a columnist for the White Rock Sun there was nobody more thrilled than myself. I knew about Ross's writing skills, in-depth analysis and penchant for digging up information on hot topics of community interest and felt he would be a perfect fit for editor Dave Chesney's online newspaper. I hope you caught his latest Loose Cannon offering, "Our Dirty Little Secret" published on May 31st concerning the Surrey Board of Trade's (SBOT) decision to endorse coal train traffic through White Rock/South Surrey and the expansion of the Fraser Surrey Docks (FSD). If not, you might want to read his column on this important issue facing our community and the negative long-term effects, both locally and globally that this project brings with it. While I had planned on writing about Nav Canada and ongoing over-flights above south Surrey and Crescent Beach (more on that soon), Ross implored me to give the SBOT and the proposed coal port the attention they deserve. Because of the importance of this issue to our community and those from around the Pacific Northwest including our American neighbours to the south, I'm compelled to try this 1-2 punch, hoping for a knockout or at least a TKO.

While it may be still early in 2013, the SBOT's CEO Anita Huberman has earned herself the lofty position of being the first person to make my dreaded Christmas gift list at the end of the year. You can bet that her present from me will be a White Rock boulder sized piece of coal to put in her stocking or possibly stuff somewhere else. It amazes me how the SBOT could ignore the health risks of having uncovered coal trains rumbling through White Rock and Crescent Beach that are the main marine recreational areas for almost a million Fraser Valley residents. Mrs. Huberman needs to realize that these long heavy trains are already having a serious negative affect on the neighbourhoods here even before this proposed expansion takes effect. A vibrational study done in White Rock by UBC found that ground shaking from BNSF coal trains are above the level of human comfort. Hydraulic pumping from the heavy coal cars is causing water and mud to rise into the rock ballast in locations from the border to New West, raising the possibility of rail failure and derailment. Extra train traffic is adding to the whistle noise, especially from night-time trains when onshore winds push the sound into hillside neighbourhoods where residents are trying to sleep. Accessing the waterfront is becoming more difficult with 125 car coal trains creeping along, blocking the tracks and inciting risky pedestrian crossings in front of these lengthy trains. Increasing coal train traffic will mean a tunnel will be needed on Crescent Road, costing Surrey residents $5 million to build and ensuring that pay parking comes to Crescent Beach. Its for these reasons and many more that the South Surrey/White Rock Chamber of Commerce decided to oppose more coal trains, taking a stand with our neighbours to the south that do not want any part of this filthy business.

The picture doesn't get any rosier when you start looking at the impacts to the Fraser River and communities surrounding the Fraser Surrey Docks. While the FSD are making plans to have dust suppression systems, you only have to look to Tsawwassen to see how coal dust infiltration has plagued this neighbourhood since Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank opened. The same problem also occurs in Panorama Ridge where coal dust from CN, CP and now BNSF trains blows up the hill from the Colebrook siding to pollute the air and foul sundecks, patio furniture and vehicles. More trains and the dumping of coal cars at the FSD along with the loading of this material will be noisy and likely be done 24 hours a day, making noise pollution to neighbourhoods near the docks as much of a problem as the coal dust. While the effects of coal dust contamination on the Fraser River are unknown, it is interesting to realize that Ridley Terminals in Prince Rupert have recently been accused of damaging the marine environment of Hecate Strait by dumping coal into the ocean and not properly containing dust and run-off ( The barges that will tow the coal to Texada Island for loading on a slow boat to China will not be covered and subjected to strong winds in the Salish Sea, adding to the coal dust problem there not to mention the threat of a marine accident. In order to facilitate the loading of coal in the Fraser River onto large bulk carriers, the George Massey tunnel must be replaced with a bridge that will likely cost BC residents a billion dollars, tax money spent so that Australian Macquarie Group who owns the FSD can profit at our expense.

To think that Anita Huberman and the SBOT feel that these major environmental and health dangers are worth 50 jobs, only half of which will be in Surrey, shows how out-of-touch the board is with reality and the rising tide of opposition on the street to turning the Lower Mainland into the largest coal exporting region on the west coast of North America. A recent online poll in a local newspaper asked, "Does economic benefit trump environmental concerns when it comes to a new coal-export terminal in Surrey?", with 70 percent of respondents answering, "No." It really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the SBOT is making misguided decisions considering their recent history. People need to remember that the SBOT also supported the proposed south Surrey Gateway casino that was the subject of major public backlash resulting in marathon council meetings and a tied vote that was broken when Dianne Watts wisely voted to reject the project. Anita Huberman also raised eyebrows when she spoke out against the proposed US border fee, an initiative that would have likely helped to stem the tide of people shopping in Washington State and helped to support local businesses in Surrey. With this latest decision, you have to wonder how long it will be before members of the SBOT start calling for heads to roll or resigning in mass to voice their disapproval of the Board's questionable decisions.

With the difference of opinion between the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Surrey Board of Trade on coal trains, it would be refreshing to find out where the City of Surrey sits on this important matter other than firmly on the fence. It is time that Mayor Watts and her Surrey First Council make a decision on where they stand on this issue that will have serious impacts on Surrey residents from both local health and environmental effects along with adding to the global climate crisis. Are they going to side with Anita Huberman and the 25 Surrey jobs that would come from this project or realize that coal trains equal climate change? City Hall has seen fit to put the run to adult theatres, massage parlours and peep shows but will they support a really dirty business like coal at the Fraser Surrey Docks? They made the right decision on trumping the casino project but will they simply roll the dice on coal port expansion, letting Port Metro Vancouver make the decision for them without showing their cards? That's plenty of questions which Watts & Co. need to answer well before Port Metro Vancouver makes its final decision on the FSD coal port expansion project.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn




May 28, 2013

Where Eagles Dare


I've been to plenty of Council meetings at City Hall over the past five years but I must admit, the speech and picture/video montage by White Rock resident Sandy McNamee calling for the preservation of four large fir trees as a Bald Eagle roosting site on a road-end near Victoria St. was one for the ages. A packed house was waiting for her presentation and received one filled with incredible detail, passionate narrative and amazing photographs and videos of multiple eagles using this stand of trees as a perch where they rest and keep a watchful eye on Semiahmoo Bay. This was a last desperate attempt to stop the cutting down of this important stand of trees that was threatened by an adjacent development that would likely damage roots during excavation and construction, rendering the trees unstable and likely to topple over in high winds. The raw emotion of the night was plainly visible with tears flowing freely as people realized what was at stake if a viable solution or alternative plan could not be found.

Unfortunately the old firs were located next to the property line and after careful exploratory excavation was done by the nearby land owner, it was determined that many of the large roots would be damaged and the city ordered the trees to be removed as they posed a risk to public safety. Arborists quickly moved in and the four trees were felled in rapid succession and the branches and wood removed from the city land under the watchful eyes of several eagles that soared overhead eyeing the destruction. A century ago the White Rock hillside was covered with large evergreens that were cut down to build the original homesteads along with providing wood for local markets. Since that time secondary growth trees have matured on the slope but as houses get bigger and the remaining land smaller, many of these are now feeling the chop of the chainsaw or the bite of the bulldozer when development proceeds, leading to the loss of valuable eagle habitat. Without resting or nesting trees for them to use, our bald eagles will soon become a memory at the shores of White Rock.

Rather than stand idly by while the last of these tall eagle roosting trees are turned into cordwood, maybe it's time for the City of White Rock to start taking proactive measures to not only protect trees providing eagle habitat but also take steps to create spaces for these large raptors. While it appears that views in White Rock must be unobstructed by foliage allowing for a 180 degree panorama, having a few large stately trees that are a gathering point for wildlife certainly would not negatively affect property values. In fact, breaking up the skyline with a few well placed specimens or small stands of trees would create a more natural appearance while promoting eagles and other creatures to take up residence. I used to live in Brookswood in Langley with a view of Anderson Creek and towering cedar trees five feet in diameter. While beautiful and serene, the highlight was watching bald eagles use our yard as an aerial corridor to enter the ravine system in search of salmon and trout. Many times we would be in our back yard with eagles flying by only metres above and if you think these majestic birds look big from a distance, you should see them up close and personal, especially when they have spawning salmon dangling from their talons.

In my years of landscaping I have planted thousands of trees including Douglas firs, Western red cedars and my favorite, the Sequoia or California redwood that you can see in south Surrey's Redwood Park. It is amazing how fast conifers grow and there are many that are now 80-100 feet tall with trunks so thick that I cannot put my arms around them. As an environmental legacy project, I believe that now would be the perfect time for the city of White Rock to show some leadership by identifying areas of the hillside where the planting of large evergreens would one day benefit soaring raptors that utilize the natural updrafts on the hill. By planting trees away from the property lines on the various road-ends, they would ensure that future development would not damage the roots allowing them to grow unmolested. Even on west and east beach, a couple of large evergreens would break up the monotony of the many locust trees that line the promenade, without interfering with anyone's views. Ten to fifteen metre specimens are available for sale and can be supplied and planting by companies that specialize in large trees, or for a more cost-effective solution, small saplings can be planted that will grow at least a metre in height every year.

I'm sure that famed south Surrey eagle biologist David Hancock and his Hancock Wildlife Foundation ( that is known around the world for its eagle cams would be more than willing to lend their considerable expertise to the cause. I know that Mr. Hancock has talked about the possibility of adding a nesting pole or bracing to trees on the Hump hillside as a way to encourage more eagle activity in the "City by the Sea." Instead of allowing defacto clear-cutting of trees on the Hump as has happened in the past, why not consider actually planting trees there for future eagle habitat and protecting them by classifying this steep hillside as ravine lands so it remains untouched? Of course this means that in a hundred years someone might have to look out their window on Marine Drive to see a stately fir tree with eagles rearing their young. The alternative is an empty sky where the only eagles remaining are those stamped into the concrete sidewalk along the Hump, an area that Mrs. McNamee would like to see renamed "Eagle Hill" instead of a word that is slang for fornication. Just like the trees on Victoria Street, if we do not take steps to restore raptor habitat in White Rock, our eagles will certainly be screwed.

Naturally yours, Don Pitcairn



May 21, 2013

Railing Against Poison and Pollution


It was a tough week for the BNSF Railway in the Semiahmoo Peninsula, with bad news coming their way from both White Rock and Crescent Beach. This all started when I drove down Marine Drive into West beach and noticed something glaringly different about the parkland near the tracks. Running a commercial gardening company and having previously worked decades ago as a salesman for Western Weed Control that spayed train tracks, it was glaringly apparent that the rail corridor through White Rock had been sprayed with herbicide. By the orangish-yellow colour of the dead grass, it had obviously been treated with Roundup or a related product containing the chemical Glyphosate.

A two metre wide strip of lawn had been sprayed north of the tracks from the end of Bayview Park to the boat launch and closer to the pier grass had also been treated on the water side around an area with park benches. Further inspection revealed that blackberries all along the Promenade had been sprayed including decorative pampas grass and blackberries in East beach. Roundup is a non-selective herbicide meaning that it will effectively kill most vegetation it contacts, translocating down into the roots to ensure plants do not come back. While the BNSF does have a "Vegetation Control Program" that was advertised several years ago in newspapers, they failed to post signage about when the spraying had been done, the chemical used or the application strength as is required. Their spokesperson Gus Melonas had this to say about the White Rock spraying, "The sprayer was accidentlally left on the on position as we went through the area (vegetaiton control program) We are looking into this matter and discussing further with the city." The date given for this spraying was early Sunday morning on April 28th.

When the BNSF became aware that they had inadvertantly sprayed parkland lawns next to the tracks and promenade, they should have roped off the areas in question and posted the appropriate warning signage. Because of this inaction, people were exposed to Roundup and I saw people walking there dogs on the dead grass, girls walking barefoot in the same area and a man sitting down on a bench pulling off his boots before stepping onto the dead turf. At the end of west beach, there were "ghost footprints", where the herbicide has been carried from the treated zone onto healthy lawn towards Marine Drive. While a quick fix would now be to power rake the dead grass and reseed, the powers that be instead want to pave the sprayed portion of Bayview park. I believe this is a ill-conceived idea as it will reduce the already small amount of greenspace at the waterfront and invite people to walk from the end of the promenade to the terminus of the safety railing, likely increasing trespassing on the busy BNSF tracks by people using it as a nature path.


On Thursday night, the Wilderness Committee was in Crescent Beach, holding a "Community Meeting on Coal" that attracted a large crowd of local residents concerned about increasing coal train traffic. Plans are afoot to bring millions of tonnes of U.S. Powder River Basin thermal coal here for shipment to Asia for use in their electrical generating plants. The proposed new coal loading facility at the Fraser Surrey Docks on the Fraser River will export 4 million tonnes of coal per year with plans to expand it to 8 million tonnes utilizing barges to move the black rock to a deep water port on Texada Island. You can expect this to change to large bulk carriers if the George Massey tunnel is replaced, allowing larger ships into the south arm of the Fraser River. With Jimmy Pattison's Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank moving 33 million tonnes a year, Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver being expanded and the Fraser Surrey Docks likely to be rubber-stamped by the unelected Port Metro Vancouver, these facilities could ship up to 59 million tonnes of coal per year. This would make the Lower Mainland the largest exporter of this dirtiest of fossil fuels in North America, with most of it rumbling along tracks at the bottom of Panorama Ridge or through White Rock.

While most of the local opposition to increased coal train traffic focused on coal dust release, health effects and respiratory disease, ground vibrations and property value decrease plus blocked road and beach access, there were plenty of dire warnings about the green house gases (GHG) related to this industry. BC, Washington and Oregon have a globally green reputation on leadership in clean energy and environmental policy but we are turning a blind eye to the shipment of fossil fuels out of Cascadia. In a report released this week by the Sightline Institue ( that focuses on "smart solutions for a sustainable Northwest", they detail the total Northwest fossil fuel exports and their global contribution to GHG's. Currently there are 16 new energy exporting projects being planned for the region including 5 new coal terminals, 2 expansions of coal terminals, 3 new oil pipelines and 6 new natural gas pipelines, with 11 of these being located in BC. If all of these fossil fuel energy projects were given the green light, they would collectively produce an estimated 760 million tonnes of CO2 annually, 12 times the total amount currently emitted by the province of BC.

If you want to join the fight to stop White Rock from becoming a coal town and to put the brakes on global climate change, make your feelings known to politicians at all levels and consider joining any or all of the following organizations listed below plus write the Board of Metro Vancouver (see Wilderness Committee website) about stopping coal port expansion. If you need any more evidence to the effect that climate change will have on the planet and future generations, consider the following stories that made headlines over the past week:
- The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that global concentrations of CO2 reached a milestone 400 parts per million, a reading not seen in 3 million years.
- An internation study released in the Journal Science revealed that Canada's Arctic plays a lead role in stoking global sea level rise, with glaciers adding an average 40 billion tonnes of meltwater per year into the world's oceans.
- UBC research study published in Nature reports that as oceans grow warmer due to climate change, iconic B.C. fish species such as salmon and eulichan are being forced from their normal habitat as they seek cooler waters or are displaced by warm-water species.
- A monster 2 km. wide EF5 tornado tears a 23 km. long path of destruction through Moore, Oklahoma, flattening everything in its path, levelling two schools and killing 24 people, eclipsing the damage from the massive 1999 "Good Friday" tornado that previously struck the same portion of the state.

The Wilderness Committee (Coal Free BC) -
Power Past Coal (No Coal Exports) -
Coal Export Action (No Coal Northwest) -
Voters Taking Action on Climate Change -
CO2Now - -

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



May 13, 2013

Clearly Funny Money

The south Surrey Gateway Casino application attracted plenty of community and media interest before it was ultimately rejected, with Surrey's Mayor Dianne Watts casting the deciding "nay" vote after several marathon Surrey council meetings. There were plenty of arguments on both sides as to how this project would be a boon to the local economy, or a community blight that would bring with it a host of social and criminal ills. One of the major concerns was that the proposed casino would attract gangsters and organized crime looking to launder drug money by magically turning it into casino winnings. Anytime you have a cash-rich environment you also attract thieves looking to rip off the house, either at the gaming tables, with guns in hand, or by passing off counterfeit currency. With the new $100, $50 and $20 Canadian polymer bank notes now in circulation and the $10 and $5 bills due out later this year, you would think that with these hard to duplicate bills, counterfeiting would be a thing of the past. Unfortunately that is no longer the case with many of the "window-pane" $100 bills discovered to be fakes over the weekend at several Lower Mainland casinos.

I learned of this problem facing Canada's money supply from a confidential informant and due to the sensitivity of this topic, I cannot reveal which betting establishments were affected or give details that would likely reveal them as the source of the information. What I can tell you is that the counterfeit $100 bills were laminated onto plastic, giving them the same feel and look as the new polymer bank notes including the clear window that many people count on as the main identifying safety feature. Here is a list of the details that were not quite right on the fakes that led to the counterfeit $100 bills being uncovered as worthless:
- the laminated plastic is thicker than the authentic polymer bills.
- the tan and brown colours are slightly lighter than in the original.
- the top of the East Block Parliament tower hologram located at the bottom of the clear window is missing.
- the 100's at the bottom of Sir Robert Borden's portrait in the window hologram are missing or backwards.
- the brail dots at the top of the bill are absent and the plastic is smooth to the touch.
- the clear maple leaf secondary window is rough to the touch on the back of the bill.
- a thin clear plastic strip is visible on the top of the bills.
- three different serial numbers are used, EKD 7647222, EKD 7647227 and EKD 7647229.

It was not that long ago that many businesses would not accept the old paper $50 and $100 dollar bills due to the large number of counterfeits floating around, most produced with new colour computer printers and digital scanners. I remember the first time I saw several of these fake paper hundreds about 15 years ago that had been given to a customer at a Royal Bank. My neighbour's friend, who was a real estate agent in West Vancouver, had withdrawn five $100 bills and was given three by a teller that were counterfeit. In the light of my friend's living room, it was impossible to notice the subtle differences between the real bills and the bogus ones. It was only under a bright fluorescent light that the lack of security features found on the real bills became noticeable. Considering that the man who had the bills was a multi-millionaire with a hefty bank account, he did not have any problem returning the counterfeit bills to the red-faced staff of his local bank. Since that time I have seen plenty of smaller denominations that have been faked, especially the purple $10's and even the blue $5 dollar notes. I even had one rather hilarious incident where a Tim Horton's employee tried to give me a counterfeit $5 for change that I would not accept, with her blind to the obvious problems on this poor quality counterfeit.

Unfortunately it now appears that we will once again have to start checking each and every bill we receive to ensure that the money is real and not made in somebody's basement or by an organized criminal syndicate. The following information is taken from the Bank of Canada website that can be found online at if you want to see pictures of the security features with these descriptions.
1. Raised Ink. Feel the raised ink on the large number, the shoulders of the large portrait and the words "Bank of Canada" and "Banque du Canada."
2. Large Window. Look for transparency through the large window containing a metallic portrait and building.
3. Metallic Portrait. Look at the details in the metallic portrait in the large window. It matches the large portrait.
4. Metallic Building. Look at the details in the metallic building in the large window. Tilt the note to see sharp colour changes in the building.5. Small Numbers. Look at the numbers in and around the large window that match the value of the note. Some of the numbers appear in reverse.
6. Transparent Text. Look at the word "Canada" in the large window. It is transparent and feels slightly raised.
7. Maple Leaf Border. Look at the maple leaves that border the large window. Some of the leaves cross into the window.
8. Frosted Maple Leaf Window. Look at the small frosted maple leaf window to see that it has a transparent outline and hidden numbers seen backlit by a bright light.
9. Flip. Flip the note to see the features in the large window repeated in the same colours and detail on the other side.

Nearly 45,000 counterfeit Canadian bank notes were passed in 2012, totalling $1.6 million. This is a dramatic reduction of 92% from the peak counterfeiting year of 2004, when there were 470 fake bills for every one million legitimate ones. As far as I can tell, this is the first time that a counterfeit polymer bank note has been passed in Canada and I'm sure that the RCMP will be taking this matter seriously and likely using casino security camera footage to attempt to find the person or person's responsible. Hopefully the police will release pictures of the fake polymer bills so that the Canadian public will know what details to look for and also realize that they need to keep an eye on their cash once again. Too many of us have been lulled into a false sense of security about these hard to counterfeit bills, utilizing a quick check of colour and the transparent windows to ensure they are real. Until we know how widespread this problem is and get to see the quality of the fake bills, Canadians will have to become better acquainted with the host of security features in the new bills that separate them from the counterfeit ones. The unfortunate effect may be that once again, you will find local retails no longer accepting large denomination Canadian banknotes.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



May 06, 2013

Surrey Strong


You had to wonder how high the body count was going to get in Surrey before the RCMP finally decided to take a stand on the ongoing tit for rat-a-tat-tat-tat gun violence that had been plaguing this city, not just in 2013, but for years including the Surrey Six Massacre back in 2007. From that year until 2012, BC saw 136 gang-related homicides in the province, not counting the wave of murders recently seen this year in Surrey. It figures that it would take a high-profile daytime execution in south Surrey for something to finally be done about this problem since this is where Mayor Watts and Council do their weekend shopping. Not that the surveillance cameras installed on Colebrook Road after four bodies were dumped there was ignoring the issue but you had to wonder how this would help the murder rate that has you 24 times more likely to be gunned down in Surrey than the Greater Toronto Area on a per capita basis. If Surrey City Hall didn't like Surrey Shirts ( anti-gang violence, "The Future Dies Here" or "Better Safe Than Surrey" T-shirts, something tells me they won't like the one on the drawing board that reads, "Surrey - Canada's Murder Capital" with a chalk outline of a body on a sidewalk. Hopefully we can stop the hit-parade on our streets and keep this future headline from becoming fact.

My March 18 TNT titled "Colebrook in the Cross-hairs" (scroll down if you missed it) took aim at the growing gang and gun violence problem that has been allowed to explode in Surrey. Since that time we have had two more murders plus three targeted shootings in Whalley over the past month where the victims were shot in the legs. I guess that dead men don't pay their drug debts but dealers who walk with a limp can still make money selling crack and meth. The amazing this about all of this violence since the start of 2013 is that not one person had been charged with any of the murders and shootings! Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that the Surrey RCMP, IHIT and CFSEU (BC's anti-gang unit) have plenty of leads and likely know who is involved but need evidence to ensure that charges stick. It was great to hear Chief Supt. Bill Fordy finally stand up and voice that the latest shooting in the Morgan Crossing area was "disgusting" and "unacceptable" instead of babbling on how Surrey is generally safe unless you are a gangster as he did in early January when the body count stood at only three. For myself the shooting of anybody in Surrey, whether known to police or not or if considered a gangster or innocent victim makes no difference. As far as I'm concerned, only goofs carry guns and if you were raised in Surrey you know these are fighting words.

Chief Fordy has asked local businesses and city residents to "Stand beside us" against gangsters, telling people that own restaurants, bars and gyms to turn away those involved in organized crime. One problem though, how do you identify someone as being a known gangster unless they have been outed in public? A good friend of mine has a shaved head, large beard, thick arms, is covered with tatoos and drives a "pimped-out" vehicle. Most people look at him and think gangster but in fact he's a local artist with no criminal affiliation, a heart of gold, and some rather amazing talent. If a business owner correctly identifies a gang-banger and has them kicked out of their business, who is to say this will not invite retaliation. Take away the Gucci sunglasses and Armani suits and Jonathan Bacon looked more like a stock broker than someone with the handle "notorious" tied to his name. Its the police's job to identify these wiseguys and to make life difficult for them and it appears that the Surrey RCMP are finally going to take a page from Delta and Abbotsford's playbook and begin hounding these jerks and hopefully making arrests that result in lengthy jail sentences from our appointed judges.

The CFSEU now has their own website ( and they have recently released a nine-page newsletter to help parents, educators and those who work with young people to help identify when someone is at risk of going into a criminal lifestyle or joining a gang. It makes for a very interesting read into the world of gangs and the police agents tasked at breaking up their criminal enterprises and is a must read for anyone with children going to school in Surrey (download from Another great place to find information about our gang problem is at the Gangsters Out blog ( where "Agent K" dispenses a running commentary about murders, arrests and convictions of known gang affiliates. Kim Bolan of the Vancouver Sun keeps her finger on the pulse of organized crime in BC, writing stories for the newspaper and posting on her crime beat blog ( Local Surrey writer and columnist for the 24 Hours Laila Yuile likes to stick her nose into the underhanded dealings of the underworld in her "No Strings Attached" blog ( that also focuses on politics in BC, not that the two are ever related. The more you watch the headlines, visit these places on the internet, or even drop by the CFSEU headquarters like I recently did, you become aware of the scope of the problem we are facing and how we all need to fight back collectively against it.

What we need in Surrey is a multi-faceted approach to dealing with our gang problem, one that includes the various police organizations, politicians at all levels of government, leaders of churches and temples, teachers and educators, and most importantly, the citizens of this city. This program needs to have a name synonymous with Surrey, its long history and the no-nonsense people who live here. In Boston, the mantra "Boston Strong" became the rallying cry after the murderous terrorist attack that targeted the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I'm proposing that the name for the combined community effort to clean up Surrey, end our gun violence problem and root out gangsters be called "Surrey Strong." Just like the premise behind Surrey Shirts, the concept is to invoke civic pride asking citizens to do their part to help police do their job and stop the shootings that are giving this town a bad name from coast-to-coast in Canada. Surrey will be half-a-million people strong next month and the power of its people to accomplish great things when given the proper civic motivation cannot be overlooked. I'd like to see ads in bus shelters, local newspapers, at our high schools and on the website campaigning for "Surrey Strong" and asking everyone to work collectively to end the gang violence problem and anonymously report gang crime to or by calling toll-free at 1-800-222-8477.

The Semi-Pen community never ceases to amaze me and I could not believe it when during the all-candidates meeting held at the Star-of-the-Sea, the largely grey-haired crowd reacted in thunderous applause with the concept of legalizing marijuana beyond its medicinal use sanctioned by Health Canada. With the recent decriminalization of the demon weed in both Washington State and Colorado, you have to wonder why BC did not take the lead in repealing pot prohibition? I've been told that the lucrative sales of BC Bud return 80% of the profits gained by organized crime in this province, money that is reinvested in cocaine, crack, meth, designer drugs and of course heroin. It is these drugs and the addictions they cause that are responsible for many of our social ills and high property crime rates along with gun battles over turf and control. If BC wants a legacy fund to pay off its huge provincial debt, why not take the pot profits from the gangs and instead build a new agricultural commodity that can be taxed and properly regulated? As far as paying for the war on gangs, taking the bad guys toys and investments under the Proceeds of Crime legislation should be considered as it is the lure of easy money and plenty of bling that attracts many to the gangster lifestyle in the first place.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn



April 29, 2013


With the Provincial election well underway and candidate lawn signs sprouting like mushrooms across the Semiahmoo Peninsula, I'm fighting the urge to use this podium to take pot-shots at my rivals or advance my political agenda. That certainly wouldn't be fair and to be quite honest, I'm rather fond of people who step forward and throw themselves into the public spotlight to do their civic duty. I find negative commentary and advertising to be a complete turn-off and certainly wouldn't want to wallow into that sordid cesspool. After all, the high road is usually less travelled and the view is often spectacular as long as you are on the lookout for pot holes and sharp corners that could cause a stunning fall from grace.

That being said, this TNT edition is going to focus on elections, in particular how this provincial election might impact future municipal ones in Surrey and nearby cities. With civic politics often being used as a stepping stone to higher office, both mayors and councillors often look to run in either provincial or federal elections. Unfortunately this usually means that the candidate, if successfully elected, will resign from their previously held position at City Hall, necessitating a by-election. We saw an unfortunate version of this last year where in White Rock, long-time councillor Mary Wade-Anderson passed away, forcing a by-election in the city by the sea. With a population of 19,000 and a land base measuring only 5 acres, this exercise in democracy resulted in Bill Lawrence being elected at a cost for this smallest of cities that was a rather large $32,000. That is chicken feed when compared to municipalities with a large land base and numerous residents where by-elections come with a hefty price tag.

In Surrey, Councillor Marvin Hunt has decided to run for the BC Liberals in the Surrey Panorama riding after star candidate Suhk Dhaliwal had to withdraw due to troubles with the tax man. I'm actually a rather big fan of Mr. Hunt, having dealt with him on a variety of occasions on topics ranging from Nav Canada to solid waste at Metro Vancouver and many transportation safety issues. The problem is that if Mr. Hunt is successful in getting elected to the legislature in Victoria, it means he will suddenly find himself in two political jobs. While he has offered to stay on until the next civic election and donate his Surrey paycheck to charity, it is likely he will be asked to resign by members of Surrey First forcing a by-election before the set Nov 2014 civic election date. The cost associated with a by-election in Surrey has been estimated at between $500,000 to $800,000, depending on whose numbers you trust. This problem is not contained only to Surrey with three councillors in Delta running to become the new MLA with a by-election price tag of $180,000. Langley's Mayor Peter Fassbender is running in Surrey-Fleetwood with the Langley City by-election cost pegged at $40,000. Further out in the valley, two councillors are running in Abbotsford with a $300,000-$350,000 by-election price estimate. Adding the higher numbers and you get, $1,370,000 for only four Lower Mainland cities!

This exercise in democracy might be worthwhile were it not for the fact that municipal elections generally attract a low voter turnout and by-elections are notorious for being all but ignored by the electorate. The last White Rock by-election in 2011 attracted a record low 15% voter turnout, beating out the previous low of 16% for the 2009 by-election that resulted from Councillor James Coleridge's election win being nullified by a judge. Instead of holding a by-election at great cost and dubious result, I'd like to suggest a much more economical and democratically sound solution. Once the civic election results are verified and the Mayor and Council chosen, the next person in line becomes the official "Candidate in Waiting (CW)." In the case of a councillor being unable to fulfill their duties, the CW steps forward to assume their position. This is similar to the Miss America content where a winner is crowned but a replacement is chosen should they resign or be stripped of their title (as has happened in the past - see Vanessa Williams). Not that I'm a homer, but for the last White Rock civic election the Candidate in Waiting would have been none other than Dave Chesney, the editor of the White Rock Sun. For Surrey, their CW is former Mayor and long-time Councillor Bob Bose who was looking rather spry when I visited him several weeks ago at his Ocean Park home.

This same concept could also be expanded to avoid a by-election for position of city mayor. It was widely believed that Surrey's Mayor Dianne Watts was considering running for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party and if selected would have also initiated a by-election. There are two situations that could be used to avoid a costly by-election in this case rather than waste between a half to three-quarters of a million taxpayers dollars. First would be for the elected councillors to simply take turns as acting Mayor, something that already happens on a monthly basis while the Mayor is out of town on business or taking a vacation from the pressures of public office, with the CW being moved into Council. Another idea would be to place the councillor who received the most votes in the civic election into the Mayor's chair while then promoting the Candidate in Waiting to replace them. Either way, with civic elections attracting on average only a third of the electorate and by-elections half of that, I believe that we would be better served by the results from a full-blown election. In order to keep the Candidate in Waiting informed and interested in the political process, they could even be paid a modest stipend for every time they appeared at a Council meeting. In the end, this would likely be much cheaper than paying vast sums of money to hold by-elections that few show any real interest in.

For those of you that this is an affront to the democratic principles and that these by-elections should be held regardless of the cost, consider what happens in the bastion of freedom and democracy, the United States of America. Voters there elect a person for President and if for any reason they are unable to complete the term, the Vice-President steps in to take his place. We have seen this following presidential assassinations such as John F. Kennedy and resignations including Richard Nixon. In fact, the American Government has a presidential line of succession that includes fifteen people starting with the V.P., Speaker of the House, President of the Senate and then the Secretaries of State, Treasury and Defence. If the government of the U.S. can select their Commander-in-Chief from a pre-ordained list, I see no reason why we should not be able to use the results of a previous election to fill vacancies at the municipal level. In fact, this same rational might also be considered to fill power vacuums at both the Provincial and Federal levels should MLA's or MP's not be able to complete their full terms. It certainly beats adding to the massive debt that is being accumulated in both BC and Ottawa that eventually will have to be paid for by future generations.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn


There are a number of Councillors seeking a Provincial seat, here is the breakdown of the cost of a by-election in the various districts affected.
Approximate by-election costs
Delta- $180,000
Councillors Sylvia Bishop and Scott Hamilton are running as an NDP and Liberal respectively in Delta-North
Councillor Bruce McDonald is running as a Liberal in Delta-South
Surrey- $500,000 to 750,000
Councillor Marvin Hunt is running as a Liberal in Surrey-Panorama
Abbotsford- $300,00 to $350,000
Councillor Moe Gill is running as an Independent in Abbotsford-West
Councillor Simon Gibson is running as a Liberal in Abbotsford-Mission
Langley- $40,000
Mayor Peter Fassbender is running as a Liberal in Surrey-Fleetwood



April 22, 2013

Putting the "Capital" in Coast Capital

My affiliation with the current day Coast Capital Savings goes way back in time beginning over a quarter century ago when I first started banking with them. At that time I was a member of the Surrey Credit Union and I maintained several of their self-owned properties for many years along with getting my first mortgage from this institution. Getting larger and opening more branches, they changed the name to Surrey Metro Savings, ditching the credit union name while positioning themselves for more expansion into areas outside Surrey. In June of 2002, SMS was bought out by the larger Coast Capital Savings that was originally formed from the amalgamation of Pacific Coast Savings Credit Union and Richmond Savings Credit Union. In its current form, Coast Capital Savings, headquartered in Surrey, has assets of $11.8 billion and over 500,000 members with 1,900 employees.

I found myself standing in the teller's lineup at the Morgan Heights/Grandview Crossing branch last week, looking around for the paper banking slips that have now been eliminated. By chance I happened to glance over at the reception desk where there was a small stack of blue brochures with the title, "Board of Directors Update & Special Resolution." Now reading banking financial and operational highlights for me is right up there with with watching paint dry but the "Special Resolution" portion caught my interest and I resolved to read about what was so special at Coast Capital. What I learned is that south Surrey resident Phil Embley, himself a Coast Capital member, had forced a special resolution regarding the pay for the Credit Union's directors and that a vote on this issue was currently taking place. What was interesting was that while advertisements and message flashed by on the many television boards throughout the branch, there was nothing to note that this vote was taking place or that there was only one day left to place your ballot. It was only by chance that I noticed the resolution containing information from both Coast Capital and Mr. Embley about this conflict.

In the provided booklet, Coast Capital lays out their case for their director compensation framework which decides their financial remuneration. It turns out that back in 2007 the directors were given the power to decide their own pay in order to attract qualified directors. Through various flow charts graphs they explain how the directors pay relates to other Credit Unions, admitting that director compensation has increased but that it is related to increases in Coast Capital's size and complexity. While Phil Embley was allowed to include his own member's statement regarding the special resolution in the brochure, it came with a bold disclaimer stating,"Coast Capital advises our members that some of the facts alleged in the statement are inaccurate and misleading." Mr. Embley had previously worked to defeat a special resolution at Westminster Savings Credit Union that would have allowed directors to control their own pay, which received a 70% against vote. Under the Financial Institution Act, Mr. Embley worked to get 300 Coast Capital members to sign his petition even though he was barred from standing at Credit Union doors and not allowed to protest on their property. Utilizing paid advertising and media attention, he got the needed signatures in 20 days forcing the resolution. Mr. Embley has advised me that while he has asked three times for an explanation about the alleged inaccurate and misleading facts in his statement, he has not received a reply from the board of directors on what he considers to be character assassination.

The following is the statement that was printed regarding the special resolution and the voting that closed last week. Results will be presented on April 30 at the 2013 Coast Capital AGM at the Executive Airport Plaza Hotel & Conference Cen