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The Naked Truth

 

 

Don Pitcairn

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

 

DISCLAIMER;

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

 

The Naked Truth - November 20, 2017

White Rock Star

Sleepy little White Rock and quiet south Surrey certainly got shaken out of their doldrums last week with political heavyweights rolling into town as a prelude to the upcoming federal by-election. Without a doubt, the arrival of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in White Rock to give his support to Liberal candidate Gordie Hogg was nothing short of having a rock star show up with hordes of screaming fans; somewhere between Beetlemania and Trudeaumania from yesteryear. The Semi-pen's by-election even got the attention of the Province's political writer Michael Smyth in his Victoria's Secrets column this Sunday titled "Trudeau's Liberals aim to steal Surrey seat away from Tories" that you can read at: http://theprovince.com/news/bc-politics/mike-smyth-trudeaus-liberals-look-to-steal-surrey-seat-away-from-tories

While it was only announced the night before, word spread quickly that the PM would be dropping by to visit the 5 Corners region, with people already crowding into the area around noon to get a spot to see J.T. His motorcade with RCMP security detail first drove up Buena Vista Ave. at 1:45 p.m. stopping in front of White Rock City Hall where Trudeau exited a blackened Escalade without a blazer and with his sleeves already rolled up as he is known to do when pressing the flesh. Justin shook hands with Gordie Hogg and was welcomed by Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell and White Rock Councillor Dave Chesney. After introductions and pleasantries, it was photo-op time along Buena Vista for everyone before the Prime Minister and his entourage headed down the street to his waiting fans. Strangely absent from the scene was White Rock's Mayor Wayne Baldwin and the rest of Council even with Canada's leader showing up at their doorstep.

Laura's Coffee Corner was the first stop for the Justin Trudeau as he worked his way through the crowd estimated at over 1,000 strong, shaking hands, fist pumping, holding babies and having people take selfie after selfie of themselves with the Prime Minister. It was if everyone wanted to meet the man personally, take a photo to mark the occasion and be part of the high-energy atmosphere. For whatever reason, when J.T. shows up it is like a rock star walks into the room, with the only things missing being the mosh pit, crowd surfing and the mains of speakers. After getting to meet with the staff of Laura's, the PM worked his way down Pacific Ave to Five Corners Cafe where he was graciously welcomed by the Honeywells. I'm sure it won't be long till pictures of their meeting with the Prime Minister and Gordie Hogg are added to their wall of fame. It was not a total love-in as several activists were on hand to keep it real and remind the junior Trudeau of his father's promise back in 1972 to have the BNSF railway relocated from the waterfront.

Dianne Watts may have abruptly folded her tent and abandoned the constituents in south Surrey - White Rock but the Conservatives are still hoping to hold on to the seat that she narrowly won the last general election. Amazingly on the same day that the Prime Minister was in White Rock, the new Tory leader Andrew Sheer was in south Surrey at the Pacific Inn to lend his support to their high-profile Conservative candidate, former MP for Richmond - Delta East and Cabinet Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay. While not the high-octane reception the PM enjoyed at 5 Corners, there were 250-300 people at this event held for volunteers and supporters helping with the by-election machinations. With the Liberals pushing ahead with marijuana legalization, opponents were also on hand to deliver a 9,000 signature petition to the Conservative leader opposing the end to pot prohibition.

In case you missed it, Tom Saunders provided the following piece which was posted earlier last week in the WR Sun that I thought should be added here for prosperity because of its historical content. That's now six Prime Ministerial visits and counting for the City By The Sea.


Did you know that half of all Prime Ministers visiting White Rock have gravitated to Five Corners? John Diefenbaker spoke at the Star of the Sea Hall, Pierre Trudeau opened French Immersion at White Rock Elementary, and today Justin Trudeau visited Laura's Coffee Corner and Five Corners Cafe. The rest, of course, visited the beach - Brian Mulroney came in on a hovercraft for a sandcastle competition, Kim Campbell ate at Charlie Don't Surf, and Jean Chretien visited the White Rock Museum & Archives.

With the close of nominations for candidates in the S. Surrey-White Rock Federal by-election on Monday, November 20, the ballot is suddenly getting rather full.
Here is the full list of six candidates who have been confirmed as of Sunday night.
Larry Colero, Green Party of Canada
Kerry-Lynne Findlay, Conservative Party of Canada
Gordie Hogg, Liberal Party of Canada
Michael Huenefeld, Progressive Canadian Party
Jonathan Silveira, New Democratic Party
Donald Wilson, Libertarian Party of Canada

Unfortunately by-elections are often taken for granted with many of the electorate not bothering to exercise their democratic right to vote. In my opinion it has been a very long time since we have proper representation in the House of Commons or an MP that actually listened to their constituents. I believe that in this election we have a chance to change that and send someone to Ottawa that will be our voice on in Parliament. The Liberals won a record 17 seats in BC in the last election and want to break that with 18, sweeping all Surrey ridings. The Conservatives want to hold onto their formerly safe seat that may now be up for grabs. There are six candidates so do your research , get to know them and make an informed decision. No matter who you endorse, it is vitally important that you GET OUT TO VOTE! Advance polls are Dec. 1-4 and voting day is Mon., Dec. 11th. I expect this election will be very close so make sure to make you mark and pick your Member of Parliament.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 14, 2017

A Time to Remember

 

Living a stone's throw from the #240 Crescent Beach Legion, this is where I've gone in the past on Remembrance Day to pay my respects, honour those who have served our country and be part of the rather sombre festivities on November 11th. While my parents never served during times of war, they are both veterans of the Canadian Air Force, my Mom as a nurse and my father as a pilot. I've had plenty of exposure to the military over the years, joining the New Westminster Regiment and BC Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own) as a cadet and being a member of the Seaforth Highlanders shooting team. On various military ranges I have met and competed against Regular Force and Reserve Force personnel from across Canada, getting to know them well and hear their stories about serving our country. The most recent stories from Iraq involving Canadian sniper teams fighting against ISIS insurgents were both inspiring and terrifying at the same time, with gruesome details from a senior officer that I will not repeat here. While I admire their dedication and service to our country, I must admit it is a hell of a dangerous way to make a living.

My friend and Carpadia Series author Mike Markevitch faithfully attends the White Rock Remembrance Day celebrations on a yearly basis, wearing his father's military medals and a navy beret to honour his Dad who passed away many years ago on Nov. 10th. Volunteering for Navy duty with three of his brothers in WW2, Mike's father spent five years aboard the Gatineau that was an escort ship for the many convoys heading across the Atlantic Ocean. Besides protecting the freighters, their job was to hunt and destroy German U-boats using depth charges. I decided to take Mike up on his offer to come join him at his regular position directly in front of the White Rock Cenotaph. If you have never spent Remembrance Day there before, make sure you mark it on your calendar for next year. The ceremony began with a window rattling fly-over by four Harvard aircraft in diamond formation. The 907 Black Knight Air Cadet Squadron was in attendance in numbers, featuring their marching band and honour guard. The Surrey Fire Department Pipes and Drums were also there to add their bagpipes to the spectacle, along with plenty of other emergency responders. White Rock's Mark Donnelly (aka Mr. O' Canada) gave a very stirring version of O' Canada that everyone in the large crowd sang along to. A lone replica Sopwith Pup from the Canadian Museum of flight in Langley slowly circled above City Hall as speeches were made and wreaths were laid. Fortunately the rain held off until the ceremony was almost over.

While there were plenty of other Remembrance Day celebrations being held across the Lower Mainland on Saturday, up in Guildford on the #1 Freeway, Nov 11th took on a new meaning with work being done a few weeks ago to preserve the history of "Charlie's Tree." As previously posted in the WR Sun, here is a short history:
The memorial was created by Charlie Perkins, a World War I veteran flight instructor who was the only returnee of his friends from The Great War. He planted ivy at the tree in a grove where he and his friends would spend their days as youngsters, as a way to honour them forever. When construction of Highway 1 in 1960 threatened to travel right in the path of his tree, Charlie stood his ground, resulting in that curve in the highway to preserve the reminder of his beloved friends.
The tree took on an even greater significance, as a reminder for those who fought for the freedoms that Canadians exercise each and every day. Over the years, Charlie’s Tree endured a lot: it was set a blaze and topped, but just like Charlie, the tree persevered and the memorial lived on and visitors decorated it with flags and flowers. In the summer of 2016 the tall stump that was left of Charlie’s Tree fell onto Hwy 1 blocking several of the east bound lanes.

The Friends of Old Canada Society, a volunteer not-for-profit group that helps to promote and preserve smaller Canadian history decided that Charlie's Tree memorial needed something more permanent than a rotten stump. In behind the Art Knapps store on the King George Blvd. in south Surrey, Ves Vukovic of the monument company Stonemarks (stonemarks.com) put his talents as a master stonemason to work, building a new granite memorial dedicated to Charlie Perkins and his now fallen Fir tree. Working with several of the Vanderzalm family and other members of the Friends, they cleaned up the area around the old stump, created a new gravel and concrete base and positioned the large inscribed granite slab to have it ready for this year's Remembrance Day celebrations. To top it off, a Douglas Fir tree was also planted in the same spot as the original, with care to cut back the invasive English Ivy that had likely hastened the demise of the first tree. Written in stone in both English and French, here is the inscription on the rock: "CHARLIE'S TREE - The ivy planted at the base of a giant Douglas Fir on this site was a memorial to North American WW1 Royal Flying Corps pilots. The pilots were trained in Canada and the United States by lifetime British Columbian Charlie Perkins, the man behind the memorial. Circa 1918".

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of Charlie's Tree and thanks to the Friends of Old Canada, it is likely this new memorial will be around for centuries to come. As the years go by since the Great Wars and the survivors of these conflicts slowly dwindle in numbers, it is important to remember their sacrifices and their place in history, lest we forget.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

 

November 06, 2017

 

Mark Your Calendars - Dec. 11 is Voting Day

 

It really is amazing how the dominoes tumbled to lead us to the political crossroads I witnessed on Sunday. First the BC Liberals run a lackluster campaign, losing their majority in the Legislature allowing the NDP and Greens to grab the reins of power in Victoria. Feeling the sharp tips of the many knives pointed squarely at her back, Premier Christy Clark resigns as the leader of the Party, initiating a leadership race for the BC Liberals. To the surprise of many, Conservative MP Dianne Watts resigns two years into her stint as the south Surrey-White Rock MP to run for leader of the BC Liberal Party, triggering a Federal by-election here. On Sunday it was made official at a Liberal Party of Canada meeting held at the White Rock Community Centre where Gordon Hogg presented himself to the gathered throng as their Federal Liberal candidate. In case you were wondering, it is only four days shy of six months since Mr. Hogg retired as the BC Liberal MLA for south Surrey-White Rock after two decades of serving as our MLA.

To top all of this off, it was announced that morning by Election's Canada that the by-election will be held on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, a mere 36 days from now. By comparison, the 2015 election was the longest in Canadian history, an epic 76 days. If you remember, during the last Federal election in 2015 it was pro-pot statements previously posted on Facebook that caused the then Liberal candidate Joy Davies to resign only 39 days before the election. Her signs were hastily taken down while the Liberal Party brass looked for another candidate to take on the Conservative's all-star candidate, former Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts. Into the breach stepped the well-known if not often elected Judy Higginbotham whose hot-off-the-press election signs hit the streets only weeks before the Oct. 19 election. Even with being saddled with such a late campaign start, Higgy almost pulled off the upset for the Liberals, coming up only 1,500 votes short behind Watts who won by only 3% of the vote.

The meeting of Liberal minds on Sunday was a who's who of Semi-Pen politicos. Newly elected South Surrey White Rock MLA Tracey Reddies of the BC Liberals was there along with Federal Liberal MP Randeep Sarai from the Surrey Central riding. Former MLA and WR Councillor Ken Jones was on hand to welcome the other present White Rock councillors Helen fathers, Dave Chesney, Lynne Sinclair and Grant Meyer. The Semiahmoo First Nation were present with newly elected Chief Harley Chappell and Councillor Joanne Charles singing a welcome song written by Grand Chief Bernard Charles. For all of the recent issues that SFN has had with the City of White Rock, I must say that Chief Chappell was the most eloquent and articulate speaker of the day, asking everyone to "support our brother, our elder, our friend" Gordon Hogg. He had the crowd laughing when he equated his speech to talking to the groom at the wedding saying "Are you sure Gordie? There's still time to run!" Former White Rock Sun editor Vin Voyne, when commiserating about his long family history with the Hoggs had this to say about Gordon Hogg's recent Doctorate degree, "Should we call you Dr. Hogg the 2nd, Dr. Hogg Junior, or young Doctor Hogg?"

The Conservatives, New Democrats and BC Greens have yet to announce their candidates but whoever takes on Mr. Hogg are certainly in for a Bambi vs. Godzilla battle. I had the pleasure of running against Gordie in a Provincial election and know first hand what a class act and a fine man he really is. With his decades of public service and name recognition, it will be very tough to beat Gordon at the ballot box likely giving the Federal Liberals a clean sweep of all of the Surrey ridings The Conservatives could conjure up the spirit of John A. MacDonald, the NDP the dearly departed Jack Layton and I still think they would not have a ghost of a chance. Imagine what will happen if JT happens to pop into the riding in the next month to help Mr. Hogg with his campaigning? In case you missed the reference, that's what Liberal insiders call Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I learned this weekend that it was the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) that first inquired if Gordon Hogg was interested in joining the government in Ottawa when he was on Parliament Hill recently for World Health Organization discussions.

If and when Gordon Hogg becomes the next MP for South Surrey - White Rock there is one thing you can count on. After years and years of being underrepresented and all but ignored by our Members of Parliament, we will finally have someone in Ottawa who'll actually look after their constituents. As much as it pissed me off that Mrs. Watts would bail out of her duty to voters only two years into her mandate, it will be worth it if we can bring in someone with morals, integrity and a spirit of consensus and consultation. The person who should be cheering on Gordie's campaign the loudest must be Wayne Baldwin who likely heard the rumours of Mr. Hogg considering running for Mayor of White Rock next year. The person who should be campaigning for Watts to win the BC Liberal's leadership fight should be Surrey's Mayor Linda Hepner, since if Dianne fails in that quest, it would not surprise me to see the Queen of Surrey try to retake her marbled office at City Hall in civic elections in 2018.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 30, 2017


My Gift To You - Beware Of Pyramid Schemes!

I may be old fashioned but I believe the best way to earn money is to work for it. Imagine my surprise when I recently was told by friends that I could earn $40,000 tax free in a short period of time on an initial investment of only $5,000. Welcome to the "Gifting Circle", aka the "Birthday Circle", "Woman's Wisdom Circle" or "Birthday Girl" that first appeared several years ago in Calgary then in Fort MacMurray, Coquitlam, Abbotsford and is now in south Surrey and White Rock. Don't let the "Circle" name fool you as the only thing circular about it is the run around you will get when you lose your money. It doesn't matter what name they call it; it's a classic pyramid scheme that is illegal here in Canada and the US.

Let me explain how this scam works. There are 15 members placed into four levels; 1, 2, 4, and 8. Each member of the bottom 8 pays $5000 to enter as their gift. That money is then gifted to the person in the top position. After the “Birthday Gift” has been paid out to the top person, they exit the top level and may or may now buy back into the new bottom tier of 8 by gifting another $5000. The 2 from the second level now split, becoming the 1 in the top tier of each new group A and group B. The original 4 in the third level become 2 in group A and 2 in group B. The original 8 move up to the 4 positions in the third level and they must now recruit 8 new low level members for each group A and group B (16 in total) to keep the money coming to give as the next “Birthday Gift”.

As you can imagine, this scheme requires an ever increasing pool of suckers increasing at a rapid rate until it finally collapses like a stack of cards. While the gifting may allude to coming full circle, when you view the numbers of people laid out in their corresponding levels, ask yourself if you have seen this shape before, most likely near Giza, Egypt?
1
2 2
4 4 4 4
88888888
If you have a few grand to throw around and think this is harmless fun, realize that in the initial four tier pyramid, there is the equivalent of $75,000 in by-in money at all levels. It doesn't take very long before the splitting of the pyramids and increase in players result in a much larger base of people and money involved. If this scheme were to somehow continue to operate for only 20 levels, it would involve over half a million people, 524,288 to be precise, or more people that currently live in all of Surrey. By then the $5,000 by-in cost would have ballooned to a whopping $2.6 billion. Add only six more levels of suckers, the total number of people needed to support those at the top would be 33.5 million, or nearly everyone living in Canada.

A big red flag about the Gifting Circle is that there is no website, no written documents, no contracts, nothing to sign, and no contact information other than the person you know who sucked you into getting involved with this scam. Even more worrisome is that the players all use cute sounding fake names and email addresses with all meetings held in secret locations ensuring that you don't know the true identities of those involved or how many are getting fleeced. Unfortunately the main target of this pyramid scheme is often women, tricked into thinking this is somehow not illegal and how a small gift now will result in a larger gift eventually coming back to them in the near future. The sad part is that they often bring their friends and family members into this con game, not realizing it is likely they will never see their money again.

Its not like I'm the first one to ring alarm bells about this pyramid scheme. The Better Business Bureau or BBB sent out public warnings about Gifting Circles in August of both 2016 and 2017, stating that roughly 12-14% of those involved actually get the promised payout, leaving a high percentage of empty pockets.
https://www.bbb.org/mbc/news-centre/news-releases/2016/08/bbb-warns-of-pyramid-scheme-targeting-women/
https://www.bbb.org/mbc/news-centre/bbb-mbc-blog/2017/08/gifting-circles-still-here-still-a-problem/
The Coquitlam RCMP also had plenty to say about Gifting Circles in June of this year, with its Economic Crime Unit (ECU) investigators hoping to stop this new pyramid scheme.
http://bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=2115&languageId=1&contentId=51499
Global TV has reported multiple times on the BBB and RCMP news releases about the Gifting Circles but this is the first time to my knowledge that this pyramid scheme has appeared in south Surrey and White Rock.

If you don't want to be one of the estimated 87% of investors that never see a dime back from a Gifting Circle, then feel free to join. Unfortunately under Canadian Criminal Code 206(E) pyramid schemes are an indictable offence in relation to lotteries and games of chance, with those caught liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. At the end of the day, the naked truth about gifting circles is is that they'll ruin your finances and friendships. If you have been a victim of a Gifting Circle, don't be embarrassed at being caught up in this scheme and report it to the Surrey RCMP non-emergency reporting line at 604-599-0502. If you read this TNT column and tell two friends about this scam, and they tell two friends, who tell their two friends and so on, it won't take long before everyone living in the Semi-pen knows that Gifting Circles are for losers.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 23, 2017

 

Speed Reading at Surrey Schools

As someone who is interested in transportation issues and also a dedicated safety nut, it was refreshing to receive a letter from the City of Surrey's Transportation Division last week informing us about the "Arterial Road School Zone Awareness Pilot Program." While this is a bit of a mouthful, and with the cheeky abbreviation of ARS-ZAPP not really helping much, it's all about improving safety and visibility in school zones and hopefully slowing drivers down. Here is the bulk of the letter that also included a full-colour aerial photo showing the location of the new safety measures planned for our local school.

Dear resident:

This letter is to advise you about a pilot project we will be implementing in the school zone for Crescent Park Elementary School on 24 Avenue and 128 Street in your neighbourhood. As part of our Safe and Active Schools Program, the City of Surrey is committed to improving road safety around schools and, as such attention is being given to speed management on busy roads in 30 km/h school zones.

For this year-long pilot program, the City will be installing and evaluating various speed mitigation measures including amber flashing beacons on school signs, highly visible road marking, and speed reader boards. These measures are being applied on busy arterial roads where traffic calming (speed humps) is not permitted. These additional measures are intended to draw motorists attention to the hours of operation of the school zone and to signal to motorists to slow down to the posted speed.

At Crescent Park Elementary School, on both 24 Avenue and 128 Street, we will be piloting a new type of pavement marking in fluorescent yellow-green that reads "SCHOOL". This will help increase awareness of where the reduced speed limit begins, encouraging motorists to slow down. Additionally we will be installing two speed reader boards, one on 24 Avenue and one on 128 Street. Speed reader boards use radar to measure traffic speeds and provide real-time feedback by displaying the actual speed being traveled, raising awareness and encouraging slower speeds. This initiative is supported by our community partners including ICBC and the Surrey RCMP.

If you have any questions about this pilot project, please contact ken Lee by email at KLee@surrey.ca or by telephone at 604-589-7910. More information about the ARS-ZAPP program can be found on the City of Surrey website at the following link: http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/25059.aspx

The reason for these improvements is that according to ICBC data, an average of 253 children aged 5-18 are injured with 4 being killed in crashes while walking or cycling in the Lower Mainland. Shockingly even with lower speed limits, there are 42 children injured each year in school or playground zones. Besides the speed reading signs, flashing LED lights will be added to school zone signs and programmed to flash at school arrival, lunch and dismissal times when children are more likely to be on the streets. For Crescent Park Elementary, the high-viz pavement markings will be large square of yellow-green paint with the word SCHOOL stretched out to make it easier to see and read for drivers. I spotted the alternative elongated school zone sign newly painted on 184 Street in Cloverdale at Don Christian Elementary last week and stopped to take the picture you see above.

The ARS-ZAPP will be rolled out in two phases with eight Surrey elementary schools being part of this year-long pilot program from fall of 2017 to summer of 2018. During this time, the City will be conducting traffic studies on these schools and surveying the surrounding community to get their feedback on the effectiveness of the improvements. In the fall of 2018, the results from phase 1 will dictate how this program will be expanded to other Surrey school communities. The City of Surrey has invested heavily in safety, completed more than 700 projects from 2000- 2016 totaling $18.5M improving pedestrian crossings, sidewalks and pathways, signage projects, traffic calming and other road safety measures during that time.

A recent BCAA School Zone Safety Survey released in September showed that driving in school zones has gone from "bad to worse" with aggressive driving among parents including honking and swearing jumping almost 30 percent. Over 80 percent of respondents witnessed parents not following rules of the road including not stopping at a marked crosswalk (82%), driving over the speed limit (93%), with distracted driving also still increasing (82% to 86%). If you need an incentive to slow down, consider that if a vehicle traveling at 50 kmh strikes a pedestrian there is only a 20% chance of survival. If the vehicle is traveling at 30 kmh there is a 90% chance of survival. Remember that with our ever shorter days and nasty wet weather it is a 30 kmh speed limit in school zones from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on school days unless otherwise posted. Make sure you slow down, put your phone down, and keep our kids safe.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 16, 2017

Duck Feathers & Parrot's Feather

The Serpentine Fen Wildlife Management Area is always easy to view, usually without even stepping out of your vehicle. Its location in south Surrey alongside of King George Boulevard at 44 Ave. make it very easy to take in the various ponds, flocks of ducks and the water levels as you drive by. For years since it was first constructed, the Serpentine Fen has always remained a wetland during the summer months. The past three hot and dry summers have seen a rather startling change with much of the Fen drying out, leaving the remaining waterfowl crowded into dwindling puddles. While most people including myself thought this was simply from a lack of rain water, possibly linked to climate change, that is simply not the case.

Last week I was rather startled to see heavy construction equipment, men with hard hats, large plastic pipe and even a Chevy truck out on one of the small peninsulas in the Fen. I was not the only one who noticed these strange happenings as several people contacted me to ask if I had seen the work being done and if I knew what was happening. I had already stopped and taken a picture of the workmen and followed that up by contacting Ducks Unlimited who manage the Fen along with the Province of BC. While everyone I talked to had concluded the pipes were being installed to help control water levels, it turns out they were not for drainage. Ducks Unlimited are installing new larger signs further back from the KGB and the pipes were used to hold gravel that in turn stabilized the large posts placed in the boggy ground. The new signs should be posted in the coming weeks and expect an official unveiling of them in the near future.

What was interesting about my contact with the management at Ducks Unlimited was I found out that the drying out of the Fen had nothing to do with our unusually dry summers but was being done to help control an invasive species of aquatic plant. Taken from the Invasive Species of BC website (bcinvasives.ca) here is the dirt on what they are trying to eradicate.


Parrot’s feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum) is an aquatic perennial that is currently impacted several areas within BC. This species is known to out-compete and replace native aquatic vegetation with its dense stands. These stands also create pools of stagnant water, leading on an increase in mosquito breeding grounds. Parrot’s feather is currently present in freshwater lakes, ponds, or streams in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley regions.
Named for its feather-like bright green foliage, parrot’s feather has both submersed and emergent plant parts. Intertwined mats typically have standing stems over 1.5m in length which are covered in submersed stiff leaves roughly 2-5cm long; limp emergent leaves range from 1.5-3.5cm in length.
Unfortunately, parrot’s feather is a popular aquatic garden species and intentional planting has spread this species into natural water bodies. Generally, all parrot’s feather plants are female and because of this they do not produce seeds; this plant spreads via underground stems, and plant fragments can be dispersed with water, animals, boats, and fishing gear.
Once established, parrot’s feather is a difficult invasive to manage. Due to its submersed and emergent vegetation, herbicides are difficult to effectively implement. Prevention is key with the species; be plantwise and please avoid using parrot’s feather in aquatic gardens or aquariums. Properly clean, drain and dry your boat and fishing gear before leaving an infected site.

Parrot's feather is not the only invasive plant species that finds its way into the Serpentine Fen. Himalayan blackberry loves to grow alongside ditches and disturbed areas where its seeds are spread by songbirds. Yellow flag iris and purple loosetrife are plants used by landscapers for water features that have escaped into wetlands where their ability to product large amounts of seeds has lead to wide distribution. It is not only the plants that are foreign to the Fen, there are plenty of animals that are also present which are not native. If you drive by in the summer you can often see red-eared slider turtles sunning themselves on the floating logs, likely after being released there as former pets. Voracious common carp that are found in many of the tributaries of the Nicomekyl and Serpentine River can access the Fen through water control gates. The American bullfrog is also a problem as a friend of mine who works at the nearby Art Knapps saw one attack a Mallard duck baby and drag it into the depths of a ditch there.

I could not get an answer if the draining of the Fen is a summer condition that will be continued into the future. Apparently it is having the desired effect to decrease the invasive Parrot's feather without mechanical control or herbicide use. I was informed that the yellow flag iris and purple loosestrife are simply pulled out by hand when they are discovered along the Fen's waterways. The heavy rains forecast for this week should start to refill the Fen and soon it will turn back into the wetlands that we are used to. I have to admit that I do like the Fen much better with water in it as it makes for amazing sunsets reflecting off its ponds as I drove home to the Semiahmoo peninsula down King George Blvd. If you have not been there, take the time to walk the Fen's 3.5 Km. trail with elevated viewing platforms allowing you to spot the over 100 birds that stop there during the year. If you take your dog along for a walk, make sure to keep it on a leash so as not to harass the wildlife and clean up after your pet.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 10, 2017

 


I just spent the weekend with my father down at the Tri-Cities Shooting Association Rattlesnake range in SE Washington State at a NRA sanctioned long range target rifle match. Being on the east side of the Cascade mountains it is a semi-arid region almost devoid of trees with plenty of grassland, sagebrush and tumbleweed. Because of the range's location on an exposed plateau above the Yakima River, it experiences tremendous winds making long range rifle shooting at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards extremely difficult, conditions that attract some of the top marksmen from across the Pacific Northwest and beyond. With a medium wind warning and blowing dust warning issued from the US Weather Service, we tried to hit a bulls-eye of 20 inches on targets only 6 feet wide in winds that varied from 25-35 MPH with quick angle and directional changes.

With the "Mandalay massacre" in Las Vegas fresh on everybody's minds, the issue of gun control in the US was at the forefront of lots of conversations on the range. In the US, the 2nd Amendment and right to bear arms is enshrined in their constitution. Of course when this document was signed, black-power muskets firing a single shot with a reloading time of roughly a minute were being used. Unfortunately many modern semi-automatic firearms including weapons of war are readily available for sale in the US including large capacity magazines and mechanisms that easily convert them into fully-automatic machine guns. It has been reported that the weapons used on the crowd in Las Vegas were firing 9-11 rounds a second in bursts up to 100 shots at a time. If a person can pass a background check, there is nothing to stop them from assembling a war chest of weapons and a mountain of ammunition. Long-range target rifle shooters use single shot bolt action rifles for extreme accuracy but there were still US shooters we met on the range that refused to consider gun control for rapid-fire high-powered weapons even after the latest mass shooting there.

In Canada after several mass shootings of our own, changes were made to take what I consider "weapons of mass destruction" out of the hands of the public. There are many firearms that formerly were available at your local sporting goods store that are now either restricted or prohibited. This included short barrelled handguns that were easy to conceal and a wide variety of military styled assault weapons. When I first bought an AR-15 for service rifle competitions in the BC Rifle Association, it came with 30 round magazines that could easily be piggy-backed or simply taped together with electrical tape to create the near equivalent of a 90 round magazine. While this may be attractive to a soldier on a battlefield who is fighting for his life, it is useless for any form of accurate shooting or competition. Since that time, magazines for these rifles have been limited to 5 rounds, which did not interfere with service rifle shooting since most of the matches require a compulsory magazine change to add to the degree of difficulty during snap or rapid fire shooting.

For those who are unaware, Canada has licensed the sale and purchase of handguns since 1934. They are heavily regulated, transported to and from approved ranges only and stored under lock and key in secure conditions. Needless to say, most of the handguns that local gangsters are shooting at each other with are purchased or stolen in the US and smuggled into this country. It is no surprise that Surrey, with the largest two land crossings into BC, also has the highest level of gun violence attached to gangs and the control of the illegal drug trade. Unfortunately with the proliferation of handguns in the US, it is unlikely that the flow of illegal weapons across the border will abate any time soon so we can expect targeted gun violence here to continue. For law-abiding citizens, you have to obtain a firearms license, either a PAL, POL, FAC or a minor's license, with the non-restricted long-gun registry being abolished in 2012. For an informative and comprehensive overview of gun laws in Canada, refer to the following Wikipedia link that by coincidence shows at stack of three AR-15 30 round magazines in a stack that have been pinned to only accept 5 rounds each: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_Canada

On Wednesday of last week, the Peace Arch News printed an editorial on their opinion page titled "Weapons logic needs rethink" that you can read at http://www.surreynowleader.com/opinion/editorial-weapons-logic-needs-rethink/. As a long-time competitive shooter who has won awards in various disciplines and competed for Canada at World Championships, I would like to add my voice to those calling on our American neighbours to do a reality check finally take steps to limit access to high-powered weapons that allowed this latest mass-killing of innocents to take place. Having their citizens armed with army weapons designed to kill as many people as quickly and efficiently as possible will only ensure that the US continues to get war on its streets. You should be able to attend a concert, sporting event or any other public gathering without the threat of some madman or terrorist raining bullets down into the crowd.

President Trump, when pressed by reporters on the need for a discussion about gun control after the latest slaughter stated "Perhaps that will come,” but added it was “not for now.” I have to ask if not now, then when? How high does the body count have to go before saner minds demand safety of innocents over the desire of some people to create their own one-man-army? I believe that gun safety needs to be practiced more than just on the range. Banning weapons of war, large capacity magazines, items that can create fully-automatic weapons, plus enacting safe storage and transport requirements need to be instituted in the United States. With the exception of the ill-advised and useless long gun registry here that was later abolished here, I believe that Canada's gun control laws have resulted in a higher degree of public safety here while allowing firearm enthusiasts the freedom to pursue their sport of choice.

Recently Congresswomen and reporters protested on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, DC for their "right to bare arms", rallying in what was called "sleeveless Friday" against an outdated Congressional dress code. House Speaker Paul Ryan admitted that these rules had not been devised under his term and agreed it needed to be modernized. If the House of Representatives can work together to allow women to be comfortable and stylish in the summer heat, you would hope they could work together to ensure that people across America are free from being gunned down by a psychopath armed with machine guns. If Republicans and Democrats refuse to do anything about this deadly problem, it will unfortunately happen again with the next lunatic no doubt trying to increase the body count in order to put themselves in the history books.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

October 02, 2017

Beautiful, White & Deadly

 

You often don't have to go very far to find a story in your community. As a matter of fact, sometimes all you have to do is open the front door and step outside. This was the case last week when I basically tripped over a story that suddenly appeared in a line across my front boulevard lawn.

The City of Surrey did some sewer upgrades in our Crescent Heights neighbourhood a year ago, digging up the roadway, putting in new pipes and then relandscaping the road allowance in front of the yards on our street. As most landscapers are now using, they put down a mixture of organic compost and sand to use as a base for the grass seed they applied. This type of soil has become an industry standard with the organics coming from the large composing facilities that now recycle the food and yard waste that goes out in the green bins. While it works great as a growing medium, the high humus content and incomplete composing of the wood waste often results in mushrooms appearing not long after the soil is first put down.

That was the case with our front lawn but the mushrooms that suddenly appeared were hard to ignore. While there is a wide variety of mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest, coming in all sizes, shapes and colours, it is hard to not notice the Destroying Angel. It comes out of the ground, often alone or in small scattered groups, shining a bright clean white against green lawns or brown earth. When they first emerge and have not yet opened, they look like regular white button mushrooms that you can buy at any grocery store. As far as wild fungus goes, they closely resemble the white puffballs that grow in lawns and are edible. When the Destroying Angel has completely unfurled it is strikingly beautiful and easy to spot. The ones in my grass were not the first ones that I have seen this fall, with all of the others also growing out of newly landscaped lawns that were installed with fresh composted soil. As you should have guessed from the dangerous sounding name, they are deadly poisonous.

The Destroying Angel (Amanita Virosa) is part of the Amanita family of mushrooms that also includes the Death Cap (Amanita Phalloides), which also grows in this region. I have an Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms with superb pictures and detailed scientific descriptions that allows me to identify any mushroom or fungus that I come across in my travels. Their description of this mushroom is as follows: White mushroom with flaring to ragged ring on stalk, large sac-like cup about the base. Cap 2-5" wide, convex to flat with central swelling or nearly flat: margin smooth; tacky when wet, smooth, dull to shiny white, may discolour at centre of cap with age. Gills: free or attached, close, narrow to moderately broad, white. Stalk 3-8" long, 1/4-3/4" thick, sometimes enlarging downward to basal bulb: cottony to somewhat shaggy, white, with ring and sheathing cup. Veils: universal veil white: leaving large, membranous, persistent sac-like cup with free limb. Partial veil membranous, white: leaving large pendant, often torn ring on upper stock. Spores: 7-10 microns, nearly round to round, smooth, colourless. Spore print white. While descriptions such as this may not mean much to the layman, to the amateur mycologist they can literally be the difference between life and death.

Symptoms of poisoning by the Destroying Angel are similar to the Death Cap with vomiting, diarrhea cramps and convulsions, followed by kidney and liver disfunction that can result in the need for organ transplant or cause death. The chemical in these mushrooms responsible for the poisoning is amatoxin which inhibits RNA polymerase 2 and 3 in the body, enzymes that are essential for life and cell division. Symptoms do not appear for 4 - 24 hours after ingestion during which time the amatoxin may have already been absorbed and damage to the kidneys and liver becomes irreversible. It has been estimated that as little as half a mushroom cap from the Destroying Angel can be fatal if the victim of the poisoning is not treated quickly. For those who survive accidentally ingesting this mushroom, kidney dialysis and liver transplant are often the usual outcome if they actually survive. For a first hand account of the medical issues involved, read this article in the Cornell University Mushroom Blog titled "I survived the Destroying Angel" where the man who lived relates how the two other people who ended up in the same hospital that year both died. https://blog.mycology.cornell.edu/2006/11/22/i-survived-the-destroying-angel/

To keep the spores from spreading, I picked all of these mushrooms, put them into a sealed plastic bag and placed them into our garbage can. Needless to say I made sure to wash my hands very well after handling them. It is always good to be able to identify poisonous Amanita mushrooms and remove them to help reduce the chance of an accidental poisoning. For those people who want to harvest wild mushrooms for consumption, make sure you educate yourself by taking a course on the subject, become familiar with using wild mushroom field guides, or join a mycologist group such as the Vancouver Mycological Society (http://www.vanmyco.com/). I simply find it interesting to see the wide variety of fungus that grows here and to be able to identify and read about the more bizarre and colourful ones that I find along the way. While I am able to identify many "choice edibles" I find in the wild, I'll stick with Shiitake or Portobello mushrooms that I pick up at the store.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

September 25, 2017

Its been a busy weekend here with three shootings in Surrey including two in the Semi-pen, so I thought I'd do a little drive-by of my own with three mini-TNT's coming at you in rat-a-tat-tat-tat succession.

Bailey Bridge Blockade

On Tuesday last week I was heading northbound out of the Semiahmoo peninsula on the KGB when I found the old Bailey Bridge over the Nickomekyl River blocked by two Mainroad Group trucks with flashing lights and arrows activated. Later that day I drove home via the same route and saw the bridge heavily coned off with large traffic barrels plus barricades stationed at either end of the bridge blocking vehicle access. Putting on my hard hat, reflective vest and steel toe boots, I decided to go for a look to see what was going on with this temporary bridge that has been in place for decades.

I always wondered about the safety of this bridge since driving over it resembles being on the old wooden PNE Playground roller-coaster. The experience is no uncannily similar in both feel and sound that I almost want to throw my hands up in the air and scream when I drive across it. What I saw underneath the roadway was so disturbing that I vow to never drive across this relic again. The abutment on the south side looked to be held in place with a Jenga set featuring chunks of timbers, pieces of dimensional lumber and pieces of plywood. The metal supports were showing signs of corrosion and fatigue with creosoted posts along the shoulders of the bridge being so rotten that I would stick my entire foot inside one.

It took a couple of days after my email inquiries to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure about the state of repairs for signs to finally go up on the bridge and a public announcement made about the closure. It turns out bridge inspectors were doing an annual safety inspection when they noticed components that needed repairs and they closed the bridge as a precaution until an assessment could be done by structural engineers. On Saturday, Mainroad crews were on site in force, welding the steel framework and hopefully doing something about the rot. The bridge opened on Sunday with a load restriction of 10,000 kg., eliminating large trucks and transit buses from using this crossing. Until it is finally replaced, I will use the double lane bridge next door that I now call the WW2 bridge since I found the date imprinted in the concrete showing it was built way back in 1939.

Naturally Yours

Don Pitcairn

 

Update October 12, 2017


Hi Don,Just making sure that you have received our updated information bulletin on the Bailey bridge?
If not, here is a copy. This is also posted on our Transportation & Infrastructure website too.

Thanks!


Lisanne Bowness
Acting Communications Manager
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

Bailey Bridge in South Surrey will undergo full replacement

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is planning to replace the Bailey bridge which crosses the Nicomekl River on King George Boulevard.

Crews will replace the temporary Bailey Bridge with a steel superstructure, which includes a new deck, along with the required approach and abutment works.

The new bridge will provide improved reliability for travellers and a longer lifespan, and it will allow the ministry to remove the current 10,000 kg-weight restriction for vehicles using the crossing.

Drivers are advised that the one-lane crossing will close for approximately six weeks, tentatively starting on Oct. 16. This length of closure is necessary for crews to complete the replacement.

Single-lane traffic in each direction will be maintained on the adjacent two-lane structure. Work will generally be done between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Drivers are reminded to obey posted signs and traffic personnel.

Motorists are advised to use alternative routes where possible, and to check for Twitter updates at: @TranBC

 

 

Dianne Dominoes

As had been publicly rumored and heavily speculated for some time and to no one's surprise, Dianne Watts has now made it official that she will run for leadership of the BC Liberal Party. Many political pundits and journalists have already weighed in on this story but there is an issue here that no one has yet considered. What if she actually wins?

The problem is that if Dianne Watts leadership bid is successful and she is elected as the Liberal's new head honcho, it could trigger a domino effect of by-elections here in the Semi-pen. Firstly, Mrs. Watts will resign from her position as the Conservative MP for South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale. That will then mean that we will have to go back to the polls for a by-election to elect a new person to represent us in Ottawa, just over two years since Justin Trudeau's federal Liberals won. If you find yourself questioning why Dianne needed a new office with high-priced renovations, realize it is small peanuts compared with the average half-million dollar cost for a federal by-election.

Now here is where it gets a little tricky. What if just as Dianne decided to jump ship from being a member of the Opposition in Ottawa, that our newly elected Surrey-White Rock MLA Tracey Redies of the BC Liberals decides to step up to the big leagues and run for the vacant federal seat? Even without those political aspirations, Mrs. Redies could simply resign her seat here so that Dianne Watts could run in her natural home riding. As I told many candidates who ran in the last federal and provincial elections, best not to throw out those election signs and simply store them instead for use in the not-to-distant future.

White Rock SEAL Shooting

No, not another report of a harbour seal being found shot dead and washed up on White Rock beach as has already happened twice in the past three years. Instead check out Global TV's new fall lineup with former White Rock resident A.J. Buckley staring in a new CBS drama called SEAL team.

Transforming his body through a rigorous workout regime and strict diet, Mr. Buckley put on 35 pounds of lean muscle to break away from his nerdy role as Lab rat Alan Ross on CSI: NY and take on a lead role in this military action series about US Navy SEALS. Alan John (A.J.) plays Sonny, a member of the elite fighting force with plenty of brawn and more than a few anger issues. In a recent Los Angeles interview he explained his character like this, “They call him the knuckle dragger. He’s the big guns. He carries all the big weapons. I blow shit up.”

For more on this former White Rocker who has made the big time in Hollywood, read the following story from the Vancouver Sun that also includes him developing a trendy diaper bag for dads. You can also check out Mr. Buckley's rather impressive acting credentials in his Wikipedia listing. Make sure to program the PVR for Wednesday evening, 7 p.m. on Global to catch the first episode of this 13 part series that promises explosive action.
http://vancouversun.com/entertainment/celebrity/a-j-buckley-balances-acting-and-entrepreneurship
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._J._Buckley

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 18, 2017

Fish On!

Local fishermen are beginning to camp out alongside the Serpentine, Nickomeckl and Little Campbell River in anticipation of the fall fishing season.

The Little Club That Could On The Little Campbell

Finally after months of hot, sunny and dry weather the change of the season is upon us with the first rainstorm of fall hitting the coast on Sunday. While of relatively short duration, any precipitation is welcome to water lawns and plants along with trees plus our local parks and forests. Hopefully some of the wetness will spread into the interior of BC and Washington state to help put out the fires that have ravaged a record amount of forests this year. As more Pacific frontal systems zero in on our coast, local streams that have been low and dry for quite some time will start to flow again and the annual migration of various runs of salmon will begin into our local waterways including the Serpentine, Nicomekyl and Little Campbell Rivers. Very soon the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club (SFGC) in the Hazelmere valley will become a very busy place with its members working to improve salmon stocks on the Little Campbell River in south Surrey.

Protection of the environment and conservation of wildlife has been important to a wide and diverse collection of people from across White Rock, Surrey and Langley for generations. The Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club was incorporated back in 1957 by outdoorsmen concerned about environmental damage to the Little Campbell River caused by years of unregulated gravel removal from the watershed. For over 20 years club volunteers worked to restore its banks and spawning grounds, improve water flow and plant trees and shrubs along the river and its tributaries. In 1979 a prime piece of property on the banks of the Little Campbell became available and the Club purchased 70 acres in the Hazelmere Valley, eventually selling off 40 acres of pastureland and retaining the grounds surrounding the river. With a place to call their home, club members in 1983 began construction of the first all volunteer fish hatchery in the province that included a deep well into the Hazelmere aquifer, an elaborate water aeration/filtration system, and a fish fence designed by a club member that was later used for hatcheries around BC. Over a decade later, their large Education/Club House building was constructed as a meeting place, wedding and celebration of life hall plus sporting facility.

The steel fish fence across the Little Campbell River directly in front of the hatchery channels spawning salmon and trout into a fish trap where SFGC volunteers count and identify all species of fish before releasing them to spawn further up river. Over 3,500 spawning salmon are counted at the fish fence on an annual basis. Wild Coho and Chinook salmon plus steelhead trout are retained as brooding stock being kept in large pools adjacent to the hatchery and constantly supplied with fresh oxygen rich water. Inside the hatchery eggs are harvested from the adult salmon and trout, hatched in specially built tube incubators and then raised in protected tanks. In a typical year, the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club hatchery produces 10,000 Steelhead, 35,000 Chinook salmon, 100,000 Coho salmon plus 15,000 Cutthroat trout. When the small salmonoids are raised to the fry stage of their life cycle, they are then released back into the Little Campbell River system, ensuring far greater egg hatching and survival rates. The hatchery located at 1284 184 St. in south Surrey is open to the public with the hatchery building also available for viewing provided that club volunteers are on site and not busy with its operation.

Besides protecting salmon stocks, the Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club is in environmental partnerships with the Little Campbell Watershed Society, Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society, A Rocha Canada, Surrey Environmental Partners, Langley Environmental Partners Society and the Pacific Salmon Foundation. They also work closely with the federal Department of Fisheries (DFO) and Provincial Freshwater Fisheries that assist with issues related to the salmon and trout raised in their hatchery plus providing guidance on river restoration and protection projects. The City of Surrey liaisons with the SFGC, advising them of any developments within the Little Campbell watershed, allowing the club to work with city staff and developer engineers to eliminate or reduce issues adversely affecting the health of the river system and its aquifer. Focusing on youth, the SFGC has operated its "Salmon in the Classroom" program since 1983, allowing local elementary students to raise Coho salmon eggs in the classroom before they are returned to the hatchery for release back into the Little Campbell River.

The Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club has plenty of members but they are always looking for new volunteers to help out in the hatchery and the many jobs associated with maintaining the 30 acre grounds, buildings and ponds. With the fall salmon runs about to start, now is a good time to visit the club, check out their operations and decide if you can help protect the waters of the Little Campbell River. Their extensive and informative website is at SFGC.ca and they operate the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club Facebook page. If you are an outdoors person, fisher, environmentalist or simply looking for something fun to do in your community, please check out what the SFGC has to offer. For more information about the hatchery or school tours, call them at 604-541-0495 or email at SFGChatchery@gmail.com.

If you have never experienced the magic of spawning salmon up close and personal, now is the best time of year to check out this amazing natural spectacle. Take a few minutes to enjoy this YouTube video showing the SFGC's grounds, buildings, hatchery, pathways, ponds and waterways at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v3ky49CpNM

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 11, 2017

Anchors Away!

I don't own a boat or come from a family with a nautical history, but for some strange reason I've developed a fascination for anchors over the years. I think it started when I first turned my little cabana behind my house in Crescent Heights into a guest cottage with castaways theme decor that would best be described as Gilligan's Island on acid. Wallpaper showing a photographic scene of a remote tropical beach covered one wall with rolls of reed beach mats and bamboo on the others, complete with crab floats, Japanese glass floats, lots of shells plus a hula skirt and coconut bra for when company came over. When I moved into my present house in the same neighbourhood, our hot tub gazebo became the headquarters for my collection of flotsam and jetsam, minus the elusive anchor that I kept searching for. I finally got my anchor the old fashioned way, salvaging it myself a decade ago from a shipwreck off Kwomais Point where I was leading the cleanup of a 40 foot pleasure craft that had been smashed onto the rocks during a winter storm.

As luck would have it I met a man named Mike Simpson down near Crescent Beach years ago who told me about a similar interest in everything nautical, with his rec room and bar also done in a castaways theme. He went on to tell me about the gem in his collection, a giant anchor from an old sailing ship that was at a friend's yard in south Surrey. Imagine his surprise when I asked if it was the huge anchor next to the Glades Garden on 172 St south of 8 Ave. close to the Pacific Hwy. border crossing. He could not believe that I had actually spied it through the greenery while driving by on my way to a job site. Fast forward a handful of years and while cruising through Ocean Park last week I happened to look over and saw an equally massive anchor at a house on the NW corner of 18 Ave. and 127A Street. Stopping to take a closer look I realized that it had to be the very same anchor as it was highly unlikely there would be two similar ones on display in Surrey. A quick phone call to Mike confirmed that the previous property had been sold and the anchor recently moved to a good friend's home. How it got to its final resting place is a whale of a tale.

My buddy Mike told me he had been working on a tugboat years ago off Nanaimo in the Northumberland channel. Nearing Malaspina Point the tow rope attached to two chipping barges they were taking to a nearby mill dragged on the bottom and caught on something that was hauled out of the depths. When the tow line was winched up he first thought it was a tree stump but closer inspection revealed a big antique anchor, snagged by one of its enormous flukes. Like myself, Mike had been looking for a prized anchor, first finding a 1,000 pound Danforth, but nothing like the rusted and crushed behemoth they had just hauled up. He told me that his thought at the time was "Oh yes, you will be mine!" The Captain ordered him to use the winch to try to shake it off the line and when it flipped in the air, it caught on the rows of tires at the stern of the tug instead of returning to the depths. With the anchor now stuck onto the boat, they finally had to let their load drift free and pulled the anchor off using the hydraulics, with it dropping into 40 feet of water near the Gabriola bluff log storage. Vowing to return to claim his prize, Mike took coordinates of the area including bearings from local landmarks to know its exact underwater location.

It was a month's time before Mike planned on his return trip to salvage the old anchor. He hired a father and son dive team to go down and attach a cable to the relic with a locator float left on the surface of the water. A motorized barge with a crane that charged out at $300 per hour was also booked to visit the location to grab the anchor and then deliver it to a flat-bed truck that Mike had borrowed and was going to drive to the Island. His tug boat buddy heard about his detailed plans and did him a huge favour, picking up the anchor with his tug and then taking it to the Harmac Mill where longshoremen used a container crane to load it onto a barge full of wood heading to an offloading area on Mitchell Island on the North Arm on the Fraser River. In the end the job was done for not a lot of money and a case of cold beer, with the anchor then being driven into south Surrey, first residing at Mike's property on Zero Ave. before being moved to 172 St. and finally into Ocean Park where it it has been placed in full sight surrounded by river rock and landscape lighting for the community to enjoy. With the flukes (hook ends) measuring 9 feet across and the entire anchor being 14 feet in length it is rather hard to miss. The beautiful architecturally designed home where it sits is now locally known as "the anchor house."

Wanting to know more about the anchor that lady luck had delivered, Mike contacted nautical expert and former maritime museum curator Peter Sachs who researched his find. He believes the Admirality anchor as it is known was from around 1850 because of the design of the shackle, meaning it was from a tall masted sailboat commonly used in that era to ship goods back and forth to Europe. When the anchor first came up on the tugboat tow line, it was caked in mud, covered in foot long elephant muscles, giant barnacles and old fish nets. One of the top stalks had been broken off and interestingly there was no anchor chain attached to the large shackle on top, meaning it may have been abandoned after being damaged. Even with its age, Mr Simpson's interesting find was reported to the Receiver of Wrecks and posted in a salvage paper for a year before he was given official papers of ownership. When Mike first brought it home, the anchor was left under a sprinkler for some time to rinse away any salt and to stop the oxidation of the wrought iron. No one knows what it actually weighs but it took a 5 tonne HYAB crane truck to wrestle it into its current location.

The anchor is presently part of the "Mike Simpson Maritime Museum" collection as it jokingly refers to it. In the far-off future Mike may consider donating it to a nautical museum or for the big piece of antique iron to be put on permanent display at either White Rock or Crescent Beach. Until that time, if you're near Ocean Park or planning a trip to Crescent Beach, you may want to take a short detour onto 18 Ave from 128 St. and check out this gigantic old anchor, likely one of the biggest you will ever see in these parts. As neat as this relic is to see, the way it was found and the perseverance that Mr Simpson showed in recovering this tall ship anchor and then moving it from site to site in Surrey over time only adds its historic story. Of course, for me the worse part is always being reminded by him that "mine's bigger" whenever he sees the tiny anchor that I salvaged earlier from Boundary Bay.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 5, 2017

A Shooting Star Summer

Don "Dead Eye" Pitcairn

Nice to finally be back home comfortably sleeping in my California King bed. For most of August, I was away playing weekend warrior shooting full-bore target rifle in both the BC and Canadian championships. The fun started on August 10-14th with the BC Rifle Association (bcrifle.org) holding their 133rd annual championships at the General Vokes 600m. military range in Chilliwack. The Great Britain Rifle Team, in fine form after competing at the UK championships in Bisley England, arrived with 18 of their finest marksmen. While I managed to give them some serious competition last year easily winning the Grand Aggregate, there was no stopping them this time as they shot perfect score after perfect score, winning nearly all of the individual matches, aggregates and team prizes. In the BC Grand Aggregate, won by Richard Shoulder with a 399-48v out of a HPS of 400-80V, the GB team placed in 17 of the top 18 places, including 1st to 15th. In the BC Lieutenant Governor's Aggregate in which the winner is chaired from the firing point on the shoulders of their teammates, Angus McLeod won with an amazing score of 349-42v out of 350-70v narrowly beating out their young woman shooter Chloe Evans by a single v-bull, a tie-breaking circle that is half the diameter of the bulls-eye. For the BC Target Rifle Championship, White Rock's Jim Paton, a multiple Commonwealth Games medal winner for Canada came first, followed by my father Bob Pitcairn from Chilliwack (more on him later), with myself placing a distant third due to rifle issues.

It was back home to stupid reality for a mere three days of work before I headed off to YVR to fly to Connaught ranges in Ottawa for the Dominion of Canada's (DCRA.ca) Fullbore Rifle Championships that ran from Aug. 18-26. The Connaught ranges are a hotbed of shooting disciplines, holding this year's F-Class World Championships (like Fullbore but with optical sites, bipods and a 50% smaller bulls-eye), Canadian Black Powder Championships, National Service Conditions, followed by the Canadian Armed Forces Small Arms Concentration. In 2018, the DCRA will hold its Special 150th Canadian Fullbore and F Class Rifle Championships, showcasing the long history of this sport in Canada. After hours of flying including a stop in Edmonton, I arrived in Ottawa where I quickly grabbed my rifle gear and was whisked to the range by taxi. I knew the timing would be tight and after dropping my luggage in the barracks where we stayed, I made it to the 900m. firing point just as the command was being given to load for the Ottawa Regiment match. With a pounding heart and covered in sweat, I still managed a very respectable 74-12v out of 75-15v, with the one shot outside of the bulls-eye dropping me from 1st to 21st place, showing the high level of marksmanship at this national competition.

Pair Of Pitcairns

This DCRA meeting was extra special in that is was being used to select the two shooters who would represent Canada at the next Commonwealth Games being held in Brisbane, Australia in April, 2018. Scores from the 2015 and 2016 Canadian Target Rifle Championships were used along with an extra full day of shooting this year consisting of 10 rounds fired at both 500 and 600 yards plus a further 15 rounds each at 800 and 900 m. When the gun smoke had cleared, Nichole Rossignol from Quebec City came out on top with a score of 2031, followed by my father Bob Pitcairn from Chilliwack one point behind, with White Rock's Jim Paton coming third five points back as the spare for the team. Bob did it in style, shooting perfect scores the entire last day, "going clean" as we say, the only person of the eight still in the trials who did so. What makes this really amazing is that he is 79 years old and still shooting at an elite level. He has been inducted in 4 sports halls of fame, made 49 Canadian Bisley Teams (a record), qualified for 14 World Long Range Championships (held every 4 years) shooting them 11 times. Over the years he has placed first and second in Bisley (out of 1700 competitors), won the Governor General Prize twice in Ottawa while winning gold and silver in the Grand Agg there. In BC he has his name engraved multiple times on almost every trophy, including 6 Lt. Governor Prize chair rides. This will be Bob's first Commonwealth Games, the closest he has gotten before was as spare in 2002 where he did not compete. With this latest feather in his cap, Bob Pitcairn has been given a new nickname, "The Legend" which aptly describes his life-long shooting accomplishments.

This year's DCRA was full of interesting some rather interesting surprises. Fullbore rifle shooting involves being exposed to a variety of weather conditions including wind, rain and sometimes even snow. On Monday, Aug. 21st, I got to experience something completely new, shooting during the solar eclipse. Since Ottawa only at 71% blocking of the sun by the moon, there was still plenty of light to see the targets, even from 800m. It was actually a blessing as the decreased light intensity made it cooler than laying in the full sun plus the wind slacked off due to less ground warming. One of the shooters brought a solar lens for a camera to the range, allowing everyone to safely look at the progress of the moon as it crossed the sun. To be quite honest, if we didn't know about the eclipse, it is doubtful anyone would have noticed its effects. The same could not be said about the Tuesday weather we faced with meteorological warnings out for ping-pong ball sized hail and a tornado watch in effect. The rain we could have used in BC to help put out forest fires instead fell across Ontario in buckets as large intense frontal systems passed over Nepean and Ottawa, causing damage and flooding. Due to the extreme lightning risk and strong winds, shooting ended up being cancelled for the entire day. It was a blessing as nobody wants to shoot in rain that often looked like what Houston recently endured.

At the end of the individual matches, it was Ian Shaw from the United Kingdom who won both the MacDonald Stewart Grand Agg and Governor General's Prize, completing the elusive double win of the major aggregates. Ontario shooters fared quite well along with the contingent from the Maritimes and BC. It was a sweet sixteen year for myself, finishing in 16th place in both the Grand and Gov's. In the Canadian Target Rifle Championships, Fazel Mohideen from Pickering On. came first, Desmond Vamplew from Scarborough On. placed second and Geoff Woodman from New Harbour NL. finished third, all with the identical score of 818 separated only by v-bull counts. I was forth place four points back while "The Legend" Bob Pitcairn finished in sixth, a further four points down, ensuring we both made next year's Canadian Bisley team to England. In team shooting the GB Rifle Team won the Canada Match, with their 8 shooters dropping only 2 points the entire match of 10 rounds fired at 300, 500 and 600 yds, winning by 10 points total over Canada. In the long-range Commonwealth Match featuring 12 shooters per team firing 10 rounds each at 800 and 900 m. the Great Britain Rifle Team once again prevailed, dropping 10 points for the win with Canada 9 points back, yet surprisingly having a 9 point edge on centre v-bulls. Coached by Gary Bowman from Ontario, I was the top Canadian shooter on both team shoots and high score on the range in the Commonweath Match, never dropping a single point in either and firing a perfect 50-10v at the 800 M.

With being a member of the Canadian team to the Imperial Meeting of the National Rifle Association of the UK in Bisley England next year and a member of Team Canada going to the ICFRA World Long Range Championships at New Zealand in 2019, there will be plenty of practice in my shooting schedule for the next year and a half. With my father Bob qualifying for the Commonwealth Games in Australia, his training schedule has already started since there is a warm up match being held in Brisbane this October. Considering his long history of competitive rifle shooting, it would not surprise me if he comes home with a medal to add to his overflowing collection. Bob Pitcairn will become the oldest Commonwealth Games competitor of all times, matching the age of Doreen Flanders from Team England who competed in lawn bowling at the age of 79 during the 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Glascow Scotland. Mr. Pitcairn will easily surpass Scotland's Willie Woods who competed in lawn bowling for a record eight Games appearances, his last in 2010 at the age of 72. For those who discount the idea of a senior and veteran from Canada winning a Commonwealth Games medal, you might want to think about the lyrics to the following country music song.

" Old age and treachery always overcomes youth and skill
Ain't too much that we won't do, what Waylon won't, Willie will
Even though we've spent our lives charging up the wrong side of the hill
Old age and treachery always overcomes youth and skill…"


Lyrics to "Old Age & Treachery" by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, 1991.

 

Naturally yours,


Don Pitcairn

 

 

The Naked Truth - August 28, 2017

Semi-Pen Time Capsule

To show you the power of the Internet, I recently received the following manuscript from a man in Ottawa who frequently reads my TNT column and mailed it to my parents in Chilliwack. It is a history of Hall’s Prairie written by Margaret M. Stewart that was forwarded to him by Don Monroe, the Postmaster in White Rock in the 1950’s, who was his father’s close friend. As requested, a copy will be sent to Vin Coyne, the editor of the former White Rock Sun printed newspaper, with the original document then donated to the White Rock Museum. This will be a three part series detailing frontier life in the Semiahmoo peninsula. I hope you enjoy this trip back in time.



The Early History of Hall’s Prairie – Part 3



For quite a number of years, when we first lived here, there was no custom’s officer. The populace bought and sold across the line just as they pleased. Then Mr. Cantrell was appointed Canadian Custom’s Officer and I think his office was at the St. Leonard’s hotel but he was not often there. He was generally walking around Blaine trying to keep his eye on thru roads leading into Blaine. At this time when we bought anything in Blaine, we always looked around for the custom’s officer and if we did not see him it was all to the good and we just came home. If we met him, he asked what we had and charged duty, if any, and put the money in his pocket without any red tape.

In the early ‘80’s two young men by the name of Keith took up land near what is called the Brown road. They were heavy drinkers and their people had sent them out here to get away from drinking but whenever they got a cheque from home, they went to Blaine, bought lots of drink and carried a keg of cider home. They had a trail where the Pacific Highway is now and we used to see them lugging their keg home. They drank so much they suffered with delirium tremors and one, who ran out of his home and was never seen again, was thought to have sunk down in some boggy place and the other became insane and was taken to the asylum at New Westminster. So ended two wasted lives.

A year or two after the school started, Doctor Powel began to improve his land and hired a foreman A.M. Palmer, who fenced the whole section. We school children felt quite shut in our small school yard as we always played our ball games on the prairie west of the school. Before long Doctor Powel, sold the land to two young men from the Old Country, named Moggirdge. They built a fine house and then his brother looked after the place. A man came by one evening, rapped on the door, and when Mr. Moggirdge answered the door, the man shot him in the arm near the shoulder, went through his pockets and left him lying there bleeding. Mr. Moggridge managed to get upstairs and then fainted from loss of blood. When the foreman came for his orders in the morning, he was shocked and soon sent for the doctor, the police and my father who was justice of the peace. A clot of blood had formed in the artery otherwise he would have bled to death. The man was not caught but years afterwards, a man who was caught for some other crime, confessed he had shot Mr. Moggridge. The arm was so numb and useless that after a time, Mr. Moggridge had it taken off. The Moggridges lived there for several years until they sold out and went back to England. Their big house was burned down soon after.

There has been a good deal of tragedy just where the old railway track crossed the North Bluff Road. Mrs. John Morrison was killed by a black tramp about 1908 and a short time later two bank robbers and a custom’s officer were killed near the same place.

In the ‘80’s there was a smallpox outbreak. Land was open for homesteading near the Langley boundary and a widow and her five sons by the name of Wellworth took up land there which was known as the Wellworth settlement. One evening my brother, Will, and I were out getting our cows and we met two men on the road who asked us where the Wellworth Settlement was and we directed them. They were Billy Graham and Tom Fielding who brought in the smallpox. They stayed with Mrs. Wellworth and when they came down sick all the relatives visited them not knowing their sickness was smallpox and the relatives became infected. The disease was a very acute and virulent type,. Jim Wellworth, Mrs. Charlios Wellworth and Mrs. Van Luson, an aunt who came to help them, died with the smallpox. The government sent a doctor in to stay right there and the infection did not spread any further. But I remember when anyone from that direction came for their mail, father or mother would put some sulphur on the stove so that they did not stay long. It happened the same in Blaine when anyone from Canada went into a store, sulphur was burned on the stove. I remember one chap saying, it just smelt like Hades over in Blaine.

After our first school was built, church service was held in it on Sunday most of the time. At first there was the Reverend William Bell from Surrey Centre and when he left there was several ministers from Blaine who held services in it. When Cloverdale acquired a regular minister, Reverend McEllmon, he came and preached Sunday afternoons and after he left there were several student ministers who held service in the summer time.

At Christmas time there was always a tree and a good time at the school house. Someone would go around and collect money to buy candy and presents. Everyone came, old bachelors and all. There were always some dialogues put on by the older people besides the best the children could do. At that early date every school had its own trustees and at the trustee elections there were some lively times.

After Blaine became a town, two men by the names of Smith and Gurbage, thought it was time for White Rock to be a town too so the built a wharf out to deep water. There are a few remains of it yet. Then they started to build a hotel but their money ran out long before the hotel was pulled down by people who wanted some lumber and then the wharf went too. It was years and years before White Rock started to grow. At that time it was only a picnic ground. About the same time Mr. William Brown bought a sloop and took Mr.. Albert Bamford into partnership. They sailed over to Victoria and loaded their boat with staple groceries such as flour, sugar, tea, raisins and syrup. The sugar was in light weight barrels, a nice light yellow. The tea was in lead lined boxes of 10 to 20 pounds, the syrup was in kegs, fine thick liquid. But the raisins were lovely, I have never seen such nice ones since. They came from southern Europe, were large and full of grape sugar. My people bought a lot of Mr. Brown's groceries just in the cases they arrived in. His house was not built to handle groceries in small lots but he kept them in good shape and much better than he did later. After awhile there were more stores and it did not pay Mr. Brown to go to Victoria and so he quit.

As I mentioned before, Mr. H.T. Thrift had the contract to carry the Hall's Prairie mail. At first it was carried on horseback but later he started a stage to carry passengers and goods to and from New Westminster as well as the mail. The stage was driven for quite a time by a man Mr. Thrift hired by the name of Gilbert Anderson. Then any one of the Thrift family including the old grandpa and the girls and the boys would carry the bag of mail to our house and take the outgoing mail. About the time the Great Northern Railway came through, the Hazelmere post office was opened in Mr. Thrift's own house. After the trains ran my father carried the Hall's Prairie mail to the flag station called Hazelmere where the railway crossed the Hall's Prairie road. My father kept the Hall's Prairie post office for upwards of 25 years until he became too old to be bothered with it. The post office was then moved to a Mr. DeWinters home. Then some others kept the post office until it and all of the other small post offices were closed and the rural boxes installed with the headquarters at Cloverdale.

In the spring of 1903 or 1904 an evangelist by the name of Coleman pitched his tent at the corner where the North Bluff road crosses the Hall's Prairie road and held revival meetings. Many people came and several were converted. He urged the people to build a church and so after he left, my three sisters, the two McGinnis girls and some others went all around the district and collected enough money to build a church. Nearly everyone gave something. Mr. H.T. Thrift gave the site for the church where Mr. Coleman's tent had stood. The late Mr. Hamel was hired as carpenter and many of the men helped so the church was soon built. Many different ministers of different creeds have held services in it, and there have been many organists. My brother-in-law, the late John Clark, held that post the longest, 36 years with only two Sundays off. The church has been improved lately in the interior. It is called Hazelmere Church after the name of Mr. Thrift's farm. Many people call the district around the church Hazelmere, but by rights it is all Hall's Prairie school district. Calling it Hazelmere is something like a barnacle fastening itself onto a sea shell and calling itself the shell. Well I think I have told of a lot of the early happenings which I saw myself or heard first hand at the time it happened.

Margaret M. Stewart

Well there you have it folks, a blast from past detailing some of the early history of these parts. Mrs. Stewart was born in 1876 according to dates at the beginning of her article. With the dates concerning the Hazelmere Church from the end of the letter, I surmised it was likely typed in the 1950's or 1960's, long before the advent of computers and photocopiers. Now imagine my surprise when I decided at the last minute to Google Mrs. Stewart's name along with Hazelmere thinking it was unlikely I would find out anything about her and instead found the same manuscript I had been previously sent posted on the Surrey History website. I could have saved myself a few hours of typing the original manuscript in to my computer with a simple cut and paste! It turns out her handwritten letter was composed on April 9, 1959. It was later published by the Surrey Museum and Historical Society as a gestetner printed and stapled document, a copy of which I recently received. Mrs. Stewart died in 1965 at the age of 89 and is buried in the Hazelmere cemetery on 16 Ave. (formerly North Bluff Road) across from 192 St. with her gravestone reading "With Christ, which is much better."

If you enjoyed reading this snapshot of early life in Surrey and White Rock, you can learn more at surreyhistory.ca or whiterockmuseum.ca that even allows you to read archived copies of both the Semiahmoo Sun and the White Rock Sun from decades ago. If you prefer history that you can actually touch and feel, go to billiongraves.com which is where I found the headstone picture for Mrs. Stewart, along with an aerial view showing her exact final resting place in south Surrey. If you find fresh flowers there, they are from me.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 21, 2017

Semi-Pen Time Capsule

To show you the power of the internet, I recently received the following manuscript from a man in Ottawa who frequently reads my TNT column and mailed it to my parents in Chilliwack. It is a history of Hall’s Prairie written by Margaret M. Stewart that was forwarded to him by Don Monroe, the Postmaster in White Rock in the 1950’s, who was his father’s close friend. As requested, a copy will be sent to Vin Coyne, the editor of the former White Rock Sun printed newspaper, with the original document then donated to the White Rock museum. This will be a three part series detailing frontier life in the Semiahmoo peninsula. I hope you enjoy this trip back in time.

The Early History of Hall’s Prairie – Part 2



After the Hall’s Prairie road was opened before Blaine had started to grow, Dave Millar drove a stage from across the Line to New Westminster, taking passengers, and any kind of produce he could buy cheap such as butter and eggs. My mother made quite a lot of butter and was well known for making good butter. One time father took mother’s butter and other produce to New Westminster, as was his custom, and the storekeeper said to him that his wife was making a lot of butter this summer. Father said, no but why? Well, he said, David Millar was in a few days ago with a load of butter and he said it was all Mrs. Brown’s butter. My father said that he had never sold Dave Millar one pound of butter. Dave Millar had a brother Al living with him and he loved to tell a joke. One day, Dave and his brother Al were out cutting down trees when Dave’ s axe glanced and cut his boot. He looked down and saw his red sock through the cut and thought it was blood and he made Al carry him to the house on his back. When they got the boot off they found the foot was not cut at all. Al told this story to everyone he could. Dave felt rather sore about this.

In the early 1880’s, Blaine started to grow and the settlers on this side of the Line did most of their shopping there. For quite a time there were no custom’s officers or anything to stop people coming and going. Before Blaine was there, the ruffled grouse were very plentiful. I have counted as many as 50 perched in a Cottonwood tree, eating the buds. The Campbell River was full of trout but the people of Blaine came across and cleaned most of them out. Blaine always made a great to do over the fourth of July for the first year or two when they set long tables in someone’s orchard and had free meals for all. I remember eating there once, but they soon discontinued this as too many Canucks, as they called us, came over. One attraction they always had on the 4th was to grease a pig and turn him loose on the sand flats, offering $5 to anyone who could catch the pig. This made lots of fun and quite a few tried to catch it.

More settlers came in and more roads were opened up. Reverent Alexander Dunn, an early Presbyterian minister, held service in our home a few times and baptised the seven eldest children of our family. We also had a visit from Bishop and Mrs. Sillitoe. They drove a horse and buckboard and I think that was the first horse I had seen. Everyone used oxen. Mother sat the visitors down under a shade tree and treated them to cake and glass of milk.

In the early ‘80’s there arose a great scare across the Line, a man by the name of Gilldy had shot down two men in cold blood. We were warned to be on the lookout for him on this side of the line. He was a queer chap that no one liked and he had tried to court some of the girls without success. There was a Miss Mayhood whom he had tried several times to call on. Her brother told him to stay off the place. A short time afterwards she and her brother were taking the clothes off the clothes-liine when Gilldy came out of the bush and shot her brother down. Their father heard the shot and came to the door to see what the shooting was about and Gilldy dropped him in the doorway. Miss Mayhood picked up the chopping axe and chased him off the place and he ran without shooting her. There was a price on his head dead or alive and a gang of men looking for him. A note was found which he had left somewhere, stating that he intended to shoot several more men, all fathers of young girls. Everyone was afraid for no one knew where he would strike next. But before he had killed any more, two men who were out looking for him early one morning, found him sound asleep behind a log. They both shot him so he never knew what happened to him.

More settlers were coming into our district such as the Johnson’s, Harts, and Roehart’s, almost enough to start a school and in 1884 when father was in the land office proving up, they told him there was a homestead to be taken up quite near him. A man by the name of Sundy had filed on this place years before but had never done anything with it. Father told Mr. Thrift about the place, he came and look at it, liked the place and filed on it. The family was living at Clovervalley then. The addition of their children in the district made enough to get a school started so in the Spring of 1885 the school opened in a log building that had been the home of the Heintz family. Hall’s Prairie was formed into a school district. The teacher’s name was J.C. McClellan. B.C. That summer the Government built a school house on a site given by Dr. Pirel of Victoria, the same site where the present Hall’s Prairie School stands. I attended that school, also my son, Alexander John and now his children, Of course it is not the same building today but the first school was cottage shaped, large enough for forty or fifty children. The teacher’s salary was $50 a month and he seemed quite contended with the pay. On the 24th of May 1886 our school picnic across the river was a good wagonbridge crossing the Campbell River at the foot of the Stayte Road where there is only a foot bridge at the present time. I remember clearly a Chinaman came past us and one of the men in our crowd started to nag him and told the Chinaman he had no passport. The Chinaman said he had and the man said let me see it. The Chinaman said he would not be looked over by the crowd but he would let theelderly gentleman see it and handed the passport to my father. The Chinaman spoke perfect English.

The only grocery store, that was nearer than New Westminster when we came, was at Semiahmoo spit. The store was kept by a man called Murran. Our father often went there for flour. Murray also ran a logging camp and had logged all around the bay on both side of the Line. He also sold whisky to the loggers. It was said he bought one barrel of whisky and made up to three barrels with water, acid and tobacco juice. It was called Murran’s Rot Gut and sent the men nearly crazy. One young man killed there in a drunken brawl. Murran had the name of the cheating his men when he paid them their wages. One man by the name ofg Shearer told Murray he had cheated him out of seven dollars and that he would get even with him. Murray always banked his money in New Westminster and one day when he stepped off the ferry, Shearer was waiting for him and knifed him seven time. A priest was sent for but Murran was dead before he arrived and so ended an evil life.

The St. Leonard’s hotel was built sometime in the ‘80’s a little north of where the Peace Arch stands today and it sold liquor. Our father did all he could to prevent the hotel being built there as it was a real deadfall. Just across the Line on the American side there was a row of shacks for immoral purposes. One day in winter a great storm of wind and sea blew in and carried the shacks away. The women fled for their lives and lost everything they had. The shacks were never built again.

An old man by the name of Billy Patterson lived in a shack on the American side of the line opposite the hotel. He had a very vile tongue which he had been using on the hotel keeper, Jack Atkinson and had him so angry he got his gun and shot the old man in the leg. Billy Patterson’s leg would not heal because, as he himself said, he had drunk too much whisky and he died in about amonth. There was a great to do about which country would tr4y the murderer as the shot started in one country and crossed into another. At last it was decided that Washington should have Mr. Atkinson and they sentenced him to a few years in the penitentiary. Some years later the hotel burned down which was a blessing.

About 1888 the Great Northern Railway started to build a railway from Blaine through the valley to New Westminster. Two gangs of men were employed, one gang of white men and the other Chinese. The white men’s camp was near the creek on the Bamford road. They graded up the railroad bed by digging out the earth from the sides of the right-of-way. They also build the bridge across the Campbell River. The laying of the rails was help up for some time due to a soft spot near Custer, Washington. They dumped in train loads of gravel and rock but all sank down. At last they put in brush to make a bottom and then the gravel and soon it was built up solid enough to bear the rails and train. They called in “The Devil’s Bread Pan”. All the gravel that balasted the track was brought from the American side of the Line. The gravel train engineer was a nice chap. If the gravel train came along the same time we children came home from school, he would stop the train and tell us to jump aboard and then he would stop and let us off at the foot of our hill. We had many such rides. At last the railway was finished and there was quite an affair driving the last spike at the boundary line on the 15th of February 1891. Many years afterwards, the railroad changed to run around the bay as it is at the present time.

To be continued…

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 14, 2017


The Early History of Hall’s Prairie – Part 1


Semi-Pen Time Capsule

To show you the power of the internet, I received the following manuscript from a man in Ottawa who frequently reads my TNT column and mailed it to my parents in Chilliwack. It is a history of Hall’s Prairie written by Margaret M. Stewart that was forwarded to him by Don Monroe, the Postmaster in White Rock in the 1950’s, who was his father’s close friend. As requested, a copy will be sent to Vin Coyne, the editor of the former White Rock Sun printed newspaper, with the original document then donated to the White Rock museum. This will be a three part series detailing frontier life in the Semiahmoo peninsula. I hope you enjoy this trip back in time.

 

The Early History of Hall’s Prairie – Part 1




As there are very few of the really early settlers alive at the present time, I thought I would record some of the early happenings.

My parents, Mr. & Mrs. David W. Brown, and their family homesteaded here in 1878. I was only two years old at that time. I do not remember coming but I can remember some of the happenings when I was three years old. My parents were married in Ontario in 1865 but they left Ontario and went to the State of Iowa where father had taken up a homestead. They did not like it there very well as the summers were so hot and the winters were so cold. Father had done a lot of travelling. I have heard him say he had been in almost every state in the USA, in Central America and the Panama, and had crossed the Continent twice by wagon train before there were any railways, once to the California gold rush and once to the Cariboo gold rush. So he knew something of what the west coast was like.

They decided to sell out and come west. It was quite a journey but there was a railway by that time and they came to San Francisco, took a ship from there to Victoria, Vancouver Island, from there in a smaller boat to Whatcom, now Bellingham, Washington, and then down the Nootsak River in an Indian canoe to Ferndale, Washington where we had friends. After staying there for some time, our Uncle Archie, who had come to BC earlier, told father there was good land to homestead in BC so father came and filed on the quarter section that I and my son and family still live on. Uncle Archie and three other young fellows had filed on four quarter sections adjoining. They built their cabin where their land all joined and each on sept on his own corner and worked on his land in the daytime.

Father had a lot of work to do before he could bring the family. He had to build a bridge over the Campbell River where it happened to be quite narrow, make a road for over half of a mile through dense timber and then erect a log cabin. When he had finished, father went for the family. There was a rough road from Ferndale to the Boundary Line. There was a road up the Boundary Line. It had been made some years earlier to bring in the iron posts to mark the Boundary Line, one for each mile. Another road wound across Hall’s Prairie which was a large open space. The only conveyance that could travel these roads was a long stone boat drawn by oxen and that was the way our family moved in.

Out cabin was built near a creek and the great firs were standing around it, some of them three hundred feet high. There was no city of Blaine when we came but this area was quite well homesteaded on the American side. There was the Cain family where the American’s custom’s office is now, Dave Miller’s next around the bay, Boblet’s and Kingsley, who became the first Sheriff of Blaine, and the Dexter’s where father bought our first cow. She was a little red cow with a crooked jaw as she had been caught in a barb wire fence when a calf. And there was Dick Richards, generally called Dick the ferryman, who had a boat and took passengers over to the Semiahmoo spit where there was a store. He had no landing for his boat but anchored in out in the water. If a man did not have hip boots on, he would take his shoes and socks off and wade out to the boat, while a woman, if alone, would be gallantly carried by Dick, to the boat. Once I crossed over to the spit with father and mother when I was three or four years old. Father carried mother and Dick carried me. Old Mr. Cain was a great bear and beaver trapper. He used to stay at our place and when he became too old to trap, he gave his bear trap to father. The trap is still in my garage.

Hall’s Prairie got its name from Hall who squatted on it with his Indian wife. They were chased from it by wolves one extremely cold winter in the 1860’s when the Fraser was completely frozen over. The prairie was covered with long grass and clumps of aspen poplar here and there. There was quite a lot of cattle grazing on, most of them from the American side. There were quite a few people homesteading around it. Where the Currie’s live it was homesteaded by people called Botell. The old man was a short broad chap and he loved to talk., He would come to our house and he would say my pockets are just full of news. Once he told father this story. He had a son William, who was 19 or 20 years old, and he thought his son ought to have a wife. One day he was across the Line and he saw a young woman who would just suit, he thought. She was already married but he did not seem to mind that. He tried to coax her to come and live with them. He went back the second time but her husband was home and he said if I ever catch you here again, I will shoot you. Botell said I heard him cock a pistol and oh how I did run.

Then there was the Heintz family, a bad lot. The father and son had two quarter sections on the east side of the Hall’s Prairie road from the North Bluff to the Campbell River roads. When they wanted fresh beef they would go and pick out a fat steer on the prairie and shoot him down. They had an old man living with them called Fritz Shinhart. He had given the Heint’z all his money to stay with them for life. When they had got into a lot of trouble, they were planning to leave but did not want to be bothered with old Fritz, several times after he had eaten, became very sick with terrible pains in his stomach. Tim, the young Heintz, said to my father one day, that if
Fritz should die suddenly, do you think there would be an inquest? My father said most likely there would be as he is no relation to you. Fritz had no more sick spells and they all fled across the Line shortly after.

When we came here there was only a trail to Clovervalley. In the summer of 1881 my father went to Victoria, when John Robinson was premier, and told him how shut in we were, so the premier promised to have the Hall’s Prairie road opened. The contract was let to William Shannon who opened the road and built a long bridge over the Campbell River which was quite wide as the result of many beaver dams. Mr. Shannon had his camp near the river. One day Mr. Shannon came and told my mother that his Chinese cook was making very poor bread and that he would like to send the cook and his yeast up for my mother to see and to improve his yeast. So the next day the Chinese cook came with a big pail of sour yeast on one end of a pole and half a sack of flour on the other end of the pole over his shoulder. I don’t know what mother did to his yeast, but he was the first Chinaman I had ever seen. He had a very long pig tail hanging down his back. I recall the date when the Hall’s Prairie road was opened because my father was away to Victoria and my mother made a cradle for my sister Agnes, who was born in June 1881.

And while mother was busy shaving and planning the boards for the cradle, Reverend Mc(illegible) came. He was travelling through the country visiting the settlers. He thought mother had made a fine job of the cradle and she had it for Agnes and my three other sisters. Years later he became the Presbyterian minister stationed at Cloverdale and he never forgot about the cradle and often mentioned it to my mother who was a grand pioneer woman. She could do almost anything and do it well. When my father wanted to go to Victoria, he looked at his hat which was old and faded and he thought he would have to walk into New Westminster to buy one as no sensible man went bare headed then. Mother said I will make you one and so she went down to the prairie and fathered a great sheaf of long grass which grew there. She braided the straw and made a fine hat, put it in a barrel full of sulphur fumes to bleach it white and put a black band around it and when father went to Victoria, his hat was admired and called a panama hat.

There was no post office in 1880 closer than New Westminster but not long after a post office was opened at Surrey Centre. Clovervalley and Hall’s Prairie, the latter in our house and father as postmaster with a salary of $25 a year. The mail carrier was Henry T. Thrift. The family was living at Clovervalley at the time but generally his son, young Henry carried the mail on horseback. Once he galloped his horse so hard it fell under him and died a quarter of a mile from our house.

To be continued…

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

August 06, 2017

Semiahmoo Goes With The Flow

It was in September of 2016 that White Rock sent a letter to the Semiahmoo First Nation threatening to cut off their water in a mere eighteen months. This was only ten months after the City purchased the city's water supply system for millions of dollars from EPCOR. The current agreement water supply arrangement is set to expire at the end of February, 2018, now only seven months away. While folks in White Rock may be complaining about discoloured water or levels of manganese and arsenic, at least their water has been judged safe to drink. This is not the case on the Semiahmoo First Nation lands where they have been under a continuous boil water advisory since 2005, a dozen years of not drinking water from the taps.

In a letter dated July 27, 2016 from White Rock's lawyers Lidstone & Company to the Semiahmoo First Nation band office (that I received through a Freedom of Information request) they stated that future water and sanitary sewer services for the reserve lands would best be provided by the City of Surrey. It went on to state the following: Accordingly, the City of White Rock is hereby delivering to the Semiahmoo First Nation formal notice that the City will terminate existing water and sanitary sewer services to the reserve within a reasonable time. Based on the tests set out in the "Tsawwassen Indian Band vs. Delta, 1997 CanLil 1097 decision of the BC court of Appeal," the City is of the view that the First Nation can make alternative arrangements for existing water and sanitary sewer servicing within reasonable time, being a period of 18 months from the date of this letter. We look forward to working with you and your client (and the City of Surrey) on this transition.

There is nothing like an imposed deadline, especially one threatening to cut off water and sewer services, to get people motivated to make some fast and much needed changes. First was the announcement on June 9th this year from Carolyn Bennett, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, that the Federal government was committing $338,000 for a new water distribution and wastewater sewer system for the Semiahmoo First Nation. Two weeks ago, Surrey Council received Corporate Report R158 from Fraser Smith, their General Manager of Engineering on the subject of "Servicing Agreements with the Semiahmoo First Nation. You can read all of the intimate details and history behind this water-logged controversy on the City of Surrey website at the following link: https://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/CR_2017-R158.pdf. In a nutshell, City of Surrey staff are recommending that Surrey Council finally help the Semiahmoo First Nation (SFN) get fresh drinking water and sanitary sewers.

First Surrey and SFN have to set up municipal type servicing agreements between their two governments, allowing for a new water supply and distribution system using Metro Vancouver water. The failing septic systems that are contributing to the long-term boiled water advisory on the reserve need to be replaced by sanitary sewers leading back to the regional sewage treatment plant. Because of a lack of proper fire protection, agreements are also needed to install fire hydrants across the reserve to protect lives and property instead of relying on 1,000 gallon tanker trucks as is presently the case. Storm water outflow points from Surrey also need to be reduced with plans required for consolidation of these outflows and how they affect the waterways on the SFN lands. The Corporate Report also revealed that the SFN is interested in working with the City of Surrey to have future fire protection services and solid waste/recycling services for its members.

Currently Surrey already provides Met-Van water to several reserve residences south of 8th Ave. in the 16200 block. The Peace Arch Duty Free store by the border that is part of the SFN reserve receives both water and sanitary services from Surrey from an agreement between them dating back to 2001. The only areas of the SFN currently serviced by White Rock with both water and sanitary sewers are the businesses by Semiahmoo Park including the iconic Washington Avenue Grill. It is interesting to note that the Corporate Report on this topic reveals that the areas on the west end of the reserve are unlikely to be hooked up to either either water or sewer provided by Surrey because of their distant location. Let's hope that White Rock can make agreements to continue this servicing near East Beach while Surrey and the Federal Liberal government take steps to fix the reserve's water and sewage issues in the main residential area.

Councillor Joanne Charles is on record as stating that design drawings for the SFN water and sewer system are currently being put together, with construction of a new sewer system likely to start six months from now. If everything goes well, it is likely the reserve will be ready to connect to Surrey's water system by next summer. While this solves their long-term water supply issue, it does leave a rather large short-term problem. There is a half-year gap between when White Rock has threatened to turn off the taps and when the SFN starts to go with the flow from Surrey. I doubt White Rock will leave their next-door neighbours high and dry and it is in the best interest of all to foster positive ties between levels of local governments instead of engaging in acrimonious disputes using lawyers to do the dirty work.

It's about time that the Semiahmoo First Nation were afforded clean and healthy drinking water and proper sanitation for their 173 acres and the 43 indigenous people currently living on reserve. It has been an embarrassment that while real estate values and incomes have soared in both White Rock and Surrey, SFN residents have had to boil water before drinking it for over a decade. For those now living in the Semiahmoo peninsula, you should best remember that while it is your home, it is their native land. Think about that the next time you sing the very first verse of the Canadian national anthem.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 31, 2-17

I hear that train a comin'

It's Rollin' Round the Bend

..and I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when

Johnny Cash/Folsom Prison Blues

Delta Mayor Pushes For The Return of the Inter-Urban

I have to admit that I have a warm spot in my heart for Lois Jackson who has provided the municipality of Delta with stable leadership since she was first elected as Mayor in 1999 after first becoming a councilor way back in 1973. She was Chair of the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors from 2006 to 2011 but now stands alone as the only regional mayor who supports the George Massey tunnel bridge replacement project. I must admit that I'm not particularly keen on the 10 lane bridge concept and its estimated $3.5 billion price tag and was wondering if Lois was out of touch with her colleges from across the Lower Mainland. The bridge project aside, Mrs. Jackson redeemed herself in my eyes last week when she proposed to have Translink study the possibility of a light-rail line from the Brighouse Skytrain station in Richmond, through Delta, into south Surrey and White Rock and out into the Fraser Valley terminating in Chilliwack.

To anyone trying to commute south of the Fraser, you know that vehicle traffic is becoming a nightmare as more and more people flood into this rapidly expanding area without the roads keeping up to demand. The Surrey LRT line is currently being planned but it will terminate in Newton and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) link from Newton Exchange to White Rock Centre was quietly removed from City of Surrey plans last year, taking away 14 Km. of rapid transit service along King George Blvd. and 152 St. Rather than have vehicle traffic pour into Richmond where it will then clog up against the Oak and Knight St. bridges, Mayor Jackson envisions an LRT rail line on the bridge deck, taking countless cars off the structure. The idea of hopping on a train in White Rock to go to Richmond and beyond or as far as Chilliwack would be a godsend to many weary commuters who spend countless hours behind the wheel every week polluting our airshed.

At a meeting of the Mayor's Council on Regional Transportation meeting held last Thursday, Jackson made a motion that in year 5 of a 10 year plan for transportation in Metro Vancouver that a preliminary study be undertaken and a comprehensive plan formulated for this rail-line concept. The other Mayors, with their own ideas and agendas for Skytrain and LRT expansion in their backyards quickly shot down Lois Jackson's idea with some openly mocking and laughing at the concept. The only person who supported the motion was Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese who agreed that although such a project is likely decades away, the need for a well-connected transit system throughout the Fraser Valley simply can’t be ignored. Mayor Jackson's LRT idea is not dead yet as New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté who chairs the Mayors’ Council’s Funding Strategy Committee referred her motion to upcoming discussions about updating the regional transportation strategy for the next 30 years.

Lois Jackson also has a local ally in the federal government backing her call for a LRT line connecting communities south of the Fraser. Rookie Delta Liberal MP Carla Qualtrough who is the the Minister of Sport and Persons With Disabilities in Justin Trudeau's cabinet endorsed Jackson's commuter train concept while meeting with Delta Council earlier this spring. While the George Massey replacement bridge is not in the federal Liberal government's infrastructure plans, Mrs. Qualtrough believes this project could get assistance through Infrastructure Canada and Innovation with a new infrastructure bank. It never hurts having a federal cabinet minister in the riding and Lois Jackson appears to have Carla's ear on promoting light rail connecting communities SOTF (south of the Fraser). Being part of a gender balanced cabinet in Ottawa it is unlikely that Mrs. Qualtrough will easily be brushed aside as Lois Jackson who is on record as saying “You know I’m not part of the boys club, let’s put it that way and whatever I seem to be saying is falling on total deaf ears.”

For all of the talk over the years of relocating the BNSF tracks away from White Rock, they might play a vital role in connecting people living in the Semiahmoo peninsula to the proposed SOTF rail line. The BNSF has already done the heavy lifting by spending millions of dollars replacing the Little Campbell and Mud Bay trestle bridges with the Crescent Beach swing bridge next on the list. Safety improvements along the White Rock waterfront coupled with the continuous track, tie replacement, rip-rap additions plus culvert improvements have made for a smoother and faster ride for the Amtrak. Years ago there was a railway station at the base of Panorama Ridge where Station Road is and this area is still a junction point for rail traffic that would once again make a logical point for a passenger train hub. While her male counterparts may have scoffed at the idea for LRT from Richmond to Chilliwack, eventually it is an old-time idea that will one day have to be resurrected before the entire region becomes gridlocked.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

July 24, 2017

Doe.., A Deer..., A Female Deer...

Being a bit of a beach hound regardless of the season or the weather, you get to see plenty of wildlife along the Ocean Park bluff shoreline between White Rock and Crescent Beach. Birders can expect an aerial display with shorebirds, ducks, geese, great blue herons, bald eagles, and even ospreys being present. Many times I have met harbour seals taking a rest on the waterfront including one that was not at all interested in moving, making me actually step around it as it watched calmly with those deep seal pup eyes. I once came across a sea otter apparently killed by landslide debris near Kwomais Point, plus saw a skittish family of them hiding in a drain pipe under the BNSF Railway tracks when I was doing a shoreline cleanup along Crescent Rock Beach.

Imagine my surprise when a friend sent me a picture from the beach last week showing a black-tailed deer strutting her stuff along the shores of the naturist beach. This was from an area just south of the Christopherson Steps at the west end of 24 Ave., just out of sight from Crescent Beach. The deer trotted north, cut across the BNSF tracks and made its way into the ravine system at the end of Bayview Ave. that feeds up into the Crescent Heights neighbourhood. Considering the people still on the beach at 7 p.m. when the photo was taken and the dogs that folks often bring to the beach, seeing a deer here was a weird yet wonderful sight. While I'm sure this was a relatively rare occurrence, as development has continued across the Semiahmoo peninsula, black-tailed deer are becoming masters at navigating the greenways and ravine corridors into places you might not expect them.

When I first moved into the Semi-pen, I must admit that I chuckled when I saw the deer jumping warning signs on 24 Ave up near Softball City in the Sunnyside Acres Park, thinking the deer had been ran off years ago. Imagine my surprise when several years later there was a small traffic jam in this area as everyone slowed down to see a female black-tailed deer dead at the side of the road after it was killed by a passing vehicle. Ever since that time I now drive much slower through this forested area, especially at night when I have frequently seen deer feeding on the lush growth along the ditch that is pumped with well water that fills local creeks during the hot and dry summer. Since then, jumping deer warning signs have spread into the neighbourhoods across south Surrey, usually followed by red circular stickers for a Rudolph nose by some joker not named Don. These signs are real, the deer are definitely here.

The Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest is surely the focal point for the local herd of black-tailed deer with its 130 hectares of forest providing a base camp of sorts for excursions into more urbanized areas. What most folks don't realize is that the southwest portion of the park along 20th Ave. close to 140 St. is a dedicated "Wildlife Refuge Area" that is fenced off and posted with signs showing a black-tailed deer. These signs instruct people to "Please keep out of this area to protect that animals that live here" and to "Call 604-501-5050 for more information." If you visit the Sunnyside Acres Heritage Society website at sunnysideacres.ca you can see the effect on how urbanization has affected south Surrey and why these wildlife area is now so important (click here https://www.sunnysideacres.ca/urbanization). Simply scroll over top of the picture to check out how vast swaths of farmland and forest have become subdivisions around the park in the past 50 years.

With no bears, cougars or bobcats to prey on them, habitat destruction, deaths from vehicles and possibly coyotes eating young fawns are the factors limiting black-tailed deer numbers here. A couple I know who live near the intersection of 128 St. and Crescent Road reported seeing a doe and two small spotted fawns several days ago crossing from Crescent Park to the Surrey drainage park across from 129 St. that feeds into the Nicomekyl River greenbelt system. With deer sightings becoming commonplace across many places here, we have to realize that you can possibly have a Bambi experience at any park, greenway or bluff forest throughout the Semiahmoo peninsula. This goes to show the resiliency of nature and how the protection of habitat hubs and green corridors through development areas is important for biodiversity preservation in south Surrey. If this means that my flowering plants may occasionally get nibbled on or that the veggie garden gets raided, so be it.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

July 17, 2017

A Rough Walk In The Park

 

Many people like to go out into local parks to get their exercise, commune with nature and enjoy some fresh air. I tend to avoid these areas because the only wildlife you will see are people walking their dogs and crows feeding on the food scraps and garbage they leave behind. To see and enjoy nature, you have to visit wild areas where people don't go and the only trails are those left by the deer and coyotes. This weekend I decided to explore a little bit and check out what eventually will be south Surrey's newest park at what was once the Riverside Golf Course at Crescent Road and King George Blvd. I must admit that while I loved the natural beauty of the place, I was rather shocked by how wild it had gotten in only a short amount of time.

I have previously written about this property back on Oct. 19, 2015 (scroll down to read it) titled"The HUB-bub at Riverside Golf" when the City of Surrey was expropriating the golf course and driving range from the family that had owned it for 50 years. I talked this weekend to Ken Poirier, the former owner who informed me that their legal action against the City of Surrey for allegedly short-changing them on the sale price is still ongoing. The sign posted out front says "FUTURE NATURE PARK - This 6.4 hectare park will have a pathway system through open spaces and natural areas with an opportunity for the community to connect to the Nicomekl River." Rather interestingly, the website the sign directs you to for more information (surrey.ca/newparks) does not list this new park or the development plans that were to include a freshwater marsh. I for one hope the folks at City Hall rightly name this area "Riverside Park" to pay historical homage to the half century it was a golf course and driving range.

Old netting from driving range

The road building where the driving range and office buildings once stood has now been completed but it has yet to be opened to the adjoining development property. The driving range has now had all of its tall poles and nets taken down but it is still lined with trees, easily showing the old perimeter. For some strange reason a large ball of the golf ball netting was left in place, providing a nice comfortable seat. The heavy and incessant rains this winter and spring flooded the driving range for months, drowning out much of the grass in the centre of it. It was only recently that you could walk through this area without getting soaked or stuck in the mud. In the little more than a year and a half since it was taken over, the rest of the golf course has reverted to thick lush grasslands that make finding the tees and greens almost an impossible task. If you have ever seen what the rough on a "links" golf course looks like, that is what the Riverside Golf Course has now become.

The course is now quiet and devoid of human visitors but my wife Sheryl and I found plenty of evidence that the wildlife were continuing to use it as they had before when it was still a golf course. There is coyote scat just about everywhere you look, especially on the dyke that they use to cross the property. In fact we saw a lone coyote running across the driving range in the middle of the day. Several water hazards were getting very low but the mud held the hoof impressions of many black tail deer and their tiny new fawns. Several hawks flew by, their whistling screams letting us know that they were not happy with our intrusion into their private hunting grounds. While we did not see any owls, I did find several regurgitated pellets by a big pine tree showing they are around at night. Being directly next to the Nicomekl River, it is likely there would be plenty of migratory waterfowl to check out during the spring and fall, especially if the large marsh goes ahead as planned. An unfortunate inhabitant was a grove of invasive Japanese Knotweed that had been staked out by Surrey crews for removal.

The following are pictures of our hike and the sites we had the pleasure to witness. You may want to wait until this area is developed as walking through the tall grass is difficult and nearly impossible to see hidden tripping hazards.

Completion of this new park is scheduled for 2018/2019.

Two views of the Nicomekyl river taken from the dyke

View of the old Bailey bridge above the Nicomekl

View of the old Bailey bridge above the Nicomekl


The Nicomekl looking north towards Highway 99

Diifferent fairways with plenty of rough - Manicured fairways reverted into wild pasture land

 

I hope you enjoyed the photos, especially if you had previously golfed at this local course that was part of our community for half a century. For those who miss the great deals at Riverside Golf, know that they need your support and are still open in Vancouver at 1366 S.W. Marine Drive or you can shop online at riversidegolf.ca.

 

Naturally yours
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 10, 2017


Save Water, Save Money

While White Rock's water woes have been well reported, not many people know that the City of Surrey is sending out a team of post secondary school students this summer to educate and inform residents about not wasting precious H2O. Last weekend we received a hand delivered letter from the City of Surrey titled "Saving Water to Save You Money" alerting us to the presence of the newly formed Water Conservation Education Team (WCET). This is a City of Surrey initiative formed to help property owners and residents conserve water, particularly in the hot and dry summer months.

The WCET members will be in neighbourhoods throughout Surrey from May to August to meet with property owners and residents and provide tips and tools to help reduce water consumption and decrease utility bills. They will offer free helpful advice to assist with water-wise lawn and garden care, potentially reduce high water bills and to support a sustainable city that is growing in leaps and bounds. The letter from Surrey's Water Conservation Team promised that the students will:
- Assist you with programing your irrigation system to avoid overwatering
- Review your lawn's health and soil profile to assist in suggestions for watering recommendations specific to your lawn and soil
- Introduction to species used for xeriscaping (drought tolerant/resistant plants)
- Providing you with a free rain gauge to help you assess your watering needs
- Teach you how your water meter can be used to detect leaks.

With Metro Vancouver watering regulations in effect (http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/water/conservation-reservoir-levels/lawn-sprinkling/Pages/default.aspx) it is important to know how you can reduce your demand for water. Taken directly from the City of Surrey website dealing with water conservation (http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/3440.aspx) here are some ways to dramatically decrease your water usage.

 

Save water inside your home


Turn off the water when shaving, brushing teeth, and washing dishes. This can save 10 to 40 litres/day.
Check for leaky toilets and replace older bathroom faucet nozzles.
Install low flow toilets - they can save 6 to 14 litres per flush (around $75/year on your utility), while low flow showerheads can save 8 litres/minute.
Flush only toilet paper down the toilet.
Wash produce in a pan half-filled with water instead of using a strainer. Use this water for household plants.
Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when you have a full load.


Save water outside your home

Use a broom instead of a hose to clean the driveway and sidewalk. A hose uses 23 litres/minute.
Use a bucket of soapy water to wash your car and use the hose only for rinsing.
Wash your car using soap and water from a bucket. The hose uses 23 litres/minute, but using a bucket saves you at least 2 minutes' worth of water (46 litres).
Water the garden during early morning or evening hours when temperatures are cooler to avoid evaporation.
Grow the grass at least 2 to 3 inches. Taller grass shades new growth and reduces evaporation.
Water your lawn only when it needs it. An hour of sprinkling uses about 1300 litres of water. Position the sprinkler so that water isn't wasted on the cement; this can save 10 to 35 litres/minute.
Keep to the water sprinkling regulations between May 15 and October 15.
Use a rain barrel to water your garden and plants.


Other innovative ways to save water

When you’re craving a cool glass of water, don’t run the faucet until the water gets cold. Try keeping a jug of water in the fridge. This way you can have a cold glass of water whenever you like!
Remove weeds in your lawn and garden. This reduces competition for water while making the rest of the yard look great!
Plant a water wise garden, which contains plants that need little water and can cope with long dry spells. Placing mulch in your garden is also a good way to conserve water. It reduces erosion and discourages weeds. Spread grass clippings or other mulch materials around the base of plants and shrubs.
Reduce your shower by 5 minutes. This can save up to 100 litres of water and up to $100 per year in energy bills!


We have five 45 gallon food grade plastic barrels on our property that I purchased for $10 each, which allow us to collect rain and water our gardens and lawns whenever we want. While not mentioned in their water saving letter, I found out that the City of Surrey sells modern systern rain barrels to Surrey residents to help with water conservation. These units that are made up of 50% recycled plastics and hold 55 gallons or 208 litres of water. They can easily be added onto existing downspouts with the overflow water either connected to additional barrels or directed away from the building. There is a fine mesh screen on top to keep out mosquitoes and leafy debris plus a handy dandy spigot at the bottom, eliminating the need for an electric pump. At only $49.36 plus tax each, these are a great deal and can be purchased at either City Hall (13450 104 Ave) or the Operations Works Yard (6651 148 St). Check them out on the Surrey website at https://www.surrey.ca/city-services/23966.aspx

I must admit that I am one of those fools who fertilizes and waters his lawn in the summer, ensuring that I have to constantly mow and trim it when I should be relaxing down at the beach. That being said, with the planting of shade trees around the yard, topdressing of the lawn with organic matter and overseeding in the spring, plus cutting at a high setting during the summer months means it takes very little water to keep it lush, cool and green. For those who are not so anal or ridiculous about their grass, the motto "Brown It, Don't Drown it" should be used by Metro Vancouver and the City of Surrey to encourage residents to allow their lawns to naturally go dormant in the summer, knowing it will green up and grow again with cooler temperatures and rain usually beginning at the time the PNE opens up in mid-August.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

July 04, 2017

Break A Leg Dianne

You may have seen the picture that Dianne Watts recently tweeted from the Peace Arch Hospital showing her laying in a hospital bed with her right leg heavily bandaged and elevated. On Sunday, June 18th, our Conservative MP was heading out to walk her dogs in the morning wearing flip-flops on her feet and took a nasty spill down the front steps of her residence, breaking her ankle in the process. The damage was serious enough that the break required surgery instead of just simple immobilization. No word on how long it will be until Mrs. Watts is back on her two feet again but I wish her well and offer to be one of the first people to sign her cast.

This is not the first time that Dianne Watts has ended up in the news with injuries sustained in an accident, in fact it is the third time that she has required hospitalization in the past seven years. The last time that Dianne was seriously hurt was on July 23, 2011 while on vacation near 100 Mile House. Out horseback riding with her two daughters and some friends, the horse she was on bucked her into the air and she came down hard on the saddle, hearing a loud crack in her back with instant stabbing pain. Taken to Kamloops hospital, tests revealed that she had suffering two broken vertebrae in her back that fortunately for her did not result in any paralysis. This accident happened when Mrs. Watts was still Mayor of Surrey but the timing of the injury meant that she did not miss any Surrey Council meetings.

By far the most serious accident Dianne Watts has been involved with was the April 23, 2010 car crash that happened late on a Friday night in south Surrey near Crescent Park. In this accident involving the Watts Cadillac Escalade and another lady's Chrysler 300 sedan, Diane received a cracked rib with her and her husband suffering various soft tissue injuries. The woman they t-boned in the intersection received much more severe injuries, suffering a broken collar bone, ribs and injuries to her head, neck, back, abdomen, lungs, knee, spleen and pancreas. While the woman driving the Chrysler 300 was ticketed for the crash, she launched a civil suit against the Watts, who then counter-sued with the entire case being settled out of court in May of 2014 with non-disclosure agreements ensuring this entire messy affair was swept under the rug. If you want to read the details of this event, scroll in to the TNT archives to check out the April 26, 2011 "Car-nage On The Streets Of The Semi-Pen", August 8, 2011 "Watts Courting Trouble" and the May 12, 2014 " Watts Really Happened With The Mayor's Car Cash?"

Now maybe Mrs. Watts is just unlucky or possibly it is true that bad things actually do come in threes. Three accidents involving injuries and hospitalization in only seven years leaves me wondering if Dianne needs to "Have a word with yourself." If that phrase sounds familiar, you have probably seen the TV commercials by The Committee Against Preventable Injuries who are online at preventable.ca. Their basic goal is to make people aware that sometimes bad things can (and do) happen to good people. It turns out that more than three million Canadians are seriously injured every year, costing our health care system over $20 billion, with the care and rehabilitation of the victims of preventable injuries taking a huge chunk out of provincial budgets. If this doesn't hit close to home with you, consider that over 400,000 British Columbians suffer a preventable injury every year with 1,200 dying as a result. Preventable injuries also claim the lives of more children in our province than all other causes combined and are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1 and 44 years old.

Hopefully this will be the last time that we hear about Dianne Watts being injured or see pictures of her from a hospital bed. We need her up and about representing our community, not having to heal and rehabilitate from injuries. For the constituents of the Semiahmoo peninsula, take a minute to realize that accidents like those that have plagued Mrs. Watts occur all of the time and can easily happen to you. Instead of that little voice inside your head saying "It won't happen to me", it should be saying "Be careful, bad things can easily happen to good people." Consider the personal consequences when you catch yourself doing something foolish, stupid or downright dangerous. Sometimes it only takes a moment of inattentiveness to cause serious injuries with long-term effects that can last a lifetime. Becoming aware of your own personal safety and taking responsibility for staying safe is the first step to a long and healthy life without hospital stays and the pain associated with the injuries that brought you there in the first place.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 26, 2016

The Buzz About The Nude Beach

Until recently, the idea of visiting the secluded and idyllic shores of Crescent Rock Beach between White Rock and Crescent Beach to do some sunbathing or skinny-dipping seemed like a pipe dream. Record amounts of rain this spring with cloudy skies and below average temperatures ensured that the beach was empty except for the many birds and wildlife that frequent its rugged shores. As soon as the clouds finally parted and the sun shone through, sun worshippers descended in droves to Crescent Rock, the world famous Wreck Beach in Vancouver and Brunswick Beach in Lions Bay that was recently in the news with nearly 200 cars parked up onto the Sea-to-Sky highway.

A few weeks ago one of the regulars who has frequented Crescent Rock for several years texted me to say there has been a rather disturbing new development at the nude beach. Several times in the middle of the week, he reported that a drone was seen flying over the area frequented by naturists and nudists who were relaxing au' naturel enjoying the simple pleasure of being at the beach free from textiles. Getting buzzed at the beach is nothing new with small planes, ultra-lights, paragliders, news copters and even the RCMP helicopter passing by well below the 500" ceiling level they would have to observe over residential areas. On the water you will also get passing boats, canoes, kayacks, paddleboarders and a couple of times even the Coast Guard hovercraft which always attracts a crowd whether on a training or rescue mission.

Having planes or boats pass by is to be expected and I believe that most people at Crescent Rock Beach really couldn't give a damn if someone want to sneak-a-peek. The issue with the drone is that it did not zip by at a high altitude but came in low over the main nudist area and simply hovered for a long period of time directly over top of nude sunbathers. Modern drones carry highly sophisticated video cameras that can take HD video, beaming it directly to the user holding the control unit. As to whether the person flying this drone was filming nude people on the beach and what was done with the footage remains to be seen. It is somewhere between creepy and weird that someone would do such a thing but this happened several days in a row so it was no fluke and certainly no accident.

What was interesting was that before these incidents were reported, I had met a young man down at the beach with his friends when my wife and I were out walking the dogs one cloudy and cold evening. He had one of these new drones and was zipping up and down the beach, showing off the incredibly detailed shots to his teenage friends. I went over to check it out and he explained that the quad-copter he was flying had cost $1,500, contained a 12 megapixel 4K ultra HD video camera with a range of 5-6 km. With on-board flight stabilization and hover control, GPS guidance, obstacle avoidance programming, automatic flight return and lithium ion batteries giving it 25 minutes of airtime, even a kid could fly one which was the case. To get an idea of how detailed the filming can be, check out White Rock's Christian Leblanc's video from the frozen Serpentine Fen a couple of winters ago posted on YouTube under the title MOST AMAZING DRONE VIDEO! (HD) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdpT8X19mRs. If you watch it to the end, the final few seconds of this video shows the Ocean Park Bluffs, the BNSF Railway Tracks and a deserted part of Crescent Rock Beach from high above.

The issuing with filming naked people up close and personal at a nude beach with a drone is that it constitutes voyeurism under section 162 of the Canadian Criminal Code.
Voyeurism
162. (1) Every one commits an offence who, surreptitiously, observes — including by mechanical or electronic means — or makes a visual recording of a person who is in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, if:
(a) the person is in a place in which a person can reasonably be expected to be nude, to expose his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or to be engaged in explicit sexual activity;
(b) the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts, or is engaged in explicit sexual activity, and the observation or recording is done for the purpose of observing or recording a person in such a state or engaged in such an activity; or
(c) the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose.
Printing, publication, etc., of voyeuristic recordings
(4) Every one commits an offence who, knowing that a recording was obtained by the commission of an offence under subsection (1), prints, copies, publishes, distributes, circulates, sells, advertises or makes available the recording, or has the recording in his or her possession for the purpose of printing, copying, publishing, distributing, circulating, selling or advertising it or making it available.
Punishment
(5) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) or (4)
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

If you were to walk down Crescent Rock beach openly taking pictures of naked people, it is highly likely that if you did not delete the photos your camera or cellphone would end up in the saltchuck. Whoever is responsible for flying a drone over nudists and naturists needs to know that this little stunt is actually a criminal act that could land them in Canadian Federal Prision for up to five years. If you are at Crescent Rock Beach and a drone hovers above you, report it immediately to the Surrey RCMP by calling 911, telling them a pervert is video taping people at the nude beach. For myself, besides bringing a water bottle, sunscreen and a towel, my beach bag now contains some new equipment; a Wrist Rocket slingshot and a couple of heavy duty zap-straps should the owner try and retrieve their expensive toy that I will try to bring down.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

June 19, 2017

Open House, Closed Mind, Empty Wallet

 

With my interest in rail safety here involving the BNSF tracks, there was no way that I was going to miss the Rail Safety Open House put on by White Rock last Thursday evening at the historic train station. While it was supposed to be held out front of the building, strong winds and pelting rain from "Junetober" forced the meeting inside the rather confined quarters of the station. I'm not sure if it was the inclement weather or a lack of interest from the community but attendance was sparse with White rock and BNSF employees easily outnumbering the residents and Surreyians who showed up to take part. Not surprising, former MLA Ken Jones who is president of the local community rail safety group Smartrail was on hand to provide his expertise in rail safety matters and discuss the expensive safety upgrades ordered by Transport Canada plus White Rock pet projects.

While there was lip service given to rail safety tips and train whistle cessation in White Rock, the star of the show was definitely the informative displays showcasing the proposed changes to the six at-grade crossings along the waterfront plus an elevated pedestrian walkway. Plans are for Finlay St., Ash St., Balsam St., Cypress St., the Bay St. boat launch and the WR Pier to all have flashing lights, bells and crossing gates installed. Engineering and design work are currently underway that should be completed by August of this year with construction beginning in September 2017 on the Fir, Bay and Balsam street crossings plus at the Pier by June of 2018. As far as funding goes, the Canadian Federal government is paying for 50% of this project, the BNSF Railway is on track to pay 37.5% of the bill, with White Rock shelling out 12.5% of the cost. The total price tag for this project is estimated at $5.8 million with Transport Canada contributing $2.3 million, the BNSF $1.3 million and WR $2.1 million. If you caught that this match doesn't jive with the previous percentages, it is because White Rock is on the hook to pay $1.7 million for the pedestrian overpass, Transport Canada paying half a million bucks and the BNSF not paying a penny for this elevated feature.

That is not the only pile of tax money that politicians want to dump on the waterfront. Plans from WR City Hall are to extend the promenade 1,000 m. west to the Coldicutt Ravine staircase which is where the new pedestrian overpass is to be located. This $4-5 million project is endorsed by WR Councillor Grant Meyers who was on hand at the open house to show off his new baby. The Memorial Park Project by the Pier has been approved with construction pegged to start in the fall of 2017 with the planned spring 2018 opening valued at a further $5 million. Add to this WR Council's plans for a four or six story concrete parkade at the foot of Victoria Ave, likely to be in the $4-6 million range depending on final height. Add them all up with the crossing fixes and you quickly get around $20 million or $1,000 spent for every resident of White Rock to complete all of these upgrades. With taxation rates already a third higher than surrounding Surrey, there appears to be no appetite for reducing spending and decreasing property taxes. When residents have no bread left, it wouldn't surprise me to hear the phrase "let them eat cake" emanate from City Hall.

I understand the need for safety upgrades along the waterfront after the last pedestrian fatality there in July of 2013 involving White Rock jogger Anita Lewis who was killed by the Amtrak. Putting some high-viz reflective striping on the front of locomotives would be cheaper but I don't see anyone other than yours truly trying to change the almost camouflaged colours of the Cascades engines to make then look like the rear of firetrucks. Instead, gates, lights and bells will hopefully keep people off the tracks when trains are passing by, something that is needed with increasing rail traffic and today's distracted society. I was down in San Clemente, California several years ago and they use a similar system to what is being planned here and it works very well in a beachfront area with large crowds and lots of passing commuter and freight trains. Since it is Transport Canada who is pushing this grade crossing project forward and paying the lions share of the cost, there is nothing that White Rock can do except for cough up their part of the bill. As far as some of the other costs associated with this project, I believe they need to be seriously looked at whether they are needed or simply a bad idea wasting millions.

I have to be the one to ask the question, "Does the promenade really need to be lengthened?" Currently the historic pier is 1,592 feet long making it the longest wooden pier in Canada. I don't hear anyone demanding that we extend the pier further into Boundary Bay! The promenade comes in at 7,199 feet or 1.36 miles from the east end of East Beach to the west side of West Beach that act as nice bookends. I have been up and down the Coldicutt Ravine many times and have never met anyone else on the trail there, with most people being unaware of its existence or unsure of its location. Indeed there is little signage on Marine Drive or Terry St., with nothing to mark it next to the tracks except for a few worn steps and a notch in the landslide detector fence allowing pedestrians passage. If built, the promenade extension would basically be a path to nowhere, other than making it easier for nudists to get to the Hermit's Haven naturist beach only a couple of hundred metres down the shore. As far as keeping people off the tracks, there would be nothing stopping folks from climbing up the rip-rap and going for a hike on the rails all the way to Crescent Beach as currently happens.

What is perplexing about this plan is they want to build the pedestrian overpass at the base of the Coldicutt Ravine where the extended promenade would terminate, allowing people access to the rocky beach there. Considering its high cost and the small number of people that would ever use it I see this as a great waste of tax-payer money, the bulk of which would come straight out of White Rock coffers. Where a pedestrian overpass is badly needed is directly in front of the White Rock pier where the vast majority of pedestrian traffic is located. It could come off the top of the stairs level with Marine Drive, go over the train tracks and then come down beside the promenade next to the pier. If designed as a ramp it would allow strollers and possibly even wheelchair access during times when trains are on the tracks. In the event of a mile long coal train stopping on the waterfront, a pedestrian overpass in this location would allow crowds of people to enter and leave the pier and beach area safely without cutting through or under the train as is now currently the case. Building such an elevated walkway at Coldicutt makes as much sense to me as extending the promenade into an area with no beach when it is high tide.

One of tproposed railway overpasses at Coldictutt Ravine

I think that the promenade extension and the Coldicutt trail overpass are both white elephant projects that should be scrapped as a waste of time and money. Unless we can install a proper trail system all the way to Crescent Beach if the tracks are ever relocated (pipe dream I say), there is no point in building either. Transport Canada needs to rethink its two options for the pedestrian overpass and instead design option three, building one where it is sorely needed in front of the White Rock pier. As to why this wasn't considered as part of the Memorial Park Project, another unnecessary and questionable waste of cash in my opinion, maybe they didn't think about how people would get over the tracks with ever increasing rail traffic and longer trains. If you live in White Rock, you may want to ask your Mayor and Council the same questions I have brought up here, along with talking to them about reigning in out-of-control spending by City Hall on projects with little benefit when the water system obviously needs major work. As of Monday, June 19th, the information revealed at the Rail Safety Open House should be posted on the city website for your perusal at whiterockcity.ca. I strongly suggest you take a look at these plans plus their associated costs and not allow yourself to get railroaded into paying for unneeded vanity projects.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

(click here to view the City of White Rock's material presented at the Open House on Rail Saffety.)

 

June 12, 2017

 

Raising a Black Flag in Surrey

I live in Surrey by choice. There, I said it and. I'm glad I said it. I grew up in Delta, lived in Burnaby, Vancouver and Langley before making my way into the "City of Parks" as the old Surrey slogan used to be. With the way things are going in White Rock these days, its almost fair to turn the tired mantra around and say that "Living in Surrey means never having to say your White Rock." That being said, it is not like everything that the City of Surrey does is well thought out or approved by the public at large. It defies comprehension how those in charge at City Hall can constantly make idiotic decisions that defy comprehension, no matter which of these cities you live in.

It was back in 2007 that I complained to the City of Surrey about the dreadful condition of the "Welcome to Surrey" signs at all of the highway and freeway entrances. These were sandblasted wood, painted in green, yellow and white featuring the iconic beaver on the top, with peeling paint and plenty of dry rot. Instead of refurbishing these historic signs, in 2008 City Hall decided to instead replace them with steel and aluminum monoliths resembling a real estate developer sign with a couple of concrete highrises, a little strip of vegetation and the ubiquitous slogan "The Future Lives Here." Without a whisper of public consultation the iconic beaver was exterminated, replaced with a cheap knock-off of the City of Toronto logo. Check out these links to both Surrey and Toronto to see if you notice a striking resemblance between the two.
City of Surrey logo, click here https://www.surrey.ca/city-government/6193.aspx
City of Toronto logo, click here http://www.houselink.on.ca/sponsor/city-of-toronto/

I'm all for preserving heritage in Surrey that is quickly disappearing under the excavator shovel and bulldozer blade. While heritage buildings are left to rot, fall down, or be burned by vandals and the homeless, you would think that the signage for heritage roadway names would reflect the past of this town formed in 1879. Unfortunately modernization seems to have caught up with our new heritage signs. Until recently the heritage signs pointing out the old street names were in an easy to read yellow orange background featuring the Surrey coat of arms and the rather green logo "The City of Parks." Several years ago a replacement program was launched featuring new signs in a brown background with reflective white trim and lettering, something that was quickly abandoned when someone noted these signs quite literally looked like crap. If you thought the recent rebranding of the City of Vancouver that copied the 2011 logo change for the City of Chilliwack caused a stir before it was recently cancelled (click here) then you might want to keep an eye out for the new heritage marker signs posted throughout Surrey.

The new heritage marker signs in Surrey feature old road names have a black background with reflective white lettering and thin white trim. They are devoid of colour, city logo or slogan, simply stating "City of Surrey" at the bottom. Now maybe they thought this was nostalgic, taking us back to the good old days of early movies or black and white TVs. Possibly someone thought this resembled the previous era of black and white photography before Kodak brought us Kodachrome. It could be that they imagined this would link to old-fashioned newspapers that were printed in black and white until Canada's first internet newspaper, the White Rock Sun, appeared on the scene ruining everything. Whatever the reasoning or rational, I can't help but think that these boring, hard to spot, monochromatic signs resemble the black and white ISIS flag every time I drive by one. It's gotten to the point that I'm starting to yell "allaha akbar", "jihad" and "death to America" as I drive by each one, wishing I could hit the IED detonator button and blow myself straight to Allah.

www.surreyshirts.com

If the idea was to preserve heritage in Surrey, they should have used a reflective white background with green and yellow print, the same colour scheme of the old Surrey freeway signs plus also used on the watercourse and hill signs, printed in white, green and yellow, that are also being replaced. Delta utilizes an easy to spot bright yellow background for their heritage markers along with the Corporation of Delta logo, plus the same stream naming signs formerly used in Surrey. The City of Langley also uses a bright yellow background for their heritage roadway signs, along with their corporation crest. If Surrey wanted to give a nod to their heritage, they should have used the old beaver logo, possibly incorporating the previous "City of Parks" logo. This shouldn't have been too hard to imagine since I created a Surrey Retro t-shirt years ago featuring many of these same attributes. Having a black sign with no logo, no slogan and not even the new twin towers in Whalley design is a disservice to the residents of Surrey and its long and storied past. Absolutely Orwellian and devoid of any charm or thought, likely similar to those who dreamed up this bland uninspiring design.

It remains to be ascertained what this heritage exercise is costing the City of Surrey but there are thousands of these new ISIS inspired signs popping up on every main roadway throughout Surrey. Whoever thought this was a brilliant idea should meet with White Rock City Manager Dan Bottrill who believed it would look good to paint the light standards and safety railings along the beach a ghoulish black instead of the nice sea blue they formerly were. There is nothing wrong with a little colour as it is easy to see, pleasing to the eye and does not resemble the flag of a terrorist state. Of course, it does go well with my black pajamas, black balaclava and my wife's nice burka and hijab. Remember that one man's terrorist is another one's freedom fighter and I think this terrible idea of black and white heritage signs needs to be reversed and those who came up with the concept be tested for colour blindness. Unfortunately it is more likely these terrible signs will stay in place because as it is often said, "once you go black, you never go back."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 05, 2017


Art Knapp Gives a Hoot

Barn owl building at Panorama Park near Colebrook Road in Surrey.

I first met Marty Vanderzalm at the south Surrey Art Knapp located at 4391 King George Blvd. directly south of the Serpentine Wildlife Area, aka the Serpentine Fen, when investigating a story about Ducks Unlimited. Several years later after learning about some special barn owl buildings that had been built in Surrey, I decided to visit Marty and ask him about the concept of building barn own nesting boxes and erecting them around the Fen. Imagine my surprise when he said, "Now why would you want to do that? You're standing in barn owl central!" Little did I know at the time but the Art Knapp was way ahead of me with conservation efforts to help one of the prettiest owls in Canada that is under tremendous environmental pressure here. Taken directly from the artknappsurrey.com website, here is their Conservation Commitment and information on the lovely barn owl.

OUR OWLS

Art Knapp is situated immediately adjacent to the Serpentine Fen Conservation Area. As part of our commitment to helping preserve and maintain our heritage and indigenous wildlife species, we have undertaken an owl repatriation project right on our own property. We are proud to be recognized as one of western Canada’s ‘Owl Hot Spots’. Have a look up toward the back of the Garden Spot and you’ll see 3 of our newly erected ‘Owl Barrels’. They add to the nine we currently have on the property, for a total of twelve owl houses - which house a large number of barn owls.

Barn owls nest, on the pellets that they regurgitate, in barns where they find shelter and protection from the elements and possible predators. Barn owls and farmers have a unique, symbiotic relationship in which the farmer provides roosting, foraging, and nesting areas for the Barn owls, and in return, the owls supply very effective mouse traps–themselves! A family of hungry barn owls can consume as many as 1,000 mice per year! In the spring the female may lay five-seven eggs, laying one egg every second or third day. Because barn owls lay their eggs over a few days time, the older ones get stronger more quickly and have a better chance of survival than the ones born last. Quite often, from five hatchlings, only two will survive. The ones that do survive to mate and have young are usually the strongest and their owlets inherit that strength from them. Although barn owls can be found almost worldwide, they are considered “vulnerable” by COSEWIC (Committee On the Status of Endangered Wildlife In Canada) and are disappearing from many parts of Canada.

Barn owls have experienced a steady decline due to loss of nesting sites (fewer wooden barns and more barns made of aluminum) and habitat (wet meadows and undisturbed grasslands to forage for food). Barn owl box programs in the Fraser Valley and other regions of the province help provide nesting sights for these owls.
For more information on barn owl habitat restoration efforts and information on our resident owls and and other British Columbian owl species (Barn owl, Barred owl, Boreal owl, Burrowing owl, Flammulated owl, Great Grey owl, Great Horned owl, Long Eared owl, Northern Hawk owl, Northern Pygmy owl, Saw-Whet owl, Screech owl, Short Eared owl, Snowy owl and the Spotted owl) go here: Northwest Wildlife - Owls of BC
And for anyone who finds an orphaned owl, be sure to contact the folks at OWL Canada (just down the highway off of Mud Bay): Owl Canada
Ask us how you can be involved in helping to restore lost habitat for these wonderful creatures.

As wonderful as their work has been to provide nesting places for these owls, Art Knapps is now bringing them to Canada and the world, putting video cameras into some of the boxes and streaming them over the internet on their "Live Owl Cam” which can be seen by going to their website and clicking the yellow Owl icon www.artknappsurrey.com. While this has been done in many other countries, I understand this is a first for Canada. Barn owls are the most widely distributed species of owl and also one of the most widespread of all birds found everywhere in the world except polar and desert regions, but they exist in this country in limited areas with a small pocket of five mated pairs in southern Ontario with the bulk of the population here in southern BC. Earlier this year you could watch their crazy mating ritual on the Art Knapps Live Owl Cam that resembles someone dancing to disco music. Then came the mating season and being nocturnal, they did it with the lights off oblivious to the infared cameras that allow us to see at night. Obviously their pairing was successful as there is now a clutch of four eggs in one of the Art Knapps nesting sites that the female sits on incubating them while the male forages in nearby farm fields and ditches for food. If everything goes well, these eggs will hatch shortly with the fuzzy little owlets likely becoming an internet sensation across Canada.

I've been rather fortunate to have had plenty of close encounters with barn owls over the years. When the Alex Fraser Bridge was built, Hwy 91 cut the Delta Golf Course in half with their old barn clubhouse being left vacant as that side of the course went fallow. One day my friend and I decided to check out the loft of this rather unique building that resembled an upside down boat with no posts or beams inside. When we entered through an open hay door, we discovered a pair of barn owls that were not too happy with our intrusion and they flew circles over our heads until we beat a hasty retreat. When living on a farm in Langley, we had barn owls in several of the outbuildings that you could often see in the day resting in the rafters or hiding in a dark roof corner. You had to be careful not to spook them for they have a rather nasty habit of bombing you with their feces if you forced them to fly, something I found out one day while checking for a that coyote I had seen enter one of the buildings. For those people who think that getting crapped on by a bird is good luck, obviously they have never been painted white by a barn owl.

For more detailed information about barn owls and the challenges they face, visit the Government of Canada Species at Risk Public Registry at the following link: http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=44 A recent article in The Star featuring commentary by Wildlife biologist and local barn owl researcher Sofi Hindmarch who works with the folks at Art Knapps on their conservation efforts is also worth a read at: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/05/16/barn-owls-in-vancouver-struggling-to-adapt-as-city-grows-study-finds.html This story hi-lights the dangers barn owls face from their low level flying that makes them vulnerable to being hit by vehicles, something my wife Sheryl unfortunately recently witnessed with a barn owl getting killed by the car directly in front of her. Keep an eye on the Art Knapps Live Owl Cam at artknappssurrey.com for the baby barn owl chicks to arrive, something that will also be announced in the White Rock Sun as we recently did for the Hancock Wildlife Foundation Ocean Park Eagle Cam when this year's eaglets hatched.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

MAY 29, 2017


The Plane Truth

The month of May has basically been "Mayhem" for me with long days of 11-14 hours and not a single day off to rest, relax and recuperate (and you thought the 3 R's were reding, riting and rithmatic). ignoring the call to shoot at long-range rifle matches in either Kamloops or Chilliwack with the B.C. Rifle Association, I finally took a day off, looking forward to relaxing on Sunday, the traditional day of rest. I normally get up to take on the day before 6 a.m. so getting to finally sleep in was a blessed relief and with the nice weather we decided to sleep with the window open to enjoy the fresh air. After staying up late on Saturday night, I was still in bed when a commercial jet airliner woke me from my dream state at 8:26 a.m. in the morning. Not quite as irritating as forgetting that your alarm clock was still set for work or getting an early phone call from a telemarketer but certainly not the way I want to be raised from the dead.

Because of my work and play schedule, I am generally not around the house for an entire day but Sunday proved to be an exception with cleaning up the yard duties in the morning, patio party time mid-day and a few hours at the end of the day at Crescent Rock Beach where we took in a nice sunset. At 10:53 a.m. another plane flew above the Crescent Beach/Ocean Park region of south Surrey, another around dinner time at 5:51 p.m. and two night time intrusions at 9:32 p.m. and 11:24 pm. Checking our YVRs WebTrak online noise monitoring website at webtrak.bksv.com/yvr that allows you to track these planes, it showed that these planes were mainly variants of the Boeing 737 or an Airbus 320. The annoying part about these commercial jets is that they are not supposed to be flying over south Surrey when on visual flight paths, which is what was happening today in the clear sunny weather. The flight corridor is in the "middle of Boundary Bay", 5-6 km. away from the peninsula and the now busy shoreline at Crescent Beach or the naturist Crescent Rock. I'm pretty sure that the last time I looked at a map that Ocean Park, Crescent Park and Crescent Beach were not an island in the middle of Boundary Bay.

This is not the first time I've written about this problem with the last TNT on this issue available if you scroll down to Nov. 7, 2016 titled "Time For A Change, In Clocks And Planes." Interestingly, it was a noisy jet at 8:25 a.m. on a Sunday morning that woke me on that day so I guess I should be happy about getting an extra minute of sleep this time. Concern about airplane noise pollution in south Surrey and White Rock became front page news a decade ago when Nav Canada (with offices in Newton beside Costco) changed the YVR flight paths without telling anyone, even the Mayor of Surrey who was Dianne Watts at the time. The City of Surrey and Delta worked together with local area MP's including Russ Hiebert to force Nav Canada to alter the flight paths, putting the GPS track on a route far away over Boundary Bay and ensuring that planes flying on visual would not overfly the peninsula. Over time, there seems to be an issue with this information being shared with new air traffic controllers and inbounds to YVR flying over the Semi-Pen is becoming more and more common, especially when the weather is nice and skies are clear.

Besides waking people up on the weekends and disturbing them when relaxing in their yards, the overflights above the beaches that are a destination for up to a million Fraser Valley residents should not be forgotten. Many people go to the beach to escape the heat, enjoy the sunshine and have some quiet time. While I love to visit the Abbotsford Airshow in August, I really don't want to watch a parade of commercial jets on decent to YVR flying above me at the beach. It is bad enough having freight trains roll by or ocean racing boats at full throttle heading out from the Crescent Beach Marina, we don't need the added airline noise disturbing the peace. I'd much rather listening to the wind, the waves against the shore, the cackling cries of majestic bald eagles and the songs of the many birds and ducks that frequent this area. If these planes were directed to the middle of Boundary Bay as has been the case for many years, this topic would not keep reappearing in the White Rock Sun. Being born on a Canadian Air Force Base and having lived in Richmond not far from the airport, when I purchased our house, being away from flight paths was an important consideration.

Surrey's old mayor is now our MP and even though Dianne Watts is a Conservative and part of the opposition, it is her job to represent the constituents here on federal issues which includes aviation transportation. Since she played an instrumental role in stopping the commercial airplane fly-overs of this region almost a decade ago, it is now time for her to tackle this issue again to ensure that the flight controls that were put in place are adhered to. It probably would not hurt for our new MLA BC Liberal Tracy Redies to add her voice to this conversation, letting Nav Canada know that planes flying on visual are to be in the middle of Boundary Bay. Trust me, all pilots have detailed maps of this region and they are quite aware of which body of water is Boundary Bay so there is no excuse for them to be flying anywhere over the Semiahmoo peninsula. A copy of this TNT plus the one from November will be forwarded to both of these ladies and hopefully they can find the time to remind Nav Canada of their own rules. If you have been noticing a gradual increase of jet planes here or are bothered by their noise when down at the beach, please email them your thoughts at service@navcanada.ca telling them to give pilots on visual approach to YVR instructions to steer clear of here.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 23, 2017

Cowboys, Carnies, Creep Catchers, Cops and Cloverdale

After all of the wicked weather this year with one of the snowiest and coldest winters followed by one of the dreariest saturated springs, it really was amazing that the Victoria Day long weekend saw sunny skies, warm temperatures and not a drop of rain. It left me wondering who at the Cloverdale Rodeo Association had sold their soul to the devil to ensure the storm clouds would part and the sun would make its long awaited appearance. My wife and I worked at the Cloverdale Rodeo & Country Fair again selling our Surrey apparel and I must admit that is now seems we are becoming part of the show. We have settled into a great location next door to Lemon Heaven across from the food court that always attracts throngs of onlookers. Hawking souvenirs for five years at BC Place comes in handy while now bellowing out "Surrey Shirts! We Cover Surrey!" thousands of times over the long weekend, much to the chagrin of our neighbours from London Drugs in the booth next door. I must admit, it was Sheryl who looked after the customers, completed their transactions and looked after stock and inventory.

With our forth year under our belts, you start to recognize VIPs, dignitaries, RCMP members, and people from all walks of life. Of course we are now on a first name basis with almost everyone from the Cloverdale Rodeo Association, mainly because we are often viewed as an intemperate child that needs to be controlled and scolded for our edgy Surrey designs. Former Surrey-Tynehead MLA Dave Hayer and former Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Ken Jones were both at the rodeo as usual sporting their styling Cloverdale Rodeo jackets that they appear in annually complete with cowboy hat. Staff Sergeant Dale Carr plus many officers we now recognize from the Surrey RCMP were in attendance and we made sure to keep them entertained complaining about their hi-viz vests while pleading for uniformed officers to arrest those members wearing the red serge for looking too good. Many of our repeat Surrey Shirts customers came by to visit or stock up on merch (yup, that's now a word) and show us their new Surrey tattoo they had inked in the last year. We always pay plenty of attention to anyone with physical or mental challenges, giving out stickers for scooters and wheelchairs, getting to meet the indomitable Jean this year who lost her left arm and right leg due to an adverse reaction to the blood thinning drug Heparin.

There are plenty of interesting characters that you meet along the way, with many coming out of the woodwork every rodeo season. The Big Red Machine Hell's Angels members are always present, some sporting club colours, most dressing down for the event, but many interested in our wares involving anything linked to motorcycles. In total we met four people who operated marijuana dispensaries who were quite open and candid about the work that they were doing providing medical grade herb to clients approved by Health Canada, one even buying our leafy "Home Grown Surrey" t-shirt. Many professional and amateur skateboarders we have met over the years rolled on by after taking part in the World Freestyle Skateboard Championships, with several leaving sporting Surrey stickers proudly displayed on their boards. The Sinclair family from Newton all got hugs from us, with Tammy being the lady in front of Sinclair Motorsports who was attacked with acid in February 2014 after an attempted abduction on their son, both crimes that have never been solved. By far, the most notorious personality who dropped in to visit was our good buddy Ryan LaForge , President of the Surrey Creep Catchers (SCC), who shared a post about Surrey Shirts being at the rodeo with his 25,000 Facebook followers.

Mr. Laforge's visit to the rodeo on Friday may have been purely for pleasure but he was back in Cloverdale at the fairgrounds on Sunday night on official SCC business. His crew of internet sleuths had been communicating with a man online who was allegedly trying to meet up with what he thought was a 13 year old girl for sex. The meeting was streamed live on Facebook on the SCC page (https://www.facebook.com/surreycreepcatcher/) where it has been viewed over 55,000 times with the main action starting at the 13 minute mark. The target of their sting was the West Coast Amusement (WCA) operator of the Zipper ride apparently named Johnathan whose job entailed opening and closing the door to the Zipper ride to thousands of children a day, including many scantily clad young teenagers. Shortly after confronting the alleged perpetrator, Mr. LaForge was told to leave the Rodeo grounds by the RCMP or else be considered to be in breach of his bail requirements for keeping the peace related to several assault charges. No word on whether the WCA employee is under police investigation for child luring but an RCMP officer at the rodeo informed me on Monday the man had been terminated from his position.

This information has since been confirmed with the following post since appearing on the West Coast Amusements FB page.
To all concerned,
We appreciate last night's episode was brought to our attention. West Coast Amusements prides itself in the fun and safety of all who attend and under no circumstance do we allow or condone the illicit acts of our employees.
Once this matter was brought to our attention this employee was immediately dismissed.
The memories of going to the carnival are to be enjoyable and fun and this is what West Coast Amusement strives for.
Thank you from management and staff.


We have had the opportunity over the years to meet with the hardworking men and women who work for WCA and it is sad that this incident will likely perpetuate the myth of carnies being untrustworthy scammers. Imagine working 14 hour days in the blazing sun and pouring rain, living out of a small trailer while traveling from town to town across Western Canada. It is not a lifestyle I would ever attempt and I applaud the folks doing this grinding work, allowing us to blow off some steam and have some thrills. If evidence confirms the SCC's accusations, let's hope the RCMP lay charges for child luring against this individual, taking one more predator off the internet and keeping the Cloverdale Fairgrounds a place where children can be safe and fond memories continue to be made.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Editor's Note:

You can check out the full line of Surrey apparel and merch at SurreyShirts.com

 

 

May 15, 2017

Driving Me Crazy

Warning: This column contains coarse language and strong opinions that may be objectionable to some and not suitable for all family members. Accordingly, reader's discretion is advised.

 

One of the joys of writing this weekly TNT column is having the ability to get things off my chest that are really pissing me off. I've been sitting on this subject for quite some time and like a burning itching hemorrhoid, it has finally gotten to the point that it is no longer a minor annoyance but is simply a bloody pain in the ass. I'm taking the time to call a spade a spade, call a jerk a jerk and call an idiot an idiot. If any of what follows happens to describe you and your actions, then its time to look in the mirror and change your evil and stupid ways. What has really got my gall is how atrocious the driving has gotten here over time, and I'm not talking about traffic jams or rush hour. I'm talking about the clowns, morons and goofs who seemingly are driving on our streets with their heads stuck firmly up their butts.

I'll start with the mundane that drives me insane. Is it too much to ask people to signal their intentions when driving? Too often I've been sitting at an intersection waiting for a car to pass when finally at the last second, they turn on their blinker or turn without having one. For these people, I now give them a last of the horn and the thumbs up salute or even a round of applause. I find this more entertaining than giving them the "Salmon Arm Salute" made famous by former PM Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Even more annoying are those folks that never ever signal a lane change as they weave back and forth through traffic. When I catch up with these idiots at the next red light I like to give them the roll down the windows signal and then tell them their signal lights are broken and they should get them fixed before they cause an accident. Not one person has ever admitted they are too lazy and ignorant to bother with this common courtesy, usually thanking me for bringing it to their attention.

Intersection idiots are a major source of rectal burn for me. I can't believe how often I see morons who do not come to a halt within one metre of the stop line, as you are supposed to according to the Motor Vehicle Act. Stop too far back or too far forward, you will fail to trigger the traffic signal light sensor buried in the roadway. I have lost track of how many times I have driven up to a light that has been red for blocks to find someone far from the sensor and waiting forever for the light to change, sometimes with a long line up of people behind them. I often will turn right, turn around and then carry on my way, watching in the rear-view mirror as they continue to sit there oblivious to the problem. If I cannot turn, I then get out of my vehicle, walk forward and give them a quick driving lesson about the sensor circle near the stop line. It is amazing to me that this simple driving tip is apparently unknown to a wide portion of the population, many who appear new to the country and apparently unfamiliar with our traffic laws.

Freeway driving often makes me reach for a tube of Preparation H to get ready for those people who should have an L sticker on their car to match the ones on their forehead. My favourite are those people who are so unsure in their ability to drive at 100 Kmh that instead of simply merging onto the freeway, they slam on their brakes and skid to a halt on the on-ramp. Not only does this exponentially increase your odds of being rear-ended by the following driver, it makes it nearly impossible and often life-threatening to now enter the flow of traffic. If you think its tough at 90 Kmh, try it from a stand-still during rush hour. These are probably the same folks who once on the freeway drive in the fast lane at low speed or beside a large commercial vehicle matching its speed, ignoring the cars behind them who are flashing their lights to get the hell over. Lastly, it is on darkened freeways that I often see drivers at night with only their daytime running lights on, unable to figure out why it is so hard to see or why people keep flashing their hi-beams at them all the time.

Living near Crescent Beach and frequenting White Rock I'm not a real fan of the trains, but the one I really hate is the slow poke leading the long car train as it slowly makes its way through town. What I'm talking about is the clown out for a leisurely drive, possibly looking at real estate for sale, or who is on the cell phone engrossed in conversation and not realizing they are driving nowhere near the speed limit. Often they appear to be completely oblivious to the long line of traffic behind them, while having miles of open road ahead. It is almost as if the rear view and side mirrors are on their vehicles for decoration only, since they never look at them to realize they are seriously impeding the flow of traffic. These morons are also assisted by engineers at City Hall that have been removing nearly all passing lanes, only adding to the misery of people already dealing with the second worst traffic in North America. If you ever get behind some Sunday driver on Crescent Road or on 16 Ave. anywhere east of Hwy. 99, you'll have experienced this first hand.

I'm not sure why but the number of times I have seen people passing when unsafe to do so is dramatically on the rise. I have been passed on painted traffic islands while traveling through school zones doing 30 Kmh, usually by someone in a Range Rover or Audi, as if being able to afford one of these vehicles exempts you from traffic laws or common sense. On Old McMillian Road through Panorama Ridge, I've had a handful of drivers in the past few years pass me on a double solid line into blind corners on this narrow and twisty road, while I was already driving above the posted speed limit. The worst one was actually a Translink shuttle bus who I reported to Translink and I never heard a word back from them, telling me they ignored this incompetent and dangerous bus driver. The latest game for those who do not follow the rules of the road is to pull into the left lane at an intersection and then hit the gas and go straight through, putting themselves in front of traffic while endangering everyone around them. These a-holes don't just need their license taken away, they need a punch to the head to reset their one-cell brain functions.

By far, the most concerning behaviour on our roads that I am frequently witnessing is the dangerous driving. I don't mean those people who make an honest mistake, screw up and make a complete idiot of themselves. I'm talking about those drivers who show no consideration for others safety, have a total lack of respect for the rules of the road and who treat the streets like their own private racetrack. Anything 40 Kmh over the speed limit can get your vehicle impounded but I am frequently seeing people driving at double the speed limit or higher. On Sunday night I watched a car with one headlight zig-zag through traffic on #10 Hwy (without signaling of course) and head into Cloverdale at over 100 Kmh in a 50 Kmh zone. In Chilliwack last week I saw a guy in a Dodge truck driving on the parallel road at speed 30 Kmh faster than I was doing on the freeway that was 110Kmh, which makes it 140Kmh in a 50 Kmh zone or nearly three times the limit. He passed a family in a minivan at warp speed and ended up sitting at a red light off Lickman Road where I passed him while he talked openly on his cell phone. I really could go on and on and on about the constant dangerous driving I witness on a damn near daily basis.

The lack of police presence on our roads seems to be a big contributor to this problem but there is a way of fighting back. If you see someone driving like an absolute douche-bag, realize that dangerous driving can be reported to the police. You can dial 911 and legally drive, just like in the old days, to help them direct officers to the offending vehicle. Having the plate number, colour and make of the vehicle, a description of the driver are paramount, plus speed and direction of travel. I've already helped take a couple of these road-warriors off the street, as has my mother out in Chilliwack who had a red sports car she saw racing impounded for a week. Whether its drunk drivers, street racers or dangerous drivers, I believe we all have a duty to get these idiots off our roads before they kill someone, possibly someone you love, or maybe even yourself.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Editor's Note

Canada Road Safety Week.
http://globalnews.ca/news/3454355/gta-police-join-forces-to-kick-off-canada-road-safety-week/


Abbotsford cops released this dangerous driving video too.
http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/abbotsford-police-post-scary-video-of-a-drunk-driver-ahead-of-road-safety-week

 

May 08, 2017

Your Vote Is Your Voice

Well here we are, only one sleep to go before the we know the results of the 2017 BC Provincial election. We have learned that polls are not to be trusted, that the electorate can be a fickle bunch, and in the end it is likely we will have a majority government elected by far less than fifty percent of eligible voters. While I may not be able to predict the outcome of the entire election, I'm going to go out on a limb and say with great certainty that Gordon Hogg will not be the MLA for Surrey-White Rock when all of the ballots are counted. In the end, the only person who could stop Mr. Hogg from winning here was the man himself when he announced back in October last year that he would not be seeking re-election. Five times Gordon was elected as our MLA, putting in two decades of public service, on top of his time spent as Councillor and Mayor in White Rock. To say that he will be missed as our representative in Victoria is an understatement but I suspect you will still see his smiling face around town at many civic events in the future.

Hogg's departure leaves this riding up for grabs and this election will show whether this is indeed a Liberal riding or simply a Gordon Hogg riding. In the last election four years ago Gordie was easily re-elected, beating the NDP candidate Susan Keeping by a wider-than 2:1 margin (58% to 27%). Back in 2009, Hogg won by an even greater margin of victory over the NDP's Drina Allen (62% to 27%). If you think those numbers are huge, imagine running as the BC Green Party candidate here in what was a Godzilla vs. Bambi battle. I know what it was like, signing up for the slaughter that saw me receive 8.87% of the vote here in the last election, up marginally from the 8.69% back in 2009. Knowing about the three strikes and you're out law, I was actually happy when White Rock realtor Bill Marshall stepped up to represent the Greens in this riding. To celebrate this weekend I spent time disassembling my stash of old election signs that I'd kept for eight years, many that were actually from former candidates dating back sixteen years with a new name plate attached to them. The stack of coreplast awaits recycling in the near future once this election is over.

In Surrey-White Rock, it is Tracy Redies for the Liberals, Niovi Patsicakis for the NDP, Bill Marshall for the Greens and Tom Bryant as an independent. Redies chairs the University of Victoria Board and is the former President and CEO of Coast Capital Savings. Mrs. Patsicakis is a retired teacher who tirelessly advocates for public education and social justice issues, running previously in 2014 for Surrey School Trustee. As previously noted, Bill Marshall is a White Rock realtor who previously ran for the Greens in Delta North in 2013. Not one of the south Surrey regions ridings will have an incumbent, with several playing a game of musical chairs and switching ridings. In Surrey Panorama, the Liberals will be represented by Puneet Sandhar, the NDP by Jinny Sims, Greens by Laurel Greer and Liz Galenzoski for the BC Refederation Party. Over in Surrey-Cloverdale, Marvin Hunt who was the former incumbent in Surrey-Panorama will again be running for the Libs, Rebecca Smith for the NDP, Aleksandra Muniak for the Greens and Peter Poelstra for the BC Libertarians. The newly created riding of Surrey-South will be hotly contested and features Stephanie Cadieux for the Liberals who vacated her seat in the Cloverdale riding, Jonathan Silveria for the NDP, Pascal Tremblay for the Greens, Josh Barrett for the Libertarians, Fabiola Palomio for Your Political Party and two independents, Gary Hee, and Peter Njenga. With seven people running for this seat you can't tell the players without a program, which is what this candidate listing is all about.

No matter who you want to represent you in Victoria for the next four years, the crucial part is to get out and actually vote. Many people took advantage of the six days of advance polls offered by Elections BC, with this past Saturday being your last chance to cast your ballot early. In what I hope is a good sign for voter turnout, over 614,000 people voted in advance of election day, a total of 19 percent of all registered voters. This is a marked increase from 2013 that saw almost 366,000 cast their vote early, or 11 percent of the registered voters. Ten ridings this year have seen voter turnout over 10,000, including six on Vancouver Island where the Green Party is making inroads. The top riding in the province was Saanich North and the Islands, with 12,380 early voters in this riding that is expected to be a tight three-way race. Closer to home, in Surrey-Newton where Harry Bains of the NDP is the incumbent, fully 25.26 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot before election day, the highest number recorded in BC. In Surrey-White Rock, 9,337 people cast an early ballot, a surprising 22.5% of registered voters.

It is important to keep in mind that only 57% of eligible voters bothered to cast ballots in the last election, meaning that if the 43% of non-voters had cast ballots for the "None-of-the-Above Party" or even the old anti-establishment Rhinoceros Party, they easily would have won the election. While it seems that political parties get elected and then flagrantly disregard their constituents for four years, election day is when they can finally be held accountable. This is your time to decide if the ruling government party has been doing their job or if the winds of change are blowing and it is time to let someone else take the reigns of power (I know its "reins" but "reigns" seemed more appropriate). So take the time, make your mark and ensure that you are part of the democratic process. Considering how the decisions that governments make can affect your life, I view not exercising your right to vote as an abdication of your personal responsibility and freedom.

Will Christie Clark and the Liberals continue their dynasty, stretching it to 20 years? Will the NDP under John Horgan finally get back into power after being shut out since they were decimated in 2001 and went from the ruling party to only having two seats? Will climate change scientist Andrew Weaver and his upstart Green Party get more than their leader elected to the Legislature this time? Will someone get elected as an independent, with Vicky Huntington in Delta South stepping down as the first one since 1949? When I went to the Magic 8 Ball website at http://www.ask8ball.net/ and asked "Will the Liberals win the 2017 election" it answered back "Without a doubt." The same question but with the NDP winning instead resulted in a "Signs point to yes" response. Of course I had to ask "Will the BC Greens win more than one seat" and the Magic 8 Ball told me "Outlook not so good." For answers a little more concrete and scientific, tune in on Tuesday night to see the final results of BC Election 2017.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 01, 2017


Fit To Be Tied

"Ooooh that smell
Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
"
Lyrics to "That Smell" by Lynyrd Skynyrd

It's amazing how time flies when you are having fun! It was in the spring six years ago when the BNSF Railway last installed new creosoted railway ties across the Semiahmoo peninsula, up through Delta and onward to New Westminster. At that time I wrote three The Naked Truth columns on this contentious issue and they are still available online for your viewing pleasure simply by scrolling down to the following dates: May 9, 2011 - "All Fired Up About Pollution", April 4, 2011 - "Creosoaked" (part of Fantastic Four) and March 28, 2011 - "The Ties That Bind". While bang on with the TNT column content, I must admit I seem to have a one track mind and a predilection for cheesy story titles. At that time, a total of 22,000 sleepers as the wooden ties are called by those in the railroad business were being replaced.

Gus Melonas, the spokesperson for the BNSF Railway in this region called me last week to give me the details on this new round of tie replacement. I had noticed that the tie plates holding rotten and cracked ties had recently been marked with orange spray paint and knew that tie replacement was once again being done. When I last went to the beach, stacks of fresh creosoted ties had been dropped by the side of the tracks in preparation for the upcoming maintenance. Mr. Melonas informed me that this time 13,000 ties were being replaced from the border up to New Westminster. This work will commence this week with the arrival of a 40 person tie crew this week, operating a host of machines including a tie extractor/inserter. He expects this safety upgrade will take up to three weeks, with up to 1,500 ties being replaced within a six hour window of free track time. It is expected that the total cost for this track upgrade will be in the $2.5 Mil to $3 Mil range and that's in US dollars, not the Canadian peso.

Of course, there are issues with using creosoted ties here as I have already wrote about. Taken directly from the three previous TNT's on this subject back in 2011, here are the dangers and what to possibly expect from the last time that thousands of sleepers were installed here.

Creosote chemical hazards and health problems - The Ties That Bind.
Creosote is a witches brew of various chemicals derived from the distillation of coal tar that has been used since the 1800's by industry to protect telephone poles, marine pilings and railroad ties from wood-boring insects, foul weather and rot. Exposure to creosote can cause a wide array of serious health effects and eating food or drinking water contaminated with this compound causes a burning in the mouth and throat along with stomach pain and vomiting. Contact with skin results in first degree chemical burns while getting it in your eyes can damage the cornea. Accidental poisonings are known to cause mental confusion, convulsions, kidney and liver problems, unconsciousness and even death. The vapours can cause burning of the respiratory tract along with skin rashes and increased sensitivity to sunlight. Skin cancer and cancer of the scrotum have also resulted from long exposure to low levels of creosote, especially through direct contact with the skin. Both the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have identified coal tar creosote as a probable human carcinogen.

Creosote leaching into the environment along the tracks and Semiahmoo Bay - Creosoaked.
Worms and insects have surfaced from the ground and died in the toxic footprint of the new ties, leaving piles of dead bodies entangled with the yellowing vegetation that is also dying. After only one rain, the new ties have leached creosote oil four to five inches laterally out from the wood so that crushed ballast rock between two fresh ties is completely saturated. As to how far this fresh wood preservative has penetrated into the ground, I`m sure a test dig by geologists would quickly give results. What many people fail to realize is that the BNSF Railway was originally built on the intertidal zone of the beach here, ensuring that any chemicals released from the wooden ties will likely be washed down onto the shore and into the ocean waters. The old ties are now awaiting pickup next to the rails, also stacked neatly in drainage ditches next to the tracks. You`ve got to look on the bright side - you won`t need to bring sun tan oil to the beach this summer and the creosote will give your skin a dark brown colour that won`t easily wash off! As the delusional Charlie Sheen would say, "Winning!"

People burning old ties for firewood along Semiahmoo and Crescent Rock beaches - All Fired Up About Pollution
Besides polluting the air, land and sea, burning creosoted railway ties also exposes people standing near these fires to many of the dangerous chemicals that they contain. While railroad ties have weathered by the time they are retired by the railroads, the U.S. EPA recommends wearing long sleeves, pants and gloves when handling them and washing these separately from other clothing. Long-term, direct skin exposure to the coal tar creosote in railroad ties has been linked to cancer of the skin and scrotum - not exactly the type of stuff you want laying around at Surrey's nude beach. The EPA also cautions against burning old railroad ties which can release toxins in the air that can be dangerous to respiratory health. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are among 300 chemicals in creosote and are the same as those contained in cigarette smoke, a known carcinogen.

Unfortunately with having an industrial railway running alongside the main marine recreational site for over a million people means that those coming to the beach this spring will have to deal with the smell of the fresh creosoted ties. That is simply the price we must pay for the decision of our forefathers over a hundred years ago to move the tracks from their original inland route near 176 St. in Hazelmere to the flat shoreline route across White Rock and Crescent Beach. With an average of 3,500 railway ties per mile of track, this means the 14 km. of track from the Peace Arch to the Crescent Beach trestle holds a little over 30,000 sleepers. Throw in the remaining BNSF tracks to New West, the multiple sidings that have been installed along Colebrook Road and the Watershed Park, all of the CN Tracks along Panorama Ridge plus the SRY line through Surrey and you get an idea of how many of these toxic ties are in our region.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

April 25, 2017

White Rock Craziness - It's The Water (Part 3)

The very first The Naked Truth I wrote for the White Rock Sun way back in July of 2009 was not surprisingly about Crescent Rock Beach and the Guinness Book world record attempt for most people skinny-dipping. The second column was titled "White Rock Craziness - It's The Water", a tongue-in-cheek piece about how questionable decisions from City Hall were likely due to exposure to the presence of the dangerous chemical dihydrogen monoxide (DMHO) found in the EPCOR water system. In case you missed the joke folks, that's H2O. This TNT is still posted for your viewing pleasure if you scroll down to the very dark cellar of the WR Sun archives. It ends with the line "When people ask you to explain 'What the hell is going on with politics in White Rock?' remember to tell them, 'Its the water!'." Little did I know at the time how often the issue of water quality and its delivery in the City By The Sea would become an ongoing story. As the famous French journalist Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr said in this translated quote, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

By far the most contentious water issue was the purchase of the White Rock water distribution system from EPCOR in 2015 for an undisclosed amount of money and a non-disclosure agreement by both parties to not release financial details about the sale until ten days after the next civic election in 2018. It was this secrecy over one of the largest asset purchases in White Rock history plus hiding of the agreement until far in the future that really set off alarm bells in the community. Mayor and Council all voted for this in a closed-door meeting, something that has unnerved and upset the residents of White Rock as many felt this was not an issue that should have warranted an in-camera meeting in the first place. With an advance $14 million payment that was finally revealed and the true cost still to be determined by future arbitration, the civic debt resulting from for this deal and questions about whether it was a logical business choice remain. Since that time, this decision has been the focus of numerous Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the City of White Rock by various residents and appeals to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) when information was withheld or heavily redacted.

In a stunning decision issued on April 12th by OIPC adjudicator Chelsea Lott, The City of White Rock has been ordered to release information to White Rock resident Ross Buchannan on its decision to purchase the city water utility from EPCOR. The OIPC gave the City until May 29th to give him access to all withheld records pertinent to the inquiry. This fight began in April of 2015 with a Freedom of Information Request seeking information on the City's decision not to tap into Metro Vancouver water supplies and instead purchase the private water system already in place in White Rock. The City did supply some records to him but refused to disclose information because of claimed local public body confidences, harm to financial or economic interests of a public body, harm to third party business interests and solicitor client privilege under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). The information in dispute from 2013 was an agenda for an April 4 Metro Vancouver Utilities Committee meeting, minutes of a Feb. 28 Met-Van UC meeting, a three-page staff report to Mayor and Council dated June 10, and a staff report on the business case for acquisition of the water utility that included purchase price and estimated costs. In her final decision, Mr. Lott required White Rock to give the FOI applicant access to all of the requested information it had previously withheld from him.

Even more shocking was the decision about whether the EPCOR purchase decision should have been made behind closed doors in the first place. White Rock argued that the OIPC lacked the jurisdiction to decide the lawfulness of a public body's decision to close a meeting to the public. This came from the most secretive local government in the province that I've been told has held an in-camera meeting before every Council meeting. The OIPC disagreed and looked at whether Council had the authority to close the June 10, 2013 meeting to the public. Since White Rock submitted no meeting minutes or evidence from the participants about the conduct of the meeting, plus no mention in the Corporate Report to its existence, it was found that they did not have the statutory authority to close the meeting to the public. While it is heady reading, you can check out all of the 18 pages of legaleze and the devil in the details on the IOPC website (oipc.bc.ca) regarding this case and the decision at the following link: https://www.oipc.bc.ca/orders/2034. You should note that White Rock could hold its cards to its chest and appeal this decision instead of releasing the requested documents by the end of May.

In case this story wasn't enough for you, it will get even more absurd at Monday night's scheduled Council meeting when Greg St. Louis, White Rock's Director of Engineering and Municipal Operations, gives his Corporate Report to Council titled Water Quality Secondary Disinfection in the Distribution System. In my Dec. 28, 2015 TNT titled "White Rock Craziness - It's The Water (Part 2)", I outlined the dangers of chloramine being used as a disinfectant, and that was before well known environmental lawyer Erin Brockovich linked its use to outbreaks of Legionnaires disease from public water utilities. While WR Council voted down the use of chloramine in January of 2016, Mr. St. Louis will announce that ammonia will soon be added to the Oxford reservoir, combining with the chlorine disinfectant to produce chloramine. You can read all of the details of this report on the White Rock city website (whiterockcity.ca) at the following link, scrolling down to page 37 to find it: http://www.whiterockcity.ca/assets/Committees/Land~Use~and~Planning/2017/2017-04-24%20Regular%20Agenda%20FULL.pdf

The real bombshell in this report is that the chlorine added to the Merklin reservoir has combined with naturally occurring ammonia present in the well water there, producing chloramine ever since 2010. They hope this will improve the water aesthetics but it will unfortunately render the tap water toxic to aquatic life and possibly cause skin and respiratory irritation for some of those using it. For more information about chloramine and its use as a public water supply disinfectant, go to Citizens Concerned About Chloramine (CCAC) at chloramine.org

If the water quality issues, continued secrecy from City Hall and questionable decisions from civic leaders have you ready to move out or wanting to rejoin Surrey, you may want to attend the next Democracy Direct meeting, April 26, 7 p.m. at the White Rock library. Don't be surprised if I happen to show up dressed in my "Support White Rock" t-shirt to gauge the mood of the public and champion for open and transparent government. I'll be bringing my own pure, clean and clear Surrey water with me. Ahhh..., now that's refreshing!

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 18, 2017

Psst..., Hey Buddy..., Wanna Buy Some Farmland?

Green acres is the place to be
Farm living is the life for me
Land spreading out,
so far and wide
Keep Manhattan,
just give me that countryside.

"Green Acres" theme song lyrics by Vic Mizzy

After seeing how real estate speculators, foreign investors and real estate tycoons have driven up residential and commercial real estate prices here, I decided to take a peek around the farming areas of Surrey where new Mc-mansions are constantly popping up to see if farm prices reflect the reality of crop production costs in the Agricultural Land Reserve. It is wise to remember that the Agricultural Land Commission was formed to preserve the 5% of land in BC that is arable, with property tax breaks going to those land owners whose land is classified as farmland. While generally taxed on values of $10,000 - $20,000 per acre, it is not uncommon to see smaller parcels selling for $150,000 to $200,000 an acre, still peanuts compared to lots in a residential subdivision.

In the city of Richmond, their Council is currently contemplating what to do about mega-mansions being built on farmland where properties are often being sold for nearly ten times their property assessment that is based on soil conditions for crop production. A Globe and Mail study done last year found that nearly 60 percent of ALR properties in Richmond were being purchased by investors or speculators, not farmers, driving the price for these lands to stratospheric levels. Houses of 10,000 to 25,000 square feet have been popping up like a crop of mushrooms, often with no one living in them or sitting empty most of the year. Demand is also spiraling out of control since properties of more than two acres can keep their farm status and accompanying tax breaks as long as they sell a minimum of only $2,500 worth of agricultural products per year. Not surprisingly, a quarter of farms in Metro Vancouver only meet those minimum requirements, including a friend of mine with two houses on ten acres who pays $800 in property taxes per year because of land he leases to a neighbour for hay production.

With most single family lots in surrey costing between $750,000 and $1.5 million, it is amazing how much farmland you can buy with plenty of room for your large house. Fortunately back in 2012 Surrey placed controls over the size of the building lot and its location with it Farm Home Plate bylaw. Now you are limited to half an acre of land for house and yard and it must be close to the street, ending the practice of long driveways cutting farms in two and creating drainage problems. Even still, it is amazing to see the grand palatial homes that have been erected on ALR lands in Surrey. Using Surrey's COSMOS site (cosmos.surrey.ca) with it aerial photographs to locate properties, you simply take the address and then feed it into the e-valueBC website (evaluebc.bcassessment.ca) to check out property and house sizes plus the assessed values. Here are some places I know about from my travels around Surrey with some of the rather surprising if not shocking values tied to these properties.

15832 Colebrook Road: 11 acres valued at only $204,000, featuring a 7,700 sq. ft. house with 8 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms at $734,000. As a bonus, it features a large truck park on ALR land, something that I've been told is not allowed yet it has been on site for years. Surrey's spy satellite image on COSMOS shows 6 tractor trailer rigs with a total of 17 cars parked outside and no one working in the fields.

4609 152 Street: Room to grow on this parcel measuring 49 acres plus room to relax with a 9,750 Sq. Ft. house featuring 6 bedrooms and 11 baths. The land is valued at $446,500 (under 10 grand an acre) with the stylish abode worth a whopping $3,786,000. You may have marveled at this hotel-like house that features many bright led lights all along the soffits of the building that are tough to ignore at night while driving.

5228 157 Street: On a little side street south of Panorama Ridge, this 7 acres of flat farmland is valued at a paltry $127,000. With this savings, you can build your dream home which is what happened with a massive 10,200 sq. ft. home on this property featuring 11 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms valued at $950.000.

15454 Colebrook Road: The best of the bunch in my estimation, this farm features a long tree lined driveway and a house built on the banks of the Serpentine River. The 21.4 acres of well tended and manicured blueberry bushes is valued at only $61,500 ($2,875 per acre) with a 6,200 sq. ft. home featuring 4 bedrooms and 7 baths at $718,000. A beautiful home and farm that looks well maintained and professionally run.

5330 160 St. This years price increase winner, it's land value last year was a measley $14,600 for 6.8 acres of land with a mow-down house that has recently been razed. Due to a recent $1,510,000 sale, its new evaluebc rating is $1,428,000 for a mind-boggling increase of 4,728% in one year because it lost its farm status by not being utilized. It makes the 40% increase seen by most single-family dwelling owners in Surrey last year seem like chicken feed.

With the breaks that farm owners are receiving through much lower property taxes, I would hope that the folks who choose the country life work the land and keep up with food production for the masses. It is great to have lots of land and a big house but if you are going to buy farmland, it should be with the idea of actually producing an agricultural commodity, ensuring better food security in the future. For those who choose to let the land sit fallow and unproductive, prepare for your property taxes to reflect the change in land use and your tax rates to increase substantially. With the Lower Mainland having some of the best arable land in Canada, it is a shame to see it wasted by those with little or no interest in actual farming.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

April 10 2017

Creeping Me Out

SCC President Ryan Laforge confronting alleged sexual predator Kelly Bhatti

I must admit that I get a warm sense of satisfaction every time I turn on Global TV and see another report about the Surrey Creep Catchers (SCC) confronting yet another suspected pedophile. The reason is that the SCC graphic that they use on the news reports was one that I created for the group with their logo and bars with the "Support Surrey Creep Catchers" proudly displayed. This was provided free of charge since I had a similar design for a Surrey shirt for many years based on motorcycle gang colours as in the TV series Sons of Anarchy. It was my little show of support for the underground work this dedicated and fearless team of crime-fighters (some say "vigilantes", not me) has been accomplishing that includes the arrest of Surrey RCMP officer Const. Dario Devic for two sex crimes late last year.

Last week marked a new low for the trolls who plague internet chat rooms looking for sex with underage teenagers or children. In case you missed the sickening news coverage, last Monday evening the SCC were able to lure a man to a meeting under the pretext of having sex with a mother and her six year-old daughter. Even the SCC staffers were shocked as this is the first time they have encountered this twisted scenario in all their time searching for online predators. One of their head baiters, a lady named Nicole Hunter, met with the man in question in a fast food restaurant at a local Surrey mall to seal the deal that had been arranged for a measly fifty bucks. While I choose not to reveal the methods the SCC uses to catch these bottom-feeders, it took a week of online communication to lure this predatory fish in out of the shadows.

You may have seen edited snippits of the last take down on TV news coverage but the entire 21 minute video of the confrontation and citizen's arrest is posted for all to see on the Surrey Creep Catcher Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/surreycreepcatcher/). You have to scroll down to the April 3rd date to watch the entire event that includes the citizen's arrest of the man in question and the arrival of the RCMP officers. I must warn you that some of the language would make a sailor blush and comments made by Nicole Hunter about the man offering to purchase lubricant for the child are extremely disturbing. With media attention on this story and social media spreading the news, this video titled "Goof pays for sex with 6 year old girl" has been viewed a remarkable 229,000 time and counting when I wrote this piece. Showing their level of community support for their cause, the Surrey Creep Catchers have over 20,000 likes, with myself, my wife Sheryl, plus many of our family members and friends included.

The suspect at the centre of the video was arrested because of evidence provided by SCC member's cell phones in the way of videos and chat logs. On last Thursday Kuljinder Singh Bhatti, (also known as Kelly Bhatti) a 35 year-old man from Burnaby was charged with child luring and making an arrangement with a person for a sex offence with a minor. It has been reported that Mr. Bhatti is married with no children and that he worked as a realtor with Sutton Centre Realty on Boundary Road where he has since resigned from last week. Surrey Creep Catcher President Ryan LaForge was also arrested and is being investigated for assault after the confrontation with Mr. Bhatti for pushing him as he tried to leave the scene. He was released on a promise to appear and it is hoped that no charges will be filed before his next court date once the video of the citizen's arrest is reviewed by Crown Counsel. Considering the seriousness of the allegations against Mr Bhatti, I believe that Mr. LaForge and other SCC members there showed great restraint in holding him until the police arrived.

I contacted Ryan Laforge via FB Messenger since the RCMP had once again taken his phones for evidence and we chatted online about this SCC bust, the disgusting details of this latest sting, and how maybe it was time for the RCMP to accompany them when meeting these alleged online predators. Because of all the pending court action he had little to state on the record and I would not want to write anything here that would jeopardize any future legal proceedings. I should note that while Mr. Bhatti has been charged by Surrey RCMP’s Special Victims Unit, he has not yet been convicted of any sex crime. When I asked Mr. Laforge if he had something he wanted to say to the readers of the White Rock Sun, he wrote back the following: "For all those who keep telling us how to do our job... until you do something, better support or keep quiet. And for those who support and wish to help make a difference, we have a fundraiser and need you to attend."

The SCC fundraiser is on April 28th, 6:30 p.m. at the Columbia, home of Lafflines Comedy Club at 530 Columbia St. in New Westminster, followed by an evening of live music at the nearby Magnetiq Club Lounge at 27 Church St. with Split2nd, Chunky D and Boss Records providing the entertainment. Details are on the SCC Facebook page with tickets available by phone at 604-343-5882. Come out and meet the brave men and women who are devoting their time and energy to making the streets of Surrey a safer place for our children by exposing online sexual exploitation. Make a donation, buy a t-shirt or hoody, sign up for the silent auction, or get lucky in the toonie toss. More than anything, relax and have a good time with the SCC folks who need to unwind and have a little fun after dealing with the worst that the world-wide-web has to offer.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 3, 2017

BNSF Buries Nude Beach

Tuesday's rain event in Vancouver broke a record set in 1956 for the most precipitation for March 28th, with nearly 30 mm falling at the YVR airport. When the month ended we had 26 days of precipitation, nearly double the average rainfall total and the third wettest March on record. Here in the Semiahmoo peninsula, over 50 mm of rain fell in a 48 hour period on ground that was already near saturation levels. I keep a rain gauge on our patio because after ten years of inspecting mud slides onto the BNSF tracks, I've come to realize that anything over 2 inches or 50 mm of rain in a two-day period is likely to initiate ground motion on the Ocean Park bluff above the railway tracks. Checking the gauge on Wednesday morning with it still pissing outside, I called WR Sun Editor Dave Chesney to let him know that slides here should be expected. It was no surprise when he phoned me near lunchtime to report that several mudslides had already happened and that the tracks were presently closed to rail traffic.

On Saturday, I put on my hard hat, high-viz vest, steel toed boots, grabbed my cell phone, camera plus road flares and made my way to the slide zones to inspect the slope failure sites. There were four slides in total along the naturist Crescent Rock beach, the biggest two being 400 m. south of the Christopherson Steps (101 Steps) at the west end of 24 Ave. and the other 300 m. north of the 1001 Steps at the west end of 15A Ave in south Surrey. The one near Crescent Beach came down from a steep hillside that has been the scene of multiple slides over the years, while the one near Ocean Park originated from where trees on the slope had been severely topped for views of residents at the hill top. On the way to this slide, several tsarist were actively working illegally cutting trees on the railway corridor and dropping branches into the ditch next to the tracks, something I reported to Surrey Bylaws and the BNSF Police, initiating investigations by both on a property in the 1800 block of Ocean Park Road.

In their haste to clean and reopen the tracks, the BNSF Railway has once again excavated landslide debris from the base of the Ocean Park bluffs beside the rail bed and then dumped this material onto the ecologically sensitive shoreline of Crescent Rock beach in Boundary Bay with mud and trees covering the waterfront. Unfortunately the pile of trees and mud near the 120 tonne Crescent Rock boulder buried an area of sand used by naturists for nude sunbathing during the summer months, decreasing the already limited clothing-optional recreational spots in this popular area. These incidents were reported to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Habitat Division for further investigation, since it is illegal to dump debris of this nature onto the tidal areas. Imagine what would happen if you backed up a dump truck of muddy fill onto the sands of Crescent Beach or White Rock beach and dumped it. Besides being castigated in local newspapers and social media, it is very likely that you would be charged for damaging the marine environment by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

This is now the third time in the last decade that the BNSF has purposely buried the Crescent Rock beach in mudslide debris. In March of 2007 the Railway also dumped slide material onto the waterfront with a DFO investigation at that time finding the BNSF in violation of the Fisheries Act for habitat destruction. While the Railway was not made to remove this material as DFO feared it would only cause more environmental devastation, they warned the BNSF that this practice was unacceptable and to not dump debris from mudslides onto the tidal area of the beach. In March of 2009 the BNSF Railway repeated this pattern of illegal dumping, excavating slide debris from a large mudslide near Kwomais Point onto the shoreline of Semiahmoo Bay. A dead sea otter was found directly adjacent to the large pile of mud and trees, likely having been killed during the excavation. Even with garbage including old tires being part of the mess, no charges were laid or fines collected in this case, even with the previous warning.

The Department of Fisheries and Ocean has been notified of this third dumping incident in the past decade. I'm hoping that this time that if the BNSF is found in violation of the Fisheries Act for habitat destruction that charges will be laid. This is what happened in 2012 when the BNSF was charged for habitat destruction dumping tonnes of rock along Cougar Creek in North Delta, resulting in a fine of $75,000 several years later when this matter went to court. I will be monitoring DFO's response to ensure the BNSF Railway removes this latest landslide debris from the beach and is fined for its continued disregard for the marine environment of Boundary Bay. For those people looking to have these antiquated and dangerous tracks relocated to a safer inland location, this is yet another example of how landslides from the bluff threaten passing trains and shows the lack of environmental responsibility by this American railway for our laws and waters.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

March 27, 2017

Bird In A Cage

 

Spring has now sprung but you would hardly notice it by listening for the sounds of songbirds in our neighbourhood here in the Semiahmoo peninsula. Years ago you could rise in the morning well before dawn and hear a cacophony of songs from birds throughout the tree canopy with their varied songs mixing together like some absurd kind of symphony. While there are still a few shrill songs being sung, it is painfully noticeable that songbirds are experiencing a serious decline in this parts with many reasons being behind this steady drop in their numbers.

Since the 1960's there has been a mass depletion of songbirds in the Americas, with international birding experts believing that we may now have half the number of songbirds that flew in our skies only 50 years ago. The main case for this great loss is human interference from a wide variety of sources. More than anything, habitat destruction all along migratory routes is believed to be the main case of the alarming reduction in numbers. Pet cats allowed to roam free outside are taking a heavy toll as these well fed expert hunters practice their instinctive behavior. Tall high-rise buildings with walls of glass kill an estimated billion songbirds a year throughout North America. Neocolonialist insecticides are thought to be killing off beneficial insects that songbirds feed on, making successful breeding and feeding of their young less certain. Light pollution from buildings and industry affect songbird nighttime migrations, with many birds flying into lit buildings, greenhouses and even natural gas flares by the thousands.

With all of the new modern residential construction happening now in the Semiahmoo peninsula, there is a local problem here that is contributing to the songbird death toll. Last summer at our house we renovated our sundecks, replacing the sun-bleached vinyl and taking down the rotten wooden railings that were a bad accident just waiting to happen. We wanted a more permanent solution and looked at a variety of options, finally choosing standard aluminum bar railings that have been used in residential construction for some time. Relatively inexpensive, strong and sturdy, they make balconies and patios safe while needing very little care to keep clean. What we didn't pick was the more modern aluminum railings with glass panels that offer folks unobstructed views from inside their homes. The reason was that I know many people who have these railings and have found them to be notorious bird killers.

The issue is using these glass railings at the edge of the house where they appear invisible to birds flying through the yard. Even worse are patios extending out from the house where the entire corner is covered in glass with birds being able to see through the double panes of glass. I had a customer who got so upset at the number of dead birds they found on the corner of their house that they took out the glass panels and had them acid etched so they were visible to birds, ending this problem. If you have glass railings on your patio, the worst thing you can do is to clean the glass, especially in spring, making them impossible for birds to see. Also hanging bird feeders near them invites accidents from birds trying to fly at the seeds which have fallen to the balcony. For architects, builders and home owners, your view vanity may come with a heavy price for birds and the rather unpleasant job of having to deal with their small feathered bodies found near the glass on a frequent basis.

If you already have glass railings, don't worry if they get a little dirty as at least they are more visible. If you have bird feeders, simply move them off the deck and out into the yard where they can still be enjoyed without killing our feathered friends. Bird screen or netting can be hung from problem glass panels, improving visibility and providing a cushion should birds hit them. There are a variety of semi-transparent vinyl films from companies such as CollidEscape, Sunshieldpros and All Window Dressing Etc. that can be installed to dramatically reduce bird strikes while still allowing for views. Anti-collision vinyl decals can be purchased at the Wild Bird Centre but they need to be placed fairly close together to be effective (the hawk shape has shown to be useless). Strings hung like a curtain in front of glass panels deter birds and these can be purchased or easily crafted at home. Translucent bird tape can be applied in stripes to the glass making it visible. Decals, liquids and specially coated glass that reflect ultraviolet light, which birds can see but we can’t, are also available. For the cheapest solution simply use a bar of soap or tempera paint to mark stripes on the glass, no more than four inches apart vertically or two inches horizontally.

If building a new home consider using the more traditional bar railings like we did, or if you must have glass panels for whatever reason, get them shaded, etched, or UV reflective coated. If you already have standard glass panels on your decks, please take some steps to reduce the possibility of bird strikes. If you find dead birds by your glass, realize that it is estimated that only half die immediately, with the other half succumbing to concussions or broken bones soon after. For large plate glass windows in the house, keep blinds down but open for light or hang sheers, allowing light in but for the glass to be seen. When you look at new homes being built here and the amount of glass used in modern construction, you suddenly realize that when all of these houses are added up, there are acres and acres of glass waiting for unsuspecting birds to smash into. It is up to us as homeowners to ensure that our feathered friends are able to live to flight another day.

For more information on this problem and how to safeguard migratory birds, please visit FLAP Canada (Fatal Light Awareness Program) at flap.org where they have a counter showing the estimated number of songbirds that have died in window collisions across North America since you visited their website. In the time that it took to write this TNT, the counter was already over 100,000 birds and rising.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 20. 2017

Spring Has Sprung, BOING!

After enduring double our normal snowfall similar to the years 1996 and 2008, plus temperatures a full two degrees Celcius colder than normal, it is nice to put winter in the rear view mirror and finally say hello to spring. Not surprisingly the last day of winter had to go out with a bang, with snow falling throughout many of the high points of Surrey and Coquitlam on Sunday morning. Sorry to say but don't be surprised if you have to scrape the windows of your vehicle on Monday morning as it is likely to be frosty with clear skies and a low temperature of only 1-2 degrees forecast.

Monday, March 20 is the spring or vernal equinox (Latin for equal night) and if you had set your clock for 3:29 a.m. this morning when it occurred you would have awoken to dark night skies wondering what the fuss was all about. At the celestial equator, the imaginary line above the true equator of the earth, the sun would be exactly over that defined point at that very moment. Keep in mind that due to their being 365.242 days in the Gregorian calendar the vernal equinox can happen on March 19th, 20th or 21st, with the first day of spring varying accordingly (fall equinox this year is on Sept. 22). Most people believe that equinox is the day when the hours of darkness and light are the same but due to the tilt of the earth and refraction in the atmosphere, daylight is actually over 11 minutes longer than night in mid-temperate latitudes. The little known equilux where daylight and nighttime are closest to 12 hours occurs slightly before the spring equinox and just after the fall equinox, with this happening four days earlier on March 17 in White Rock. Sunrise today in White Rock is at 7:13 a.m. and sunset at 7:24 p.m. with solar noon (the highest point of the sun that day) at 1:18 p.m. if you want to get an early start on your tan.

With the arrival of spring, daylight is increasing at 3 minutes and 38 seconds every day, meaning longer days, warmer temperatures, the reawakening of plants and blossoms with migratory birds returning and others starting mating rituals. As a time associated with the change of season, many people celebrate the spring equinox by observing sunrise and sunset, celebrating our sun-star whether it is blue skies or cloudy. Others observe this important day by purchasing colourful flowers for the kitchen table to go with the brighter days of spring. For gardeners it is the first official day of spring clean-up for the yard and also a good time to consider planting early season seeds in containers that can sprout on a windowsill soaking up the sunshine. With spring closely associated with rebirth and fertility, the vernal equinox is a great day to make love with your partner, whether you're trying to get pregnant or just celebrating the day in a romantic way.

It is interesting to note that the sun will rise and set directly to the east and west today, allowing you to pinpoint local geographical references on the horizon that you can use the rest of the year to tell direction. Ancient civilizations took note of this with the Egyptians orientating the Great Sprinx of Giza so that it stares directly into the sun on the equinox morning. At Chichen Itza in Mexico, the shadow of the snake god is visible at the end of the day with shadows from the staircases of the El Castillo pyramid creating an undulating pattern known as the descent of Kulkukan leading to the large carved snake heads at its base. On mid-day of equinox at Macchu Picu in Peru, the sun sits directly above the Intihuatana stone (meaning 'hitching post of the sun') leaving no shadow, marking this celestial event. At Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the sun rises directly over the central tower spire when viewed from in front of the western entrance at equinox. Druids, Pagans and Wiccans are drawn to Stonehenge in England to celebrate the spring and fall equinoxes, plus the summer solstice when the sun rises over the distant heel stone when viewed from inside the circle of stones.

The spring equinox is also important to modern religions with this date playing an important role in Christianity. According to the Bible, Jesus's death and resurrection happened around the time of the Jewish Passover, which was celebrated on the first full moon after spring equinox. If equinox falls on a Sunday, then Easter is delayed a full week so as not to coincide with Passover. Because of this, Easter fluctuates more than a month with it being celebrated this year on Sunday, April 16th. Going off the modern western Gregorian calendar, Easter can happen as early as March 22nd and as late as April 25th, with the last March 22nd date occurring back in 1818 and the the next happening way off in the future in the year 2285, a span of an amazing 467 years. The latest date for Easter is April 25th with the previous one happening in 1943 during World War 2 and the next not too far away at 2038, a spread of 95 years.

For Greenies and environmentalists, the spring equinox also marks the first celebration of Earth Day, with the second held a month later on April 22. The celebration of Equinox Earth Day was first proposed by noted peace active John McConnell at the UNESCO Conference in San Francisco back in 1969. His concept was this special day would honour the planet earth and the concept of world peace. The first celebrations were held on the first day of spring in 1970 with an official proclamation signed by the UN Secretary General in 1971. The traditional observance of Earth Day on the spring equinox is the ringing of the Japanese Peace Bell in New York, a United Nations peace symbol made with coins donated from children in all continents, with other bells being rung in countries across the world. It is noteworthy to realize that both the spring and fall equinox dates in Japan are celebrated as national holidays in that country.

For all of the wonderful things associated with the spring equinox, there is one danger that you need to keep in mind. With the sun directly in line with our east/west streets, you can be blinded by the rising or setting sun or have it light up brake lights or traffic signal lenses making for dangerous driving conditions. Of course, this is the Lower Mainland and it likely will be cloudy with showers, rain, or this year maybe even a few lingering flurries but this hazard is something you should keep in mind if the sun does happens to show itself at either sunrise or sunset.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 13, 2017

Get The Funk Out

 

To be quite honest, I moved into south Surrey to be closer to the beach, get fresher air, plus enjoy more sunshine and the warmer temperatures that come with life in the Semiahmoo peninsula. As someone who has always loved attending live musical performances, it turned out that I got the double bonus with many locations in town offering a wide variety of acts to choose from. This weekend was a case in point with the Eagles Eyes tribute band playing at the Blue Frog Studio, Nearly Neil doing his Neil Diamond tribute act at the "Club 240" Crescent Beach Legion, and the Big Easy Funk Ensemble (BEFE) doing their thing at the historic Ocean Park Hall. While it normally would have been a "pick em" decision as to who to go see, it was the Ocean Park Hall where my wife Sheryl and I had our wedding reception with plenty of funk on the marital music menu, so deciding to go see BEFE was dare I say an "easy" choice.

This show was produced by the Legion of Sound (legionofsound.com) who's motto is "we bring great music to small cities" that currently includes White Rock/South Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley. Saturday's show was the fourth one in the last month at the Ocean Park Hall, with more bands being booked for the upcoming weekends. They are building a concert program starting with a strong mailing list of guests who join their free subscription to receive concert alerts plus help drum up community support. You can join their team of promoters where you can help grow their fan base, make extra money, get free tickets to shows and other benefits. They even have an all ages club and corporate memberships with perks available for friends and staff of local companies. It was at the White Rock Beach Beer Co. where I first met their producer Dave ©eertz with tickets for their shows available at this craft beer lounge on Russel St., at the Sandpiper Liquor Store on Johnson Rd. and at Ethical Addictions Apparel in Ocean Park just across 128 St. from the OP Hall. Tickets were only $20, which includes one drink ticket valued at $5, making for a very affordable night of live entertainment.

The Big Easy Funk Ensemble was as advertised and they brought their refined New Orleans sound to the stage, mixing genres of funk, jazz and blues. This nine member band featuring the amazing Chris Berry (lead vocals) channeling everyone from Joe Cocker to Eminem, rhythm section with Reece Worth (guitar), Eric Stephenson (bass), Tyler Gibson (keyboards/organ), Ryan Davis (drums), and Jeffrey Kornblum (percussion). Filling out that Louisiana vibe was their horn section featuring Kevin Tang (trombone) and Ryan Naso (trumpet), with Andrew Benton (Sax) unfortunately unable to attend the gig. It really was like a big Mardi Gras party, complete with plenty of flashy beads but fortunately no ladies flashing for them. My friend Mike Markevich who played sax for years in a Club Med Band in the Caribbean was amazed at how tight these guys were as a group and wishing he had brought along his saxophone along so he could have joined them on stage to complete the brass section.

It was a rather interesting night in which to run into people from across the Semi-pen and beyond. The bartender was sporting an Off The Rail craft brewery hat and I quickly discovered he was the sales rep from my favourite Vancouver craft brewery that I try to visit whenever I'm in town. Besides the regular bottled beverages and liquor, West Beach Pale Ale from the White Rock Beach Beer company was being poured from growlers and their marketing manager Bill Haddow showed up to take in the festivities. After pumping up this show in the White Rock Sun and adding it to the Night Owl Entertainment Listings, it was not surprising to see Editor Dave Chesney arrive for yet another local concert. My long-time buddy Simon Marples from CanTrust Financial Services arrived with his music hound brother Darryl to check out the scene. Besides plenty of other friends and acquaintances in attendance, I have to tip my hat to Ken Butchko, who was my best man at our wedding the last time he set foot in the OP Hall over eight years ago.

The Big Easy Funk Ensemble performed two sets along with an enthusiastic encore to finish the night. Even with a wide repertoire of music, the funk was the glue that held all of the grooves together making for a great evening of music and dancing. My wife Shery and I hardly left the dance floor which might explain why we were rewarded with two BEFE t-shirts towards the end of the night. Heck, it's probably safe to say we haven't danced that much at the Ocean Park Hall since the night we were married. If you're tired of sitting around on Saturday night or sick of trying to find something to watch on Netflicks, consider taking in some tunes, cutting the rug and supporting live music in your neighbourhood. Your next chance to get the funk out of the house is on Saturday, March 18th when the Legion of Sound brings Freeflow out for the next show at the Ocean Park Hall. This well-known Vancouver band focuses on reggae, soul and rock n' roll, with their motto "melts in your ear, not in your hands" telling you everything you need to know about them.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Next Show Saturday (18)

Freeflow
Live at Ocean Park Hall - March 18th

Doors open @ 8pm - Show Starts @ 9pm

Beer, wine & spirits available for purchase

Tickets: $20 (*includes 1 beverage)

 

 

get your tickets in advance - click here

 

 

March 07, 2017

Feeling house rich and cash poor?

..............let Don Pitcairn show you how to fix that.


My apologies to those who came to the White Rock Sun on Monday morning waiting to read the latest installment of the TNT that I had to put on hold until Tuesday. I hope that this column was worth the wait since it directly relates to the first TNT of the year titled "Alot For A Lot." In case you missed it, the January 2nd edition of The Naked Truth looked at the values given by BC Assessment for properties around the province, available on the e-valueBC website at https://evaluebc.bcassessment.ca. Most of the properties in the Semi-pen rocketed upwards in price last year pushed by non-restricted foreign investment and rampant speculation, with increases of 40% in value being the norm. With the 42.4% increase given our property and a 22% City of Surrey property tax increase in the last two years alone, we decided to appeal the astronomical numbers in the assessment, especially after reviewing neighbouring properties and nearby sales which all pointed to our house and property being overvalued. Today was our date with destiny as we appeared before the BC Property Assessment Review Panel (PARP).

While the BC Assessment website boasts that less than 2% of BC property owners have appealed their assessments this year, obviously this number is way up in south Surrey and White Rock that saw massive gains. We were originally sent a letter stating that our appeal would be heard by the PARP at the Best Western Peace Arch Inn, located at 2293 King George Blvd. Unfortunately we did not call them immediately upon receiving this notification and when we contacted them to set up a time, we're informed that the day had been fully booked and we were instead told our appeal would be heard at the Town & Country Inn in Ladner by the George Massey Tunnel. When we drove to the hotel on Monday morning, we found out that there were only three appeals being heard that day, all involving properties in south Surrey. When our appeal was over we took the time to visit the south Surrey location held in the bowels of the building and found a harried Review Panel there that were pushing through appeals and strictly limiting everyone to a limited time frame in order to hear all of the property assessment appeals. In hindsight, we felt lucky to have been bumped to the Corporation of Delta where the schedule and process was quite relaxed.

At the Delta location, we met the three members of the BC Property Assessment Review Panel along with a Mr. Justin Kwan who worked for BC Assessment and another Surrey resident pleading his case (he got 100K off his property value). It turns out that these panels are all appointed by the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, which is interesting since they are dealing with real estate appraisals. Previous PARP experience, real estate knowledge, property appraisal skills, business experience and mediation skills are all listed as desirable backgrounds but anyone can apply for this position as long as you are available for two months in Feb. and March plus meet their rather extensive conflict of interest guidelines. Their mandate is to "perform an impartial, honest and fair review of property assessment complaints presented by property owners", with their decisions then used to produce an updated assessment roll for the Province. It's not a bad gig if you can qualify since it pays $375 per full sitting day or half that for a partial day plus transportation expenses. Not surprisingly two of the panel lived in Delta, one was actually from White Rock, with the BC Assessment appraiser coming to the meeting from North Vancouver, having not appraised any properties in our neighbourhood for 2016.

When appealing a property assessment, it is critical to go into the review meeting armed with as much pertinent information as possible as to why you think their evaluation is off the mark. Most property owners are looking for a reduction to help reduce property tax while some who plan to sell in the near future can actually seek a higher evaluation leading to a raised asking price. I took along pictures of some of the rather glaring deficiencies about our 35 year old home since the appraisers have little to no idea what kind of interior renovations have been done to the house over the years. In our case, the drafty aluminum frame windows, t-bar ceilings in the basement plus original cabinetry in kitchen and baths worked in our favour to give us an evaluation similar to one of our nearby neighbour's rather rustic home. For the land I poured over property after property on the e-valuebc website around Crescent Park where we live, calculating square footage prices for land from similar properties that I felt worked in our favour. The sold properties from near July 1st when the assessments are made were scrutinized with several similar properties as ours giving us ammunition to take to the panel that we felt the appraiser would have difficulty in defending. If you ever plan to try a property assessment appeal, remember that all supporting documentation must be provided in multiples of five copies for those involved.

The PARP tribunal received our documentation, pictures, written explanation plus estimated house and land values, listening attentively and asking thoughtful questions while I made a verbal presentation about our decidedly low-ball price. The BC Assessment appraiser, who I must admit really knew his stuff about real estate evaluation, countered with a list of sold properties from last year that he felt were equivalent, quickly producing the assessment numbers for these homes. Believe it or not, the talk of Feung Shui in a market driven by foreign investment at that time was important in relation to the design of our home, the layout and age of construction. Being on a busy collector road also helped in our argument along with having little servicing in the way of sidewalks, curbs, light standards or buried hydro lines found in more modern districts. More than anything, it was the size and position of one of our neighbour's newly built monster home that received the most questioning from the panel. It was our position that if BC Assessment raises appraisals for properties with views, they should lower the price if unattractive nearby buildings or unkempt neighbouring yards detract from property owners enjoyment and privacy.

At the end of presentations, the three member panel excused themselves to another room to review the documents and our positions. After a fairly lengthy delay they came back to offer their us judgement. For our house, they decreased the value by $10,000 or a 12% reduction, mainly due to the graphic photos and age of the structure. The lot, which of course where most of the value is now from, was a much more difficult decision for them. Reviewing the information from both sides, the panel agreed to a modest price reduction based on the numbers presented, plus gave an additional amount off for the loss of privacy and relevant position of our neighbour's new mansion styled home that robbed our backyard and bedroom windows of privacy. In the end, we received over $150,000 off the lot assessment, which again was close to a 12% reduction in taxable value. The best part is these changes actually put us below the previous qualifying rate for the $570 Home Owners Grant, which was the plan when we first decided to appeal. With our now only 30% increase in value from last year, hopefully the anticipated 4.4% property tax increase in 2017 that the City of Surrey is planning won't hurt quiet so bad.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 27, 2017

Prop-ad-ganda

 

Though governments routinely engage in propaganda, ministries with the word "propaganda" in their name have become progressively more rare since the end of World War ll, after the term took on its present negative connotation. Instead of using the word "propaganda", governments today often use the terms "public relations", "psychological operations", "education", "advertising", or simply "information".
Wikipedia listing for "Ministry of propaganda".

Hate the Nazis all you want, at least they didn't hide behind feel-good words and pretend to be something they were not. Case in point was Adolf Hitler's trusted friend and confidant Joseph Goebbels who was appointed to the high post of Minister of Propaganda and National Enlightenment for the Third Reich. Goebbels was a key cog in the Nazi war machine, utilizing the relatively new medias of film and radio to promote their party ideology to the uneducated masses, taking control over the news media, arts and entertainment plus dissemination of information in Germany. In the end when his twisted messages fell on deaf or dead ears and with Russians troops closing in on Hitler's Berlin bunker, Goebbels and his wife committed suicide after giving their six children lethal doses of cyanide. In the end, some would say he got his just desserts.

In this suddenly new era of "Fake News" and "Alternate Facts", people need to realize that propaganda is defined as "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view". As much as I love to watch TV news including Global, I tend to do so with a jaundiced eye and am often left with a bad taste in my mouth. It is not the stories, reporting or editorials that I find so nauseating; it is the commercials pushing blatant propaganda that I take great offense to. If you are trying to sell me a product or service while keeping my cable subscription cost down, well that is the price I have to pay for watching. Unfortunately the airwaves have now been taken over with messages that are meant to persuade and deceive the public, passing themselves off as informative when they are corporate propaganda. I've even given these advertisements a new name, "propadganda", which I believe describes them perfectly.

It was the pipeline ads, both for Enbridge's Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion project that really focused my attention on this problem. While these projects were being reviewed, the public was inundated with commercial after commercial extolling the benefits to our economy, the jobs that would flow from them and the promised environmental protection and spill response. The Northern Gateway advertising budget was somewhere between $2-5 million, depending on whether you believe Enbridge or Greenpeace, with $500 million being spent to seek Federal government approval of the nearly $8 billion project. The Trans Mountain Expansion spots were running continuously on Global, sometimes with two ads running in the same commercial break. No word on the total amount of money spent on these prime time TV ads but their CEO admitted spending over $300 million on the $6.8 billion project seeking approval. To no one's surprise, these ads disappeared overnight after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dashed Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipe dream and green-lighted Kinder Morgan's doubling of their existing Trans Mountain pipeline into Burnaby.

Businesses blowing millions of shareholder dollars on their projects is one thing, the Provincial Liberal government throwing away tax-payer dollars to promote their ideology, especially in advance of this spring's election, is something else. Once again, if you watch the nightly news you will see non-stop advertising by the Provincial government about affordable housing, protection for seniors, blah.., blah.., blah. What is sick about this is that in December, the BC Liberals doubled their advertising budget to the end of the financial year, March 31, 2017. They now plan to blow $15 million, up from the $8.5 million in their budget. You can expect more government advertising before the May 9th election, with little or no controls over what many believe should be non-partisan advertising that is actually being used by the government to buy votes. This is nothing new as in the last election in 2013, the Liberals spent $16.4 million of tax-payer dollars to educate the public about the wonderful things they had been doing while in power. It is not too surprising to see them adopting this same strategy that helped them to defy the critics and win the last election in BC.

When you see these warm and fuzzy ads, recognize then for what they are and feel free to question the message and motives of those who feel justified in spending vast amounts of money to change public perception. Don't just take their message for the gospel truth, do your own research, check out alternative views and come to your own conclusions. For me, I'll vote for any political party that will ban partisan advertising utilizing tax-payer dollars, especially in the months before an election where this practice should be considered vote-buying. It is not just TV or radio where these ads will be showing up, you can expect to see them on Google, Facebook and Twitter in the near future. Joseph Goebbels used film and radio to put our his message of hate, Donald Trump is utilizing TV and Twitter to forward his Republican agenda, you can expect the Christy Clark Liberal government to utilize all "propadganda" sources to deliver their message to a receptive audience. Just remember each time you see one of these commercials that you are the one paying for it, instead of these funds being used for education, health care, or other needed services.

In closing, ask yourself if you have ever heard of the following ditty (or a variant of it) known as the "Colonel Bogey March". It was not dreamed up in a children's playground, which was where you probably first heard it, but was British propaganda created in 1939 for use against Nazi leaders. I don't know what it cost, but it's fair to say they certainly got their money's worth. That is the power of propaganda, created 78 years ago, if any of this information actually happens to be true.


Hitler, has only got one ball,
Goerring, has two but very small
Himmler, has something sim'lar
But Goebbels, has no balls, at all.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 20, 107

Mosquitoes Suck

 

You know that after the coldest and snowiest winter in decades here on the west coast, you'd think that the lousy weather would give us a break from some of the other crap we have to put up with here in the Great White North. Well, folks, make sure you put a big X on the calendar for the past Valentine's Day, which is synonymous with a big red heart because that is when mosquitoes once again put us blood pumping mammals living here in the Semi-pen back on the menu.

You would think that these pesky little critters would have been decimated by over two months with snow on the ground on the Lower Mainland but that is not the case. My wife Sheryl caught the first "skeeter" (good old Canadian term) on on February 14th, with two more being squashed against our walls over the next few days. Being a guy who is barely house-trained that likes to spend as much time outdoors as possible, being outside ensures you get feasted on by these blood sucking parasites for enough of the year already. While mosquitoes can be expected with warmer Spring weather, who expects to see them with over a month to go in winter? Now I must admit that neither of us were bitten, so it is possible they were only males that don't take a blood meal for reproduction, but still seeing them hanging on the walls of our home at such an early date was rather unsettling.

Over the years I've had some rather extreme encounters with clouds of mosquitoes. I've pulled into camping sites several times where nobody got out of the vehicle due to the hundreds of mosquitoes that descended onto the windows, waiting for the warm bodies to exit so dinner could begin. I mowed my parents grass once up on Chilliwack Mountain when the Fraser was flooding, with a large grey ball of mosquitoes numbering in the thousands dancing atop of the lawn mower engine, attracted by the heat and the noise of the motor. I've gone on nature hikes that ended up being a wilderness jog due to the large numbers of mosquitoes that were chasing me through the woods. Working near the Fraser River estuary, I've had co-workers put on rain gear in the middle of summer due to infestations of welt-inducing salt water marsh mosquitoes in Twassessen, Ladner and Richmond that were literally driving them buggy.

When you start looking into mosquito information, you can't help but to start feeling itchy all over. It turns out that mosquitoes (order Diptera, family Culicidae) have remained relatively unchanged for 100 million years, infesting areas from the tropics to the arctic tundra and filling niches from seashore and river banks to upper mountainous tree lines. There are 48 confirmed species of this annoying insect in BC and 82 types of mosquitoes in Canada, with 3,200 different species around the world.
Not surprisingly, Canada boasts the second oldest fossilized mosquito ever found in a chunk of nearly 80 million-year-old amber from Alberta's badlands. While both sexes feed on the fluids in plants for energy, it is only the female that needs blood for reproduction. After mating each female can lay up to 100 eggs in standing water or wet soil, with many being able to lay successive generations from only one breeding throughout the same year. Most of the mosquitoes in the genera Amopheles, Culex and Culistera living here in BC store fat and hibernate during the winter, while members of the largest genus Aedes have eggs that can survive freezing temperatures and hatch out of melting snow water. When you see the mercury rise a handful of degrees above zero Centigrade, it is not surprising to see mosquitoes appear as is now the case.

Mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting more diseases to humans than any other blood sucking insect with malaria infecting an estimated 500 million people a year. They also are a vector for a variety of other human diseases including yellow fever, dengue fever, West Nile virus, Zike virus, filariasis and encephalitis to name a few that thankfully are not established in Canada. Dog heartworm is caused by a parasite spread by mosquitoes that can seriously hurt or kill your pet if left untreated. The best way to control mosquitoes is to eliminate their breeding grounds and drain standing water from clogged gutters, old tires, flower pots, unused pails or any other container that can hold still water. In the summer it is best not to water your yard on a constant basis because if it never dries out it can be a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. To reduce the chances of being getting bitten, avoid being outside at dawn or dusk when their feeding is more prevalent, wear clothes made from close weave synthetic fibers that cover most of your skin, avoid dark coloured clothes that tend to attract them plus use mosquitoes screens and nets as barriers. Insect repellents with DEET or Avon's Skin-So-Soft work well along with Citronella candles, avoiding perfumes and soaps, plus possibly eating bananas and garlic.

I'm sorry for putting the bug in your ear but that's the buzz on mosquitoes. If you thought that our harsh winter would have wiped them out, unfortunately its more likely it will have no effect. Remember that these little creatures survived the demise of the dinosaurs and have also lived through successive ice ages. If global warming and climate change are real as has recently been challenged by US President Donald Trump on Valentine's Day when our first mosquito was spotted, chances are these pesky insects will only be increasing in numbers for years to come. That's all for now, If you don't mind I've go some serious scratching to do after writing this TNT.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

February 13, 2017

The Alternative to "Alternative Facts"

 

Last week's "No Ban, No Wall - Vancouver" protest planed for the Peace Arch Monument lawn was canceled due to the rather inclement winter weather we were enduring at that time and the resulting chaos on the roads and transit system. This event was organized on Facebook by French Immersion teacher Jean-Michel Oblette who recently became a Canadian citizen, swearing his oath to this country only four weeks ago. The event was renamed to "No Ban, No Wall - Vancouver - Relaunch" and was rescheduled for Sunday, February 12th, coincidentally the birthday of US President Abe Lincoln whose famous Gettysburg Address endorsed equal rights, liberty and democracy. With warmer sunny weather and the snow a thing of the past, about 300 Canadians from various ethnic, political and religious persuasions gathered around the Peace Arch. Starting with Semiahmoo First Nation Councilor Joanne Charles, guests got to hear speaker after speaker make their thoughts known about President Donald Trumps recent travel ban from Muslim countries and plans to wall off Mexico.

The Peace Arch that was dedicated in 1921 made for a fitting and rather poignant backdrop for this event with its freize inscribed with the motto "Children of a Common Mother" facing the US and "Brethren dwelling together in unity" towards Canada, plus the inscription "May these gates never be closed" found in the passageway. This event attracted known social groups such as the Coalition Against Bigotry - Pacific who are also participating in the International Day Against Racism March on Mar. 26th in Vancouver, International Socialists (socialist.ca) who were handing out their Socialist Worker newspaper. The White Rock Muslim Association (whiterockmuslims.com) were also in attendance, voicing their need for solidarity and acceptance following the recent Montreal massacre where worshipers at a Mosque were shot in the back while praying. Showing the mainstream medias interest in the anti-Trump backlash, three television cameras were on scene to film the protest for the nightly news. Interestingly, there were a total of six uniformed RCMP officers watching over the festivities, looking out for trouble-making professional protesters and ensuring everyone's safety at this peaceful event.

The only thing more diverse than the people in the crowd had to be the many signs that folks had been compelled to bring with them to the rally. Many were quite artistic, with plenty of colour, detailed drawings and eloquent slogans. I thought that their messages collectively spoke volumes about how these Canadians felt about some of President Trump's recent policies. I took pictures of most of them and here they are in no particular order for your perusal and consideration.

 


No ban, no wall. Build a longer table, not a higher fence. Not just your home! Peace, love, acceptance. We are all the same under our skin so why discriminate? When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty. No ban, no wall, no ICE raids, no Islamophobia. Los muros destruyen suenos (walls destroy dreams). Our fight has just begun again and again. No one is free when others are oppressed. Tolerance does not mean tolerating intolerance. Hands off the Middle East. Stop war on immigrants. No ban on stolen land. Spread peace. Stand up for peace. Refugees welcome, fight racism and Islamophobia. No human is illegal. Alternative facts (with letters spelling "lies" in red). Unite & fight, blame austerity not migrants. Nazi Trumps f**k off! TRUMP - The Racist Un-American Misogynist Pig. Jesus was a refugee.

Last week, a U.S. Federal Court upheld a temporary stay on Trump’s ban of people from Iran, Iraqi, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen, suspending the order for the time being. The White House has proposed taking the case to the US Supreme Court or possibly drafting a new executive order to effectively put it back in place. No word on whether or not this topic will be part of the discussion when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets President Donald Trump in Washington on Monday, the day this TNT is posted. While trade, security and defense will likely be hot topics, it remains to be seen if these leaders polar opposite views on many refugees will be debated or considered.

If Donald Trump’s travel ban is reinstated, then the beautifully drawn poster I saw at the Peace Arch rally showing the Statue of Liberty crying while holding a young migrant girl in her arms becomes even more poignant.

Naturally yours,
Don’t call me "The Donald" Pitcairn

 

 

February 6, 2017

South of the 49th

 

For those of you with no interest in sports or NFL football in the United States, it might be time to grab the remote, turn on the big screen and tune in to see what you are missing. While I am a fan of three down CFL football and usually categorize the Super Bowl as the "Super Bore", this year's NFL Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons lived up to its billing and was one for the ages. For the first time in 51 years of Superbowl history the game went into overtime and the Patriots, with quarterback Tom Brady at the helm, going on to record an epic 34-28 victory with 31 unanswered points that basically rewrote the Super Bowl record book.

Down 28-3 midway through the third quarter, at the start of the fourth the Patriots trailed by a score of 28-9 to the Falcons, looking like another blowout was in order. Instead the New England quarterback who had already won four Vince Lombardi trophies in his career went on a tear with the Patriots tying the game with 57 seconds left, setting a new record for 25 points as the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history that was previously held by three other teams at only ten points. Winning the overtime coin toss, the Patriots methodically marched down the field with running back James White scoring on a two yard run to cement the victory, adding his name to the record books by scoring two touchdowns while hauling in a record 14 receptions for 110 yards.

In the victory, Brady set a trifecta of Super Bowl record with 43 completions on absurd 62 attempts for 466 yards, destroying St.. Louis Rams QB Kurt Warner's record for most passing yards in a Super Bowl at 414 yards. On the way Tom Brady set the new record for most Super Bowl victories by a quarterback at five, the first quarterback with three forth-quarter Super Bowl comebacks, plus 10 game-winning drives in the post season that is the most of all time. He also set new all-time marks in the Super Bowl for number of completions (207), passing yards (2,071) and passing touchdowns (15). Not surprisingly, he was awarded the game's Most Valuable Player award, the record forth time he has been given this honor.

For those interested in bizarre statistics, Brady led his 51st game-winning drive in the 51st Super Bowl and even weirder, he has now played seven Super Bowls and never scored a single point in the first quarter of play. New England Coach Bill Belichick also became the league's winningest coach of all time, collecting his fifth Super Bowl ring with Brady as his QB. Quite simply, in the Super Bowl today you got to see the New England Patriots cement their legacy as a football dynasty and watch the NFL's greatest quarterback of all time win the most amazing game of his storied career.



North of the 49th

Ma & Pa Pitcairn in beautiful Chilly-Whack

I don't know about the rest of you but I'm starting to get a little tired of all the damn snow. Living near Crescent Beach it hasn't been that bad this winter with a maximum of six inches or 15 cm. of snow on the ground at any given time during the past two months. As anyone living away from the water or at slightly higher elevation can attest, a little distance or some extra height can make a serious difference with large amounts of snow being dumped onto the Semiahmoo peninsula and the Lower Mainland. We have basically had a snowfall on every weekend save one since the start of December with little time and rain to melt the snow already on the ground. That is the case here but further afield into the Fraser Valley and up in to the mountains the accumulating snowfall is getting worrisome.

If you have not been out to the Fraser Valley recently I suggest that you cancel any travel plans you may have. A friend of mine sent a picture of his front yard to me showing a snowdrift that I'm pretty sure has his car hidden in it. My parents reported an overnight snowfall of 16 inches, with environment Canada reporting an 80 cm. or around 2.5 feet of snowfall this weekend in Chilliwack. When I wrote this they were at -3 C temp. with strong outflow winds and plenty of snow in the forecast for this upcoming week. The snow reports from local ski hills are also noteworthy with Seymour, Grouse and Cypress all reporting over 300 cm. of base with Hemlock and Whistler averaging 270 cm. As the old saying goes, "what goes up must come down" and this relates to our rapidly escalating snow pack that will eventually melt and flow down hill.

Our Fall was very wet but also warm with frequent Pacific storm cycles in November, but for the last two months we have seen Arctic air flood across BC with much higher than normal snowfall in southwest BC. The BC River Forecast Centre (http://bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/bulletins/watersupply/current.htm) is reporting that these rates are typically 130-300% above normal for December. The numbers for this month have not been posted yet but there is no reason to believe that this has changed much during January when cold and snowy weather was the norm. While much of the province's snow pack is about average for this time of year, the huge amounts of snow accumulating on the local mountains are becoming a concern. If we have a rapid warming event in the spring, it is likely this could lead to localized flooding here on local rivers and if it combines with the freshet, there is a chance that we would see greatly elevated levels on the Fraser River flowing through the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland.

The Fraser Valley has experienced two major floods in recent history, the largest in 1894 and the second largest in 1948. Scientists predict that there is a one-in-three chance that a flood of similar magnitude will occur within the next 50 years. Considering these odds, it is safe to say that we are overdue for a major flooding from the Fraser that will have catastrophic consequences with the infrastructure that has been built on the flood plains including low lying areas of Surrey, Delta and Richmond. While not wanting to be a Chicken Little, it will be wise to keep an eye on the snow pack levels for the next few months to see if this unusual wintery weather has an effect once Spring finally arrives and we finally get back to being Lotus Land. For further information on this issue and the flood threat, check out the Fraser Basin Council website at the following link: http://www.fraserbasin.bc.ca/

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 30, 2017

Driving While Blind

 

The issue of worn out, ineffective, unreadable and basilly invisible highway signage in this region has gotten to the point that I wonder if instead of living in the banana belt that we are actually in a banana republic. You see, we recently came back from a vacation at Punta Serena (gem of a resort) near Mazatlan, Mexico where the road signage there makes us look like a third world country. Their highways are beautifully signed and extensively marked for hazards, making streets a snap to find and curves in the road easy to navigate. When I look at some of the crap that we have for road signage that is at the intersections of our major thoroughfares, I have to wonder what our tax dollars paid for with every drop of gasoline we purchase are being used for.

All outdoor signage has a life span depending on the materials used. Years ago simple painted plywood sheeting was used as a backing and these quickly open up the rain and elements causing them to rot even though in an open and airy position. The modern ones now being installed use slats of aluminum joined together that should stand up to the weather for over a century. The reflective vinyl used on these signs has a lifespan of between five to eight years before it starts to degrade and end of use usually pegged at 15-20 years. With many highway signs throughout south Surrey and Delta, they are on rooting pieces of plywood and both the green backings and white lettering have degraded to the point that they are basically illegible during the day and absolutely invisible at night as they now fail to reflect any light from passing vehicle headlights. This is because some of these signs have been in place for at least thirty years with other possibly as much as forty, or double their intended lifespan.

The worse of this bunch has to be the highway sign heading eastbound on #10 Hwy in Delta that points the way to the on-ramp for Hwy. 91. This relic from the time of EXPO 86 is rotten on the edges and so worn out that the wording that points to "New Westminster/Surrey" plus "Route 91 South" is faded to the point that the green background is showing through where the white letters used to be. Remember that this is not for a simple intersection, it is to alert motorists to the junction of two major highways. A little closer to the Semi-pen, a series of these same large freeway signs at KGB and Hwy. 99 are also in similar shape. On King George Blvd (formerly KG Hwy.) heading northbound just past the Nicomekl river another faded and worn out sign is meant to alert motorists to the upcoming directions for New Westminster or Vancouver. Barely visible in daytime, it disappears at night with only the white posts visible in the darkness. At the actual off-ramp onto Hwy. 99 North a tall metal pole holds two large signs, one pointing to New West, the other to Vancouver, but even during the day the only thing visible is too small white shields with the highway markings for 99A and 99. Once again, at night they are completely black and completely invisible to passing drivers.

These signs are supposed to help guide motorists to finding their way around town and are especially important to visitors who have just crossed the border or who are not familiar with the roadways. Imagine driving down in Washington State and not having exits or directions listed off the I-5 freeway? That would never happen in the US yet that is basically what we have here with 30 plus year old signs that are way beyond their expiration date. Where this topic becomes deadly serious is that the lack of proper signage, or ones made invisible at night, drivers unaware of their surroundings make sudden decisions that can cause car crashes. On the KGB, I have seen countless vehicles make a quick hard right hand turn to avoid missing the on-ramp for Hwy. 99 north. I've also had to take evasive action several times to avoid cars where drivers suddenly figured they were in the wrong lane and drove straight onto the parking lane before swerving over to head north into Surrey. Again, these are highway interchanges with high volumes of vehicles where not everyone knows where they are headed. Trust me when I say that there are plenty more relics like these to be found once you become aware of this problem.

The other major safety concern with these faulty highway signs is that it makes drivers miss their turns, getting people lost and putting them in awkward situations where more mistakes then compound the problem. If you miss the faded sign at KGB and head onto Hwy. #99 by accident, then the next turnaround is miles away at either #10 Hwy. and Hwy. #91 or at Ladner Trunk Road and #10 Hwy. It is no wonder that before the median cable barriers were installed that drivers would attempt u-turns across the grassy median of Hwy. #99, often getting stuck in the process. People who are lost spend more time looking for road signs or at maps than paying attention to their driving, increasing the danger to themselves and others. I've seen folks backing up the shoulder of on-ramps after realizing they were heading onto the wrong freeway. I've witnessed drivers performing illegal and risky u-turns, seeing them then head onto on-ramps knowing they had originally missed their turn. Several times I've seen people turn the wrong way onto divided highways, driving towards traffic in the wrong direction threatening a head-on collision. If you don't think that these old ghetto signs we have here are a big problem, consider the risks that they pose just by confusing people behind the wheel.

It should not be the responsibility of the traveling public to point out to the Ministry of Transportation that there are highway signs that are worn out, ineffective, invisible and downright dangerous. I know of at least ten of these vintage signs on local highways that have needed replacement for years including one pointing the way to White Rock where the green background is now black at night. You would think that someone from the Transportation Ministry, the City of Surrey or even Mainroad would have noticed that many of them no longer reflect car headlights and need replacing. Come to think of it, maybe the problem is that because they are invisible, they never saw them! I certainly have noticed them as has a friend of mine who constantly harps to me about when I was going to do finally do something about them. Well the time is now, the cat is out of the bag and the folks getting paid for replacing them better start doing their damn job. I'm giving them four months until the end of May and if they're not replaced by then I might considering spray painting new fluorescent lettering onto them to see if that finally gets their attention.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

January 23, 2017


Dickheads

 

"Such behavior isn't Christian. In fact, its downright pagan and heathenish."
Quote from Ishmael in the 1956 film adaption of Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" novel.

When you think of what White Rock is famous for after its flat sandy beach, Canada's longest wooden pier and the 420 tonne granite boulder that sits near the ocean, fish and chips at the Moby Dick restaurant on East Beach would probably be next on the list. Why if you search "Moby Dick" on Google, you get the usual Wikipedia entry, several postings about the book published in 1851 by American writer Herman Melville, one about the 1956 movie starring Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab and in fifth spot the website for Moby Dick Restaurant that boasts "Welcome to Moby Dick - Famous Fish & Chips Since 1975." Not bad considering the search yields a whopping 19,300,000 results.

While welcome in White Rock, it appears that plans to open a second location in Vancouver on Denman Street near Coal Harbour have been scuttled. In May of 2016 the current owner of Moby Dick, Mr. Yuriy Makogonsky, tried to lease out a restaurant already located in the bottom floor of the building by Stanley Park that was floundering. According to two notices of civil claim filed on January 9th in BC Supreme Court, this move was torpedoed by the building's strata council resulting in financial losses to Moby Dick, Mengfa International Resources Inc. who owns the restaurant property and L&H Trading Corp. who sunk the previous restaurant. Court documents allege the strata took offense to Moby Dick's cartoon whale signage, the possibility of litter and debris, the prospective odor of deep-frying fish and chips, plus characterizing their name as "offensive."

Now you would think if anyone had a bitch about Moby Dick it would be the fine folks along Marine Drive in White Rock who often raise raise a stink about the smallest of complaints but that is not the case. White Rock Council and their wonderful by-law personnel don't seem to mind the restaurants rather gaudy exterior and nautical decorations including what appears to be (gasp) a white Sperm whale with liquid spouting from its bulbous head. In fact the Moby Dick restaurant is somewhat of a local landmark, being the second oldest restaurant on the strip next to the Cosmos Greek restaurant, the other blue and white dining establishment that has been in its location for an amazing 44 years. Likely the only problem ever encountered with Moby Dick in White Rock is the large crowds of patrons clogging the sidewalk as they wait for the best fish and chips in the Semiahmoo peninsula, winning a people's choice award for their chow and even the chowder for over a dozen years in a row.

Why Vancouverites living downtown near Stanley Park would complain about the Moby Dick name is somewhat of a mystery to me. I would think that many would be fans of Richard Melville Hall (stage name "Moby") who is a DJ, musician, songwriter and photographer well known for his electronic music, support of animal rights, veganism and bisexual lifestyle. As far as Moby Dick goes you would think they would know about the struggles of Ahab against the great white whale from either the classic American novel, the original 1956 movie or the recent In The Heart Of The Sea movie by director Ron Howard. Hell, I'm from Surrey and over the years even I've read the book, seen the old black and white movie and unfortunately watched the latest flick. As far as the last part of the restaurant name, I think it shows they don't know Dick but I'm hoping if the rather uptight strata members read this TNT column they might become more enlightened about the short name for Richard.

By far the most famous Dick has to be hall-of-famer Dick Butkus who played linebacker for the Chicago Bears and was named the most feared tackler of all time by the NFL. Dick Van Dyke (do you see a theme here) is an actor, comedian, singer, dancer, writer and producer with a career spanning seven decades including the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Race car driver Dick Trickle ran more than one million laps and won over 1,200 races becoming the best short track driver in history before winning NASCAR Rookie of the year in 1989. If you ever watched the TV show Bewitched, you probably know that Dick Sargent was the second actor who played the part of Darren Stephens but I bet you didn't realize he changed his name from Dick Cox. For American politicians there are plenty of Dicks including disgraced President Richard 'Tricky Dicky' Nixon, Texan Congressman Dick Army and former VP Dick Cheney, who many think was more of an a-hole than a Dick. For Canadians, I must tip my hat to Regina gas jockey Dick Assman who was made famous on the Late Show With David Letterman for his rather unique name. If you think that Dick is offensive, realize that there are over 500 slang terms for penis including the names Jimmy, John, Pedro, Peter, Rod, and Willy.

It is wise to remember that none of the stated claims have been proven in court and that the strata corporation has yet to file its statement of defense. It is interesting to note that this titillating fish flap about Dick has been covered in newspapers across North America including the Washington Times and New York Post. Time will tell whether they win their legal battle and get to expand into Vancouver but regardless Moby Dick is not planning on leaving White Rock any time soon. If you have never visited it, take a minute to check out their awesome website at mobydickrestaurant.com that is full of over four decades worth of fascinating history, anecdotes, photos and secrets. When you drop by for White Rock's best fish and chips, don't be annoyed if you have to stand in line especially with all of the publicity about this whale of a tale.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

(click here)

 

 

January 16, 2017

Walk - Don't Run

The grahic video I saw on Global TV last week really got me thinking about crosswalks, pedestrian safety and the dangers of driving this time of year. In case you were lucky enough to miss it, the dash board camera from a stopped car caught the impact at the corner of Granville St. and Balfour Ave. that sent a 50 year-old woman flying down the road and onto the frozen pavement with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. You can watch in online at the following link but I must warn you that even though it is edited, its still quite graphic: http://globalnews.ca/news/3160882/pedestrian-struck-by-vehicle-on-busy-vancouver-street/ In this case a car stopped at the centre lane where the lady then ran out onto busy Granville St. apparently intent on catching her bus that was pulling up on the other side of the road six lanes away. A car in the left lane had little time to react as she ran out from behind the first car and the impact sent her literally flying down the road.

While I realize she was in a marked cross-walk and had the right-of-way, it is called a cross "walk" for a reason. Running or jogging out into traffic reduces the stopping time for any driver who has failed to see you. Over the years I have had plenty of close calls and near misses from people who put themselves in danger by rushing into cross-walks. My favourite are the skateboarders and bicyclists who feel that the rules of the road don't apply to themselves and then seem to be amazed when the sound of screeching tires wakens them to the danger of using a crosswalk as their own little raceway. It was two ladies jogging out into traffic on a dark night several years ago in south Surrey that was partly responsible for them being involved in a hit-and-run since they ran onto the street from behind a driver turning left at night who was blinded by ongoing headlights in the rain. I guess no one told them that reflective clothing does not work until the headlights are upon you and often by that time it is too late.

Most of our pedestrian accidents occur during the winter months when skies are dark, roads are wet and visibility is limited. Making this matter worse, it is during the winter that dark clothing always seems to be in vogue and when black umbrellas are used against wind and rain, hiding facial features and blocking vision. Just as a good driver looks both ways before proceeding through on an intersection on a green light, it is important for pedestrians to realize how dangerous and potentially deadly it is to be struck by a car. Even with the right of way and the walk signal, I always ensure that all vehicles around me are at a complete stop and aware that I am crossing the road, making eye contact with drivers before stepping into harms way. I don't talk on my cell phone when doing so and certainly don't check text messages or do something as asinine as play Pokemon Go when crossing the street (seen it done). Taking out the ear buds and turning off the music are also important whether crossing the road or the train tracks as a woman jogger found out at White Rock beach several years back.

It really comes down to being aware of your surroundings and taking responsibility for your own personal safety. Vehicles are heavy and can travel fast, being capable of producing serious injuries even at low speeds. While car parts and be replaced with bondo and paint fixing most dents, being hit by a car can have devastating life-altering results. To see how widespread the problem of pedestrians being hit by cars is, take a moment to visit this ICBC webpage showing a map of crashes involving a pedestrian from 2009 to 2013 http://www.icbc.com/about-icbc/newsroom/Pages/Pedestrians.aspx. Simply unclick the Vancouver box and mark the Surrey and White Rock ones and it will show you how rampant this problem really is in our community. You can move the map by hovering over the right hand arrow at the top left corner and then selecting the four arrowed box that appears. Simply zoom into the intersection that interests you and click on it to see how many people have been mowed down by vehicles in only four years time. The numbers are somewhere between shocking and sickening.

In the main part of Surrey there is hardly a major intersection in any neighbourhood that does not have multiple pedestrian crashes during this time period. Scott Road near 72 Ave and all along into Newton is a hot spot of pedestrian accidents. Not surprising, King George Blvd. through Whalley is a major red dot zone with lots of traffic, pedestrians and people high on drugs. My wife and I actually witnessed one of these crashes near 108th where the person who was sent flying by a car after stumbling into traffic got up and ran away when told the cops were coming, adding a whole new meaning to the term "hit and run." All around Guildford Mall is a pedestrian death trap while in south Surrey 24th Ave from 152 to across Hwy. 99 has seen plenty of accidents. The Semiahmoo Mall is another place where you should be well aware of your surroundings as there are 3-4 crashes at every corner of the mall. Hitting close to home, I couldn't help but notice the one single dot at the quiet intersection only two doors away from our house from a pedestrian collision I never heard anything about.

In all of this gloom and doom there are some bright spots to point out. Many pedestrians out for a walk are now wearing reflective safety vests , carrying flashlights or donning head lamps. Most dark winter jackets now come equipped with strips of reflective material, including the Dakota jacket I bought last year from Marks. Pet owners are equipping their dogs with reflective coats and leashes, reducing the danger of them being hit as they usually proceed first into an intersection. By far the brightest person I've met in a while was the young man recently walking across the corner of 148 St and 24 Ave. using his cell phone's flashlight on strobe mode to attract each and every driver's attention near him as he crossed the road. I thought this idea was so brilliant that it should be shared here in the White Rock Sun and hopefully spread to a world-wide audience.

As I often say, you don't have to be a genius, you just have to know a good idea when you see it.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 09, 2017


When We're Silent, ...We're All Victims

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

Chorus of the song "Signs" by the Five Man Electrical Band

This story has been on my radar for quite some time but it took until recently when it crossed the border of #10 Hwy. on the northern reach of the White Rock Sun that it finally has incurred my wrath. In case you have not yet seen it, the Pattison Outdoor sign company with the blessing of the City of Surrey has recently erected a massive digital display board next to the courthouse on land near the old city hall just east of King George Blvd. I went there and took pictures of this monument to stupidity, taking the time to measure the lit digital screen at approximately 10 feet tall by 20 feet wide. The Crimestoppers ad on it that read "when we're silent, ...we're all victims" could not have been more appropriate and got me motivated to write this TNT.

This is not the first of these flashing mega signs that has been erected in Surrey. They are already five others in place on the #1 freeway near the Port Mann Bridge, on Fraser Hwy. at 164 St., on King George Blvd near the Pattullo bridge and on Scott Rd. near Old Yale Rd., on 88 Ave. near Scott Rd. Basically they are on almost every major thoroughfare in the city and I imagine it is only a matter of time until there is one beaming its message to the masses on Hwy. 99 and at Pacific Hwy. 15 (176 St.). To see a map showing the locations of all of Pattison's signs, go to http://maps.pattisonoutdoor.com/map.aspx?l=en-US where you will be amazed by the number of them throughout the city of Surrey. It is noteworthy to realize that the City of Surrey receives a portion of the advertising sales that Pattison Outdoor collects that pads their tax coffers, with a "Surrey - the future lives here" sign proudly mounted on top of these brilliant billboards.

So here's the rub on these new digital signs. Unlike conventional billboards that you see that are mainly posted on Reserve lands like along Hwy. 99 at the Semiahmoo First Nations, these new signs are basically a large TV screen that is brightly lit, brilliantly coloured and constantly changing. They are a major distraction to anyone driving on these busy roads and highways. I have even seen them placed alongside of bridges including the curve entering the Queensborough Bridge in New Westminister where it poses a great hazard to the motoring public. Now I'm not allowed to look at my cell phone screen while driving as it might endanger my life and the fellow drivers around me but good old Jimmy Pattison gets to place these massive screens alongside busy city roads. By comparison, my Samsung cell phone screen measures 2.5" x 4.5" which is 0.078 sq. ft. or 0.04% of the size of the screen that Mr. Pattison's company gets to flaunt to the world 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The BC Government's website dealing with "Road Safety Rules & Consequences of Unsafe Driving" has a list of "Distractions While Driving - Cell Phones and Other Devices." You cannot hold, operate, communicate or watch the screen of a hand held electronic communication device. You cannot send or receive texts and emails on a handheld electronic device, tablet or computer. If you have a television screen in the vehicle within view of the driver it must only display pictures, information or date solely designed to assist the driver in the safe operation of the vehicle. Yet while there are all of these restrictions on screens inside of the vehicle, it seems that advertisers are immune from distracting drivers with their bright flashing message boards where tens of thousands of drivers are passing by on a daily basis. If we have rules about viewing screens for drivers, then why do we allow these advertising TV billboards to be installed distracting drivers on busy roads?

Effective June 1, 2016, the fine for a distracted driving violation ticket has more than doubled from $167 to $368. The number of associated penalty points applied to a driver’s record has also increase from 3 to 4 points. On a first infraction, this will also result in a driver paying a further $175 ICBC Driver Penalty Point premium, for a total of $543 for a first infraction. For a second infraction within a one-year period, not only does the driver have to pay another $368, but the ICBC Driver Penalty Point premium will increase to $520. Additional infractions will result in a further escalation of ICBC Driver Penalty Point premiums plus possible driving prohibitions for those drivers who incur two or more infractions within 12 months. Now since I can get a $167 ticket for distracted driving by looking at my 0.078 square foot screen, then I think Mr. Pattison should be fined accordingly with his 200 square foot screen producing a corresponding fine of $1,840,000 for every accident these electronic billboards cause. Something tells me that even Jimmy would feel the sting from this ticket.

It is sickening to me that money from outdoor advertising trumps driver safety but this is simply a case of do-as-I-say, not do-as-I-do. The rules that cover distracted driving should also be expanded to stop advertisers such as Pattison Outdoor from bombarding drivers with brilliantly lit messages that also reflect off wet roads further increasing their danger. The "Golden Rule" where those with the gold make the rules is firmly in place with the richest man in BC placing signage throughout the city of Surrey regardless of the danger that they create. It is time that the BC government look at controlling the size, colour and brightness of these signs plus their placement or consider banning them altogether. While I would love to chuck a big rock at them each and every time I drive by, instead I purposely look away so that I do not get blinded by the ad they are trying to deliver. For those of you that want to read every message they are flashing, do so at your own risk.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

EDITORS NOTE:

Reading through the current City of Surry sign by-law it would appear these large electronic billboards contravene the sign by-law in Surrey. Double standard?

(click here to read the by-law)

 

 

Janujary 02, 2017

Alot For A Lot

Happy New Year everybody, I hope you didn't wake up hung over on January first and maybe were fool-hearty enough to participate in the annual polar bear baptism. For lots of people it is a day to pack away Christmas trappings and have the tree chipped, while for others it is time to check out how their real estate holdings value changed during last year. You see, Jan. 1st is when the BC Assessments publishes their values of every piece of real estate in the entire province. These are available on the e-valueBC website available online at https://evaluebc.bcassessment.ca/ Simply zoom in to the neighbourhood in question or type in an address for any property to see how its value has changed in the last year. This allows you to compare assessments for adjacent properties and also give you an idea where your property taxes will be going later this year. Keep in mind that Finance Committee Chair, Councillor Tom Gill, has already announced that the City of Surrey is anticipating a 4.4% property tax increase in 2017, not including other fee and levy increases.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are well aware of the startling increases in property values in the Lower Mainland that finally forced the Liberal Government to impose a 15% foreign buyers tax on August 2nd of last year. To get an idea of the increases in value for properties in the Semiahmoo peninsula, I'd like to start with our very own rather simple abode in Crescent Heights in south Surrey. In the last two years it has gone up considerably, pushing up our Surrey property taxes by 22% over that time. In 2015 it was assessed at $941,000 which pales in comparison to the whopping $1,340,000 it is now assessed at for 2016. I'll save you doing the math, its almost $400,000 higher, equating to an increase of 42.4% in one calendar year. Too bad it's our home and not an investment as the RRSPs and TFSAs we own didn't even come close to this massive increase. Once again I catch myself saying that I should have stayed home instead of going to work as the house generated plenty more tax-free dollars in income than I made working my ass off all year.

I don't have to look very far to see similar increases. My next door neighbour to the south on 124 St. went up $410,600, while the neighbour to the north went up $497,000 to $2,379,000 even though the picture on the BC assessment website still shows the old war-time rancher that was knocked down for this Surrey monster house over two years ago. I wish I had kept the last two houses in lived in at Crescent Heights as the one around the corner went up $450,000, while the little rancher on a cul-de-sac only a few blocks away rocketed up $735,000 increasing from $875,000 to $1,410,000 for a 61% increase in a single year. That's my personal real estate history here in the Semi-pen but it easy to zoom around on cyberspace and find similar stories on almost every corner. A friend of mine on Ash Street in White Rock saw a half million dollar gain that equated to a modest 35% increase in value. The view properties on Ocean Park Drive in south Surrey and Marine Drive in White Rock now all have price tags of between $5-12 million. It is interesting to note that Lu-Lu Lemon founder Chip Wilson's Point Grey mansion that is the most expensive house in BC went up by nearly $12 million, going from $64 M to $76 M, a paltry 19% increase in value.

It is getting to the point that almost everyone with a single family residential property living in south Surrey or White Rock will now fail to qualify for the home owners grant. If your property has an assessed value of up to $1,200,000 then the home owners grant can reduce your property taxes by up to $570. Over the arbitrary $1.2 M ceiling the BC government has imposed, the grant is then reduced by $5 for each $1,000 in assessed value over the $1.2 M threshold. What this means is that the grant isn't available for properties assessed over $1,314,000, increasing your property taxes even further. We have a 35 year-old average house on a quarter acre gross density lot and this year will fail to qualify for the grant even though it is our permanent residence. The term "house rich, cash poor" is probably going to be bantered around a lot this year as folks look at possibly selling when the price of home ownership becomes too costly. With an upcoming Provincial election, increasing the ceiling for the home owners grant or possibly enlarging the deductible at the same time should become an election issue for all parties to give people relief from over-inflated real estate prices.

There is help available against property tax increases that are so onerous it makes home ownership impossible for those who are on pensions or have limited cash flow. The BC Government has a property tax deferment option allowing those people older than 55 years, surviving spouses those with disabilities and families with children to avoid paying property taxes until such time as the property is sold or transferred. Once you receive your property tax notice, simply apply to defer your payments with the BC government paying your taxes to the City of Surrey while providing you with a loan at 0.79% simple interest. If you think this sounds too good to be true, check out the details at http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/pay/defer-taxes Surrey also has information on their website about property tax deferment at https://surrey.ca/city-services/588.aspx Ask yourself where you can ever get a loan with this ridiculously low interest rate that is only charged against the outstanding balance, not the accrued interest.

As I now quality for this wonderful "Freedom 55" plan, here is what I am going to do about our property taxes this year. I will be applying to defer the taxes for our home, have the BC Government pay the City of Surrey, then put the money I would have spent into my TFSA account. I'm hoping to see a 5-8% return over time plus will invest a small portion of this total in high risk/high return investments hoping for a home run in this account that is capital gains exempt. Through the magic of compound interest, I should be able to pay off the owing property taxes while using their money for years to create tax-free capital. Even without this financial slight-of-hand, with our house more than doubling in value since we purchased it, paying off even years of outstanding property taxes would be minimal compared to the huge amount of upward change we have seen in property value in the past few years. Of course what goes up always comes down and we are now seeing a softening of the market but obviously returns of 40% per year are not sustainable, affordable or realistic.

If you feel that your property assessment is way too high and out of sync with your neighbours or reality, remember that you can file an appeal with BC Assessment's Property Assessment Review Panel (PARP) once you get your statement. A few years back my parents along with eighteen other people who lived on Chilliwack Mountain all appealed their 20-55 percent property value increases. With powers in numbers, these increases were all rolled back to exactly what they were the previous year with no change in property value for anyone. I'm not sure if this would work here in the Semi-pen but if everyone in south Surrey and White Rock were to appeal their assessments, it is possible these massive increases might be somewhat reduced. Please note that the deadline to appeal your 2017 Assessment is January 31 with reviews taking place from February 1st to March 15th. We are planning on appealing our assessment to hopefully quality for the home owners grant yet again. After all, this is not an investment for us, its our home.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

B.C. Assessment property valuations for 2017 are now available online.

UPDATE

Landcorp Data Corp. has announced they estimate that throughout Metro-Vancouver 206,735 homeowners will keep their home owners grant, while 213,412 will lose theirs due to huge increases in property assessments. No word how high this number will be in the Semiahmoo peninsula but it is difficult to find a detached house here under the $1.2 million threashold due to land costs.

 

 

December 27, 2016


Christmas Gift List 2016


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

Wayne Baldwin, WR Mayor - A year's free delivery of pure Canadian Springs natural mineral water to his City Hall office so he can avoid the tap water. This should help to wash down the Excedrin pills needed to stop the migraine brought on by the EPCOR deal, water pressure problems during the Ocean Ridge apartment fire, and water quality issues arising from chlorination.

Jennifer Brooks, Mother of Hudson Brooks - For this strong-willed woman dealing with the RCMP shooting death of her unarmed 20 year-old son at the South Surrey detachment in July of 2015, charges being filed by the Crown after the Independent Investigations Office police watchdog concluded an officer may have committed a crime.

Dave Chesney, WR Councillor - A copy of the hilarious frat house movie Animal House featuring John Belushi where he can have a laugh about being on "double secret probation" after being censured yet again by WR Mayor & Council. Also a download of the hit single "Two More Years" by the band Bloc Party from their 2005 album "Silent Alarm."

Helen Fathers, WR Councillor - A copy of the board game "The Gong Show" based on the 70's and 80's TV show of the same name so she can practice White Rock politics at home. Also a new fireplace mantle where she can put her two trophies for White Rock winning B.C.'s Farmer's Market Of The Year and her winning Market Manager Of The Year.

Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators goaltender - For this often injured NHLer from White Rock, some Cold FX, Buckley's Syrup, Echinacea and a surgical mask to stop him from being bitten by the injury bug. In case you missed it, after nearly two months off with a groin pull, the "Hamburglar" recently had to leave his first game back with an ankle injury after only seven shots.

Linda Hepner, Surrey Mayor - A model Light Rail Transit (LRT) train set for under the old Christmas tree. In case you were wondering, you can get a 1/150 scale beginners set for around $300, far less than the $2.6 billion (yes, BILLION) planned for the city of Surrey. As a stocking stuffer, a vintage bottle of Avon's Charisma perfume.

Gordon Hogg, MLA SS/WR - For his 40 years of serving our community as Councillor (10 yrs) and Mayor (10 yrs) of White Rock and MLA (20 yrs) for South Surrey/White Rock, a gold Rolex retirement watch as the now 70 year old "Gordie" steps away from Victoria. Santa tells me he also has a fine bottle of Caribbean rum on his wish list.

Bill Lawrence, WR Councillor - A karaoke machine so that the man with the best voice in the Rock can finally start singing since he now doesn't have to spend his nights running the Sandpiper Pub on Marine Drive any more. As a stocking stuffer, DVD copies of every movie has has ever worked as a stuntman in the last 20+ years.

Gus Melonas, BNSF Railway Spokesperson - Not that he's been a bad boy this year, but a big lump of US thermal coal in the stocking for the BNSF Railway spokesperson is just waaaay too easy. Santa said the high-speed rail line from Seattle to Vancouver that he wanted was just too expensive.

Grant Meyers, WR Councillor - A truck load of live Christmas trees that he can plant on the Hump hillside along the beach that was clear-cut for views of Marine Drive's "Creme de la Crime" which has still not been relandscaped leaving it prone to soil movement and mudslides onto the BNSF Railway tracks below.

Ken Overton, FOI Clerk WR - For the lawyer hired as a clerk to expedite the increasing piles of Freedom of Information requests at White Rock Hall, a shiny crystal ball to gaze into when folks ask for more transparency from the most secretive Council in the Province of BC.

Semiahmoo First Nation Council - For new Chief Harley Chappel and re-elected Councillors Joanne and Roxanne Charles, a clean Metro Vancouver water connection that ends their boil water advisory in place since 2005. In the spirit of giving, they reduce their bloated salaries spending less on the council and more on the band members.

Tracey Redies, BC Liberal Candidate, SS/WR - For this veteran business woman chosen by the BC Liberals to replace MLA Gordon Hogg in the spring election, Dr. Scholls insoles, orthopedic arch supports, wads of tissue paper and some thick wool socks she'll need if elected when trying to fill good old Gordie's rather big shoes.

Dianne Watts, MP for SS/WR - A flashy neon sign for the empty facade above her new office in the Peninsula Village mall so constituents can actually find it hidden among the retail stores. In case you missed it, as most people have, Mrs. Watts' office is located between Plum ladies fashions and Big Gary's Vacuums.

Merry Christmas everyone and have a happy New Year planning your safe ride home.

Don Pitcairn

December 19, 2016


White Rock'sWinter Warriors Winter Warriors

With the weather from the last two years and complete lack of snow you would have easily been lulled into thinking that global w

arming and climate change mean that even frost is a distant memory here. In case you believed that it still never gets cold here, it did hit -12 C last year allowing for the Serpentine Fen to freeze and White Rock travel vlogger Christian LeBlanc to shoot his "MOST AMAZING DRONE VIDEO!(HD)" that you can view on YouTube. Rather bizarrely, this major cold snap saw no snow but produced deep freeze temperatures that resulted in beautiful hoar frost on the trees and vegetation. The latest arctic outflow over the past two weeks and multiple snowfalls certainly came as a shock but there were folks here who prepared for this onslaught and fought back valiantly against mother nature to keep our corner of the world safe to travel in.

The hard working men and woman down at the White Rock Public Works Yard prepare for the ravages of winter weather, prepping an assortment of machinery to plow roads and place salt and sand to keep ice at bay and help with traction. While small in size, the hilly terrain and moist ocean air in White Rock combine to create icy street conditions so dangerous that some hills need to be blockaded to traffic until they are cleared and deemed safe. If you have ever driven on Oxford Hill leading from Thrift Ave. to Marine Dr., imagine being the person driving the truck who first has to scrape the snow off this steep 23% grade road. I don't know if they get danger pay but just the thought of doing this job is enough to pucker my sphincter, especially considering the nasty car crashes that have happened over the years during warm weather with dry conditions. Public Works utilizes four single axle dump trucks with plows and salt spreaders, a couple of backhoes and one lowly snow blower to help clear the city's streets focusing on major roads, bus routes, and emergency access to PAH. Before last Monday's snowfall, the City By The Sea had already utilized 120 tonnes of salt for de-icing roads and walkways, a figure that has likely doubled by now.

The gardeners working in the White Rock Parks Department don't get to go home and celebrate a "snow day" like most people in that industry. Instead they put down the landscaping tools and pick up the snow shovels, working on smaller pedestrian areas around the city. While contractors clear the snow off the promenade, it is the Parks and Rec crews who lay down the salt on White Rock's famous walkway along with the train crossings and stairs leading to the pier. These people also focus their efforts on the walkways around City Hall, community centres, pedestrian crossings and any high traffic sidewalks that have turned into skating rinks due to the unavailability of salt at local hardware stores. With the elderly demographics in White Rock, it is essential to make icy sidewalks as safe as possible as you do not want seniors to take a fall onto frozen concrete or asphalt, ending up at the PAH with broken bones. If you ever want to walk on the pier during ice and snow, you should know that it cannot be cleared due to its length and damage that shovels would cause to its uneven surface. It also does not receive either sand or salt because of environmental concerns, which is funny because I'm sure it sees plenty during the year from its seaside location and the bottom of millions of sandals and flip flops during the summer.

The City of Surrey Public Works crews have a much larger fleet of snow clearing vehicles but with the massive network of roadways throughout Surrey they have to prioritize their response and divide their streets into three different types. First priority streets are major roads, arterial roads, major collectors plus bus routes, steep hills, around schools and long-term care facilities. Second priority routes are local connector roads in residential areas over 200 metres in length that bring local traffic to aerial roads or major collectors. During short snow storms, second priority routes rarely receive service due to the time required to address first priority major routes. Third priority routes are all remaining local residential roads and you should know that the City of Surrey like most municipalities in the region does not service side streets unless there is an immediate safety issue. This is why many of the back roads and cul-de-sacs in south Surrey can resemble skating rinks which stay frozen during periods of arctic outflow. You can view Surrey's snow and ice route map at http://www.surrey.ca/files/PrioritySnowIceControlRoutes.pdf to get an understanding of the magnitude of the job and their attack plan when snow is forecast.

Speaking of "Winter Warriors", in what I'm calling a "sidecar sidebar" I had a chance meeting on Sunday with Ocean Park resident Jeff Ferguson near Kwomais Point who was driving his rather eye-catching 2015 Ural motorcycle. He had stopped to take a picture in the snow of his Russian bike called a Gear-Up that included a covered sidecar with both painted in urban camouflage colours. Made in Siberia, the sidecar features a rather unique powered axle, giving this motorbike two-wheel rear drive when selected allowing it to be driven in all weather conditions including off-road. Jeff explained that with its 749 CC engine, this unstoppable Soviet motorcyle drives like an ATV, something he proved when leaving his parking spot with both rear tires spitting snow and gravel. It looked like great fun and since this was the fifth Ural he has owned since 2007, its safe to say he enjoys being able to ride in all road and weather conditions. While the employees of White Rock and Surrey who clear our streets of ice and snow are the true winter warriors, I have to tip my hat to Jeff Ferguson for taking his very cool motorcycle out for spin this weekend. For more info on the Ural Gear-Up visit http://www.imz-ural.com/2015-gear-up.html or contact Shail's Motorcycles in Langley who are the local dealer. http://www.shailsmotorcycles.com


 

I do love the snow but I must admit that after two weeks of cold weather I'm getting a little tired of all of the white stuff over White Rock and am looking forward to the forecast warmer temperatures the next few days. Its gotten to the point that I might even welcome some of that dreary rain we had so much of in the months of October and November. After all, the silver lining to that dark cloud is that you don't have to shovel it. For those dreaming of a white Christmas, take heart knowing that colder weather is scheduled to arrive for the next weekend with the strong possibility of snow on Dec. 25th. Keep in mind that while we have already seen unseasonably chilly temperatures, winter does not even start till the Solstice on Thursday, Dec. 21st so it is likely we will see plenty more ice and snow if this weather pattern persists into the New Year. I'm starting to think that an ergonomic snow shovel along with a bag of rock salt might make a really great gift this year for those on Santa's list.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Editor's Note: Make sure you visit the White Rock Sun next Monday for the much anticipated TNT Christmas Wish List!

 

 

December 12, 2016

White Rock - "My City By The Secrets"

Lorraine Adair

 

"Three may keep a secret, if two are dead."
Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard's Almanac, published 1735, in a slogan made famous by the Hell's Angels MC

It was not that long ago in a more gentler time when civic governments would quickly and routinely respond to resident's requests for information concerning decisions out of City Hall. This is what is known as open, honest and accountable governance where they have nothing to hide and don't attempt to conceal the truth even when it is embarrassing. Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were supposed to streamline the process of getting answers from local governments. Unfortunately it would now seem that the FOI process has been hijacked to the point that the FOI acronym should instead stand for "F*** Off Idiot." Nowhere does this seem to be more so than in the City of White Rock whose motto "My City By The Sea" would be more appropriate if it was slightly changed to "My City By The Secrets."

It should be relatively straight forward for White Rock City Hall to cough up mundane reports, communications and letters on a wide variety of subjects. After all, it is tax-payer money that funds their endeavors and their operations should be open to public scrutiny. While the FOI act was meant to promote clarity in government, it appears that White Rock City Hall is instead utilizing it as a shield against unwanted attention and interference. I have submitted a variety of FOI requests over the past decade on various subjects of interest and in the beginning I must admit they were answered quickly and efficiently. Whether because of the doubling of FOI requests over the last two years, secret dealings and agreements kept out of the public eye, or a lack or human resources to answer these queries, answers from City Hall are now slow as molasses, incomplete or blacked out, and often as difficult to get as pulling teeth with a pair of tweezers.

Case in point was the one and only FOI I submitted this year with yours truly wanting to personally review the letter sent in mid-September to the Semiahmoo First Nations informing them of White Rock's intent to turn off their water in 18 months. This story blew up in mid-September with Chief Joanne Charles calling out White Rock over their perceived threat and Mayor Wayne Baldwin reportedly responding that it was a "possible outcome" depending on further negotiations. Throw in the boil water advisory SFN has been under since 2005, the recent White Rock purchase of their water system from Epcor, the fact that the reserve is Surrey plus rumors of a future commercial development on band lands and you have a tempest in a teapot that made me want to see the actual letter that lit the fuse of this media firestorm. Since Chief Joanne Charles and Mayor Baldwin had already openly discussed the contents of this letter with one seeing it as a threat and the other as it being misconstrued, I wanted to read the actual wording for myself since I have a reasonable grasp of the Queen's English.

I filled out my FOI request at WR City Hall on Monday, Oct. 25th asking for "A copy of the letter sent to Semiahmoo First Nations advising them about the possibility of cutting off White Rock water services in 18 months from the date of that correspondence." The next day I got an email confirmation from Communications and Freedom of Information Clerk Lorraine Sym stating they would respond to my request on or before Dec. 6, 2016. It has been all quiet on the western front until last Friday which most people know is the day when any government likes dump their garbage out. I received an email from the newly hired FOI Clerk Ken Overton stating "Please be advised that we are extending the time for responding to your request pursuant to section 10(1)(c) of the Act. An extension is necessary because more time is needed to consult with a third party before we can decide whether or not to disclose the requested record." The new best-before-date is January 17, 2017 a week shy of three months after my initial request. It is not like the existence of this letter is a state secret or that the contents are not known other than the exact wording. Why it would take three months to answer this simple request and why it would likely have to be reviewed by an unknown third party (likely a lawyer) is open to conjecture and speculation.

It is not like I am being singled out for preferential treatment here. I know of many people in the Semi-pen who are having ongoing battles with White Rock over withheld documents, redacted emails, expensive FOI research bills, false claims of solicitor-client privilege, along with behavior that has gone from inappropriate or disparaging remarks down to name calling and verbal abuse. I've been told that the little City of White Rock is becoming very well known in the Office of the information and Privacy Commissioner over in Victoria because of constant appeals and requests for their assistance in enforcing the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). Secrecy is not only limited to information and documents as it should be noted that the City of White Rock has yet to hold a single Council meeting since the last election that has not been proceeded by an "In-Camera" meeting that is held behind closed doors out of the public eye. It was in one of these secret meetings that Councillor Dave Chesney, the editor of this newspaper, was also censured for the second time in two years, likely a first for anyone in the history of the Province of BC. The original censuring was for him publishing an editorial I wrote here in a TNT column, the second one nobody knows why except for the Mayor and those in Council who voted again in favor of this partisan punishment.

White Rock is supposed to be a democracy but with roadblocks to information and FIPPA being disregarded, it leaves them looking more like a banana republic run by a despot dictator (grow some stones Trudeau, I'm glad Castro is dead). With personal freedoms under attack, I have but two questions for Mayor Baldwin and the majority of Council; what are you afraid of and what are you trying to hide? If they want to decrease the amount of FOI requests and save the $80,000 now being spent on an additional clerk brought in to handle the case load, then simply be more open and accountable to the citizens you are sworn to represent. The repressive regime we are now seeing that vilifies those who dare question their motives or judgements needs to be replaced or for the residents of White Rock to vote to rejoin Surrey. If you think that's such a bad idea, ask yourself if Surrey Council has this problem or if you're seeing 25 story condo towers being built in Crescent Beach.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

December 05, 2016

South Surreyite's Survival Story

A couple of weekends ago my wife and her friend Gloria headed to Whister on a Thelma & Louise styled road trip and I warned them beforehand to be careful on the #99 Sea-To-Sky Highway in the rain and snow that was forecast. It turned out that no warning was needed after they learned about what had happened to one of Gloria's good friend only days before on the Sunshine Coast. In a story that made the front page of the Province newspaper and was featured on Global TV, on Wednesday, November 23rd, a SUV lost control on a hairpin corner of the Sunshine Coast Highway near Madeira Park at 10 a.m. The vehicle flew down the steep 40 foot drop-off, coming to rest on its side in a raging creek between two waterfalls. To get an understanding of the extremely dangerous conditions, take a moment to check out the TV footage on Global at this link: http://globalnews.ca/news/3100191/watch-car-plunges-40-feet-off-highway-into-roaring-creek-on-sunshine-coast/ That is where the life-and-death struggle for survival of south Surrey resident Carolynne Drane began, one she was fortunate enough to tell me on Sunday in the comfort of her home only a stone's throw away from the Peninsula Village Shopping Centre.

Mrs. Drane was on the Sunshine Coast as part of her regular weekly route as a sales rep for Finn Crisps wholegrain crispbread. While a cautious driver and one who has driven this roadway many times, she entered the sharp turn and immediately lost control of her 2004 Toyota Forerunner with it veering off the asphalt. She vividly remembers going off the cliff and thinking to herself, "I'm going to die." After careening down the near vertical drop the SUV slammed into a rocky creek bed, quickly filling with water from the roaring creek that was swollen with rain water. While Carolynne remembers little of the actual crash, she told me her next memory was waking up in the Forerunner with water up to her neck and the creek rushing through the broken windows. She thought "I've got five minutes to live and I'm going to die now" before slowly coming to her senses and finally working to extricate herself from the deadly situation she suddenly found herself in. The vehicle interior was flooded and littered with the deflated airbags, boxes of Finn Crisps (she found out much to her stunned amazement that they float) and personal items she had taken with her. This made getting to the seat belt button difficult, especially with the disorientation of the SUV laying on its side flooded with moving water. She credits the thoughts of her daughter, family and friends with giving her the strength to release the seat belt and then climb out of the now vertical door of her wrecked vehicle.

Unfortunately leaving the SUV was only going from the frying pan to the fire when Carolynn looked around and realized how perilous of a position she was in with white water racing by on both sides. Her Forerunner was in a raging torrent between two waterfalls and she was worried the strong flow of water in the creek would instantly push her over over the second falls. Standing on the side of her vehicle, she saw her only escape was to jump to some nearby rocks but realized they were too far away to safely reach. Even if she had somehow gotten out of the fast moving water, the steep rock walls slick with water and algae made climbing to the highway out of the question. She could see cars further up the highway and hoped that someone might catch a glimpse of her SUV in the chasm and call the police. Caught between the proverbial rock and hard place Mrs. Drane decided her only hope was to hunker down in her truck and try to keep most of her body out of the fast flowing water. "I prayed to God don't let me die" she told me, "having faith that someone would find me." It would take several agonizing hours but miraculously a good Samaritan did come to her aid. It has been reported that a man visiting the Sunshine Coast stopped to look at the waterfalls in the area and when he pulled over and crossed the road, saw her damaged SUV laying on its side on the creek below and alerted rescue crews.

The Pender Harbour Volunteer Fire Department and BC Ambulance were first on scene and heard Carolynne's screams from the wrecked SUV below. Because of the perilous position of the vehicle, the Sechelt Fire Department and the Sunshine Coast Search and Rescue also responded along with the local RCMP. Utilizing cables and an aerial ladder truck to lower members into the chasm, they used their training in rope rescue operations and swift water awareness to stabilize the Foreruner from washing away over the second falls and to remove Mrs. Drake from the scene. Now deep in the grips of hypothermia, she had to be pulled from the vehicle, placed into a rescue basket and hauled with ropes and cables up the hill to the waiting ambulance. Being afraid of heights she did not look down for most of the ride up but said "When getting roped out the view I had of the car looked like death." The ambulance took her on a short ride to a spot where the Air Ambulance helicopter was waiting that whisked her off to the Trauma Unit at Vancouver General Hospital. While the normal human body temperature is 37 C or 98.6 F, Carolynne's was only 30 C or 86 F. She was slowly warmed up using a Bair Hugger warming blanket that uses forced air to heat a patient back to health. This dangerously low body temperature she experienced has led to major organ problems that still persist. A broken nose with two black eyes, concussion, several deep lacerations, nerve damage, various soft tissue injuries and over 70 bruises across her body are reminders to the trauma she endured that day.

Carolynne Drane

Carolynne feels lucky to be alive and glad she had the strength to live through this accident saying "I was shocked it happened to me but grateful that I survived." When asked about how she felt about the Emergency Services personnel who rescued her she responded "They're all my heros", letting me know she hopes to visit them one day in the future to show her gratitude (I told her to bring Finn Crisps!). What she hopes people learn from her ordeal is to be prepared for the unexpected when driving, especially in mountainous terrain or during bad weather. She believes her long leather boots and warm wool jacket helped to preserve her body heat during the four hour ordeal making survival possible. Mrs. Drane also believes a box cutter attached to the sun visor, a car escape tool allowing the window to be broken and seat belt cut, plus a flashlight as a key fob are essential driving safety implements. Losing her cell phone, wallet and purse to the water in the crash, she would like women to know they should simply use the passenger seat belt to loop through the purse straps when driving alone so these valuables can be quickly located. This is extremely important these days with cell phones that can be used to call for help and pinpoint the exact location of the crash. Above all, prepare your vehicle for the elements, something that needs to be seriously considered with snow and frigid conditions in the forecast for the Lower Mainland this week.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

Novezmber 28, 2016

 

Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Pitcairn Palace aka Studio 54

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five-and-ten, glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

"Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" written by Meredith Wilson in 1951 and made famous by Perry Como and Bing Crosby

Nothing says Christmas like an amazing holiday light display. It is no surprise that people come from far and wide to see the breathtaking creations that homeowners have often spent months to create with up to 100,000 light ablaze. Very soon you will be able to find listings of these electrical behemoths in every local newspaper including this one giving you addresses and even maps pinpointing their locations. While I appreciate the effort that goes into these often elaborate displays and the final brilliant product, it is the smaller more subtle displays that show creativity or ingenuity that I personally find the most appealing.

The problem with the massive displays is the work and danger that goes into producing them. Having a mother who worked in the Emergency department, I got used to hearing about people with cuts from carving pumpkins at Halloween and folks getting hurt or killed by falling off roofs, ladders and trees while hanging Christmas lights. You have to wonder if the actual goal is to have a home that is visible from space, something envisioned in the comedy movie "Deck The Halls" featuring Danny Devito and Matthew Broderick that was filmed in Ocean Park in 2006. I actually walked by three seniors once who were working together to string some lights on a house and jokingly asked, "Why do we put up Christmas lights anyways?" The man on top of the rickety ladder responded with, "Well, everyone else does" which got everyone laughing so hard I thought he was going to fall onto the asphalt below.

For the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I created the Olympic Rings out of black plastic tubing and wrapped the five colours of Christmas lights I normally used for our house onto the improvised frame, hanging it from the front deck railing along with a Canadian flag. The next Christmas I realized how difficult it was going to be to remove the twisted cords from the rings, plus I wanted to save this display for use every two years. Not wanting to blow the budget on more lights, I came up with a simple solution, utilizing a $10 "Party Bulb" and outdoor flood lamp kit I already had to create a swirling kaleidoscope of colour across the white exterior of our humble abode. I've since doubled this ridiculously easy display (2 bulbs, only 6 watts of power) that does not require climbing up ladders, skating on frozen roofs or hanging out in trees. The only drawback is that I want to play loud 70's disco music with it instead of traditional Christmas carols. Time to cue the "Staying Alive", "Disco Inferno" and "Macho Man."

Luxe/Lite@14538-32nd Avenue

My vote for the coolest Christmas display in the Semiahmoo peninsula belongs to the folks living at 14538 32 Ave., just west of the KGB in south Surrey who have an amazing display utilizing ultra modern commercial quality LED lighting. I must admit that the picture in this TNT does not do it justice as many of the 10,000 lights twinkle like stars in the night sky. They have large orbs that hang from the cedar trees like they are floating above the driveway, heavy light garland on the eaves of the house and bulbs strung all across the gate at the front of the street. Even though the show is rather spectacular, it uses less than 10 amps of power because of the LED technology. This is the third year for this display that grows in size every year and is attracting so much attention that they have now posted a sign at the front of their property with their new company name "Luxe Lite - seasonal and decore lighting" and a phone number to stop the constant knocking at the door all winter long inquiring about their rather unique display.

It turns out that the husband is a commercial electrician who works for Cobra Electric and has been installing seasonal and decorative lighting for over 20 years. This includes Pacific Centre, Granville Island, Capilano Suspension Bridge, LuLu Lemon founder Chip Wilson's mansion, the light covered whale in English Bay and the massive Christmas tree at Surrey City Hall. All of the LED lights in their yard are high-end commercial grade lights from MK Illumination (mk-illumination.com) in the UK who create spectacular seasonal, special event and artistic lighting displays in over 100 countries. Their Slovenian made lights are pricey but if you want cheap Chinese crap that will only last a couple of seasons then go to Canadian Tire. These long-lasting LED lights are so amazing that Luxe Lite has recently been founded to retail them to discriminating consumers and homeowners here who are looking for something special. Sorry to report that most are already sold out but they are taking orders for next year's Christmas season. The demand for these deluxe lights is so high that they will also be renting them out for weddings and special events starting next year in both warm and cool white colours.

In the end, the entire reason for putting up these beautiful lights was for the couple's three children who really enjoy the display and also help with installing it. They get a kick out of all of the people who have stopped by over the years or stuffed notes into their mail box inquiring about their one-of-a-kind Christmas light display, myself included. You can reach Luxe Lite by calling 604-538-2761, visiting their FB page and the luxelite.ca website that is currently under construction. Check out the MK Illumination website to get an idea of what is possible using commercial LED lighting in your Christmas display. If you are wondering how you would store a metre wide ball with a thousand lights on it, don't worry as they unclip and quickly fold into a small stack of steel spokes only inches high. I have to admit that these lights are brilliant without even plugging them in.

I hope that you found this TNT rather illuminating and possibly inspiring. Visiting the Luxe Lite house at 14538 32 Ave. might give you some insight to Christmas lighting options beyond the ordinary fare you find on the shelves at Wal-Mart. If you are putting up Christmas lights in the next few weeks, please be careful, have someone hold the ladder, or consider hiring a professional to help with the installation.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Nov. 20, 2016

Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop To Drink

The title of this TNT is the famous line from the poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in 1798.

I remember the good old days when White Rock's well water was a source of community pride and another reason why "Living in White Rock means never having to say you're Surrey." I must admit that there were several occasions when I filled up carboys of water at a friend's house in White Rock that I then used for making beer. The reasoning was that with no chlorine and more mineral content, it would not kill yeast and would add flavour to the ales I was brewing. It seemed to work as the beer I made in the basement turned out very good and disappeared all too quickly. Unfortunately the glory days of pure White Rock water are nothing but a memory with a continuing parade of problems from the wells to the taps.

This long and convoluted story goes back a few years when the downward spiral first started with Ecoli bacteria found in the drinking water. This was traced back to a roof membrane leak on one of the reservoirs that allowed "pigeon poop" to get into the system. Even though the problem was fixed and nobody actually got sick, Fraser Health decided that the times of supplying untreated tap water to the masses were suddenly over. Faced with this issue, White Rock City Hall decided that chloramine was the disinfectant of choice, causing a strong response from the residents of the city who wanted nothing to do with this chemical that had previously caused large fish kills in south Surrey during GVRD trials. Chlorine is now being added to White Rock's water supply with fears that it will react to the iron, manganese and arsenic that has collected on the inside of water pipes. On top of all of this, the purchase of the water system by the City from Epcor at a price still to be determined and protected by a gag order running past the next civic election date in three years plus the Ocean Ridge apartment fire draining the reservoirs only adds to the misery.

Living in south Surrey, our water comes from the large North Vancouver watersheds, provided to the region by Metro Vancouver. While we have bottled mountain spring water courtesy of my friend who works at Canadian Springs, most of the water we drink is from the tap and put through a simple Brita filter. With the new Seymour/Capilano filtration plant and tunnels connecting the lakes of the system, gone are the days of receiving cloudy water laden with sediment as often happened years ago during heavy rains and landslides. While turbidity was never a problem with White Rock in the past, it now appears to be a serious issue with water coming out of taps that is undrinkable and unusable. Drinking water that is a dull brown colour, water in bath tubs and laundry machines that looks dark grey , thick black chunks precipitating out of of suspension and water that fails a simple taste test are some of the things I have heard about and witnessed over the past few weeks. Check out the pictures I have either received from residents or taken in their homes to get an idea of the scope of the problem. If you have any pictures of your own, send them on to the White Rock Sun so they can be published.

I heard about water quality issues in uptown White Rock and got in touch with a lady who lives in one of the strata buildings near North Bluff that had been complaining about water that was unfit to drink and too dirty to use. A water sample in a canning jar from Nov. 7th showed large dark chunks of material that had sunk to the bottom and clumped together. When this jar was shaken, the black bits disappeared leaving the water a dark brown colour that it had originally looked like coming out of the tap. She supplied me a picture of the rinse water for a laundry load that was almost black, leaving me thinking about the old "Could you do a Tide commercial" commercials. I would hate to see what that water would do to a load of white laundry. A friend down the hall from her unit also snapped a picture of a bathtub where the water had been left standing for 10 minutes that looked like someone had washed their dog in it after spending a few hours running through tidal pools down at the beach. The rather cheeky comment that came with this picture was, "I wonder how Mrs. Baldwin would feel about bathing in this!"



Water samples were taken from kitchen taps at this building and were submitted to Exova laboratories for testing using approved US Environmental Protection Agency Test Methods. While most of the numbers for everything from Arsenic to Zinc were well under the MAC (maximum allowable concentration) listed by Health Canada water quality guidelines, the manganese level got a fail rating of AO (aesthetic objective). Health Canada guidelines for manganese in drinking water allow up to 0.05 mg\Litre but the samples from uptown White Rock came in at 0.185 mg/L, equivalent to 3.7 times greater than the guideline limits. Here is what health Canada had to say about manganese in high levels as taken from their website:


The presence of manganese in drinking water supplies may be objectionable for a number of reasons. At concentrations above 0.15 mg/L, manganese stains plumbing fixtures and laundry and produces undesirable tastes in beverages. As with iron, the presence of manganese in water may lead to the accumulation of microbial growths in the distribution system. Even at concentrations below 0.05 mg/L, manganese may form coatings on water distribution pipes that may slough off as black precipitates.


For more detailed information on this issue visit the following link: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/publications/healthy-living-vie-saine/water-manganese-eau/index-eng.php#a1

Currently Health Canada has no health and safety guideline for manganese levels in water but there are those who believe this inevitable, especially with the World Health organization currently reviewing the maximum level and calls for it to be reduced. Professor Maryse Bouchard from the University of Montreal has published a study that links high manganese content in drinking water to lowered IQ in children: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114830/#b2-ehp-119-a240b


I'm not sure if the tap water can cause "Manganism Syndrome" which is characterized by weakness, apathy, slow speech, monotonous tone of voice, and emotionless facial expression but if you've ever been to a Council meeting at White Rock City Hall recently, you have to wonder if maybe he's on to something.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

November 14, 2016

The Naked Trump

The Donald

One of the best things about living in the Semi-pen is being so close close to the Canada/US border where you can truly be an outsider looking in. I travel frequently to the United States of America and have plenty of friends there on both sides of the political divide, notice that I did not say across the political spectrum. I follow the political machinations across Canada with great interest whether it is Federal, Provincial or Civic elections but also watch the US electoral scene with rapt fascination. You see here north of the border, you usually have a broad selection of candidates whereas in the States for all practical purpose it is Republicans vs. Democrats, Conservatives vs. Liberals, and cats vs. dogs. It really is a rather frightening us-versus-them mentality with plenty of animosity and vitriol directed towards the other side.

For the old farts, do you remember where you were when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon blowing his well rehearsed lines, or when Paul Henderson scored the winning goal against the Russians in the 1972 Summit Series? For Millennials and Gen-Xers, how about when you heard that Lady Di died in a French tunnel car crash, saw hijacked planes used as flying bombs on 9-11, or when Sidney Crosby scored the "Golden Goal" at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver? It may be a little premature but I think you can put the election of Donald J. Trump as the President of the United States in that unforgettable historical moment category. The personal attacks, hateful rhetoric and vilification in the US during the campaign truly lowered electioneering from the gutter into the sewer. What other election have you seen where protests erupt on the streets for days afterwards because of the result?

It was really no surprise that Donald Trump won the 45th Presidential election but the results were far from a landslide. When the final count was in he took 290 Electoral College votes to Hillary Clinton's 228, even though the popular vote went to Hillary at 47.75 to 47.5 percent. The pollsters were not even close about the outcome as they did not gauge the level of distrust of the Clinton Camp or the general anger towards the elites running America. Donald Trump, for all his brash billionaire bravado, represented a political neophyte and outsider who many believe will breath a breath of fresh air into the stagnant cesspool that is Washington DC. Still there were others who thought that neither front-runner was a plausible candidate including a friend of mine who texted me a photo of his ballot taken in California on Tuesday showing where he has voted "Justin Trudeau" for President. I'm starting to wonder if I am the only person who realizes that both Canada and the US now have a leader whose last name starts with "Tru." Tru-st the guy from The Naked Tru-th to spot this.

It was interesting to note how the different TV stations in the States reported the election with CNN (The Clinton News Network) failing to give Trump the nod until Clinton phoned to concede and congratulate him. If you were flipping the stations you would have seen the conservative FOX network declare him as President Elect by 9 p.m. while more Liberal networks failed to call a winner until Clinton threw in the towel at 2 a.m. I'm no Stephen Hawkings but I understand mathematics and probabilities and could tell even earlier that with his lead in important states, Donald Trump was going to the White house. I wasn't the only person who saw this as Canada's Immigration and Citizenship website crashed early on election night, swamped by Americans looking to flee to the Great White North. Maple Match, the dating website that connects Canadians with Americans (their slogan is "Make Dating Great Again"), saw their user numbers triple in one day after the election and their app start trending. Showing the interest here, the BC Lottery Corporation announced that novelty betting on the US Presidential election surpassed that of the Super Bowl in popularity with nearly $400,000 wagered.

The best part about Donald Trump becoming the next President of the United States is that him and I share the same first name. I'd like to ask that in the future when you are conversing or coresponding with myself, please call me "The Donald" instead of the "The Nudie Guy" as was often the case in the past. I'm trying to resist the temptation but have unfortunately started referring to myself in the third person. The Donald does not know why this is happening but he suspects is started soon after the US election. Even The Donald's wife has noticed the difference when he says things to her like "The Donald needs a coffee" or "The Donald loves you baby." You will know when this has gone too far if you see the words THE DONALD in metallic gold letters above our front door, THE DONALD written across the side of the work truck, or a change in The Donald's hairstyle from curled locks to a bad comb over. As far as personality, attitude or wit or attitude, The Donald doubts anyone will notice any difference.

The Donald often uses lyrics from a popular song as a lead in to his topics in The Naked Truth column. In a TNT first, The Donald would like to end this rant with the words to the song that President Elect Trump used as his campaign theme, in his political rallies, after his speech at the Republican National Convention and lastly after his victory speech on election night as he exited the stage. Expect for it to get plenty of airtime during the next four years, possibly even blaring from loud speakers on the White House lawn.

We went down to the demonstration
To get your fair share of abuse
Singing, "We're gonna vent our frustration
If we don't we're gonna blow a fifty-amp fuse"
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well you just might find
You get what you need


"You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones from their 1969 album "Let It Bleed."

Naturally yours,
The Donald

 

 

 

November 07, 2016

Time For A Change, In Clocks And Planes


Those magnificent men in their flying machines,
they go up tiddly up up,
they go down tiddly down down.
Up, down, flying around,
looping the loop and defying the ground.
They're all frightfully keen,
those magnificent men in their flying machines.
Title song from the 1965 British comedy movie "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines."

 

On Sunday morning we were still soundly sleeping when a loud noise woke both my wife and I from our sleep at 8:25 a.m. She asked, "Is that a dump truck?" to which I responded, "No, that's a low flying jet." After getting up and downing a Holy Smoke coffee to start my day, I went online to YVR's WebTrak (http://webtrak5.bksv.com/yvr5) website that allows for airplane noise monitoring and flight tracking. It turns out the offending craft was a Gulfstream Aerospace G280 executive jet originating from Boundary Bay Airport (CZBB) in Delta at 8:23 a.m. that flew directly over the hamlet of Crescent Beach and across the Semiahmoo peninsula heading east. It passed directly over our house in Crescent Heights at only 2,900 feet, registering 69 decibels at the noise monitoring station based a mile away in Ocean Park. If that station were in our yard it likely would have registered 80 decibels or the equivalent noise of when I fired up the Mr. Coffee bean grinder in the kitchen. It certainly was a wonderful to way to wake up considering the time change away from Daylight Savings Time back to Standard Time.

I learned from the Boundary Bay Airport website that the populated areas of Ladner and Tsawwassen in Delta plus White Rock and South Surrey (south of 16th Ave. only) are listed as noise management areas (http://www.czbb.com/development/noise-management). Unfortunately there is nothing stopping executive jets from disturbing the rest of south Surrey with low-flying jet noise from a plane with full throttle on its high thrust engines. The GRIZZ STAR flight path has taken almost all of YVR's northbound commercial traffic out into the middle of Boundary Bay and certainly quietened things here compared to when Nav Canada changed the flight paths seven years ago. In order to decrease the noise from these small but noisy jets flying out of CZBB, I would suggest these flights be directly slightly north into the rural areas between the Nicomekyl and Serpentine rivers south of #10 Highway. Planes flying through this region would not only be higher off the ground but it is a farming area with very few homes on sizeable acreages plus large nature areas and parkland. Why only those areas south of 16th Ave. are in the the noise management area is something that needs to be questioned.

It is bad enough that we have to tolerate changes to our already sleep deprived lives twice a year because of the change to Daylight Savings and Standard Time. I've written on this topic previously and was surprised to find out that much of the world doesn't have to go through this ridiculous exercise twice a year. It turns out I'm not the only person who thinks this relic from a by-gone time should be eliminated as there is a change.org petition titled "Stop the time change in British Columbia" that garnered nearly 26,500 votes. If you missed your opportunity to add your name to the list that was sent to Premier Christy Clark, you can join the new "Stop the time change in BC referendum May 2017 that hopes to make this an election issue (https://www.change.org/p/christy-clark-stop-the-time-change-in-bc-referendum-may-2017). There is also a Facebook page that you can join titled " STOP the time change" which has some interesting information about this bi-annual madness. My favourite posting from there is, "I love turning back the clocks so it gets dark by 4 p.m., said no one ever."

Back to the main topic, sorry but my plane..., I mean train of thought tends to meander when I'm sleep deprived. I was originally involved with Surrey's Nav Canada Working Group that put pressure on Nav Canada to alter YVR flights paths to reduce jet noise pollution to densely populated residential neighbourhoods in this region. I've written extensively on the issue of aviation noise pollution over the years and believed that this topic would be a thing of the past. I am now hoping that common sense will prevail and that this small change for jets leaving CZBB could be instituted promptly to help to reduce the racket from business jets now buzzing over the Semiahmoo peninsula. If not, expect a lot more noise from south Surrey residents when people living here are informed that Boundary Bay Airport is allowing low-flying executive jets to roar over their homes early on a Sunday morning, shaking everyone awake.

The Mayors and Councils from both Delta and Surrey have already been notified about this problem plus Boundary Bay Airport, Nav Canada, MLA Gordon Hogg and MP Dianne Watts. Please feel free to voice your own concerns to them if you were also roused from your already disrupted sleep this weekend. As for me its time to cut this column short and hit the hay early so I'm not a zombie at work this week.

Naturally yourzzzz,
Don Pitcairn

DISCLAIMER;

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

 

 

October 31, 2016

Halloween Horrors, White Rock Style

 

Trick or treat, smell my feet
give me something good to eat
if you don’t, I don’t care
I’ll pull down your underwear!

Playground jingle from the playground jungle.

 

Since today is Halloween, I thought some ghost writing would be eerily appropriate. In a TNT first, the bulk of this column was written by another community-minded soul and sent to White Rock's Mayor and Council this weekend. Luckily enough I received a copy and in the spirit of the season thought it should be shared with the residents of White Rock. Enjoy the fireworks folks!

 

Subject: Closed Meeting Decision to Censure Councillor Chesney and Amend Deputy Mayor Rotation Improper * More Specifics to the Public Required

October 30, 2016

Dear Mayor, Council and White Rock City Staff.

This has reference to the release of the decision of White Rock City Council to once again censure Councillor David Chesney and once more remove him from the Deputy Mayor rotation. As City Clerk Tracey Arthur announced at the end of the Regular Council Meeting of October 24, 2016, this City business was discussed, deliberated and voted upon by Council at a meeting Closed to the Public that commenced at 2:30 PM on October 24, 2016. You will know from my previous correspondence of April 18, 2015 regarding Council's first instance of censuring Councillor Chesney and Council's first instance of removing Councillor Chesney from the Deputy Mayor rotation that these sorts of matters of City business are not subject matters that can be properly and lawfully considered by Council at an "in camera" meeting that excludes the Public.

I will again remind you that Section 89 of the Community Charter states that: "A meeting of a council must be open to the public..." except under the very limited and very specific circumstances detailed in Section 90 of the Charter. Section 90(1) lists the subject matters on which a Council may choose to exercise a discretion to Close a meeting and Section 90(2) lists the rare subject matters on which a Council must Close a Council meeting to the Public. But Council's censure of a Councillor and Council's amendment of its Deputy Mayor rotation to remove a Councillor from the rotation are not subject matters that fall within the very limited and very specific circumstances that are listed in Section 90.

In the Notice for the Special Closed Meeting of October 24th, the City Clerk listed Sections 90 (1) (a), (c), (f), (g), (I), (k) and (m) as the criteria justifying the Closing of this scheduled Special Closed Meeting. A City Councillor is neither an officer, nor an employee or nor an agent of the City of White Rock. A Councillor is an elected official and as such, Section 90(1)(a) (which the City pointed to as justification the last time that Council censured Councillor Chesney in a Closed meeting), has no application to Councillor Chesney's circumstances. And even the most creative imagination can not contrive a reason how Council's Deputy Mayor rotation can be properly and lawfully considered, debated and deliberated upon at a Closed Meeting.

"Censure" is described and defined in White Rock's "Bylaw to establish the rules of procedure for Council and Committee Meetings", Bylaw 2105 as below:
"51. A motion to censure may be used to express Council’s indignation with a Council
member’s conduct regarding Council business. A motion of this nature would be used
only in extra-ordinary circumstances, where the principles of the Respectful Workplace
Policy has not been adhered to, and will be: (Bylaw 2128)
(a) seconded;
(b) debatable;
(c) amendable;
(d) requires a majority vote;
(e) and will be recorded in the Council meeting minutes."

There is nothing secretive or confidential about a censure. And there is nothing in White Rock's bylaws and certainly nothing in the Community Charter that enables Council to censure one of their fellow publicly elected colleagues at a Closed meeting. From a purely technical perspective, Bylaw 2015, which was amended as recently as February 29, 2016, states that a censure will be used: "... only in extra-ordinary circumstances, where the principles of the Respectful Workplace Policy has not been adhered to." There has been no indication from Council that Councillor Chesney's situation is one involving the principles of the Respectful Workplace Policy, so it would appears that on this basis alone, Council's censure is "ultra vires" (beyond one's legal power or authority).

White Rock Bylaw No, 2105 also provides the statutory framework for White Rock's Deputy Mayor rotation. Section 8.1 reads:
"8. (1) Annually Council will designate the order in which each member will serve
as Deputy Mayor on a rotating basis. During an election year this will be conducted
at the inaugural Council meeting. Amendments to the schedule must be made by Council resolution. (Bylaw 2128)"
There is nothing secretive or confidential about the Deputy Mayor rotation. And there is nothing in White Rock's bylaws and certainly nothing in the Community Charter that enables Council to amend the Deputy Mayor rotation at a Closed meeting.

If for some reason, the Mayor and other members of Council are personally fixated on censuring a fellow Councillor and removing one of their fellow Councillors from the Deputy Mayor rotation, then at minimum, it behooves those so driven to conduct their discussions, debate and deliberations in Public. No one on Council, neither the Mayor nor anyone else, has any right to attempt to thwart the will of the hundreds of voters who chose to elect David Chesney to Council to represent their interests by working to attempt to diminish his effectiveness. Yet instead of conducting this City business that Council apparently thought so necessary to do at an Open Meeting before the Public, Council wrongly and secretly carried out this business at a Closed Meeting and then tackily in my view, issued a prepared Media Release to announce its decision to censure Councillor Chesney.

While it remains to be determined whether or not Council has exceeded its authority through the actions that it has taken with respect to Councillor Chesney, there is no doubt that the secret, in camera meetings that Council chose to rely on when it discussed, debated and deliberated these subject matters is NOT permitted and thus, a clear breach of the Community Charter. What the Public has been presented with to date are the specifics of Councillor Chesney's punishment, but no specifics of his alleged "crime". Given the fact that Council has already released the results of its Closed Meeting deliberations and vote on the matter of Councillor Chesney's censure and on the matter of the amendment of the Deputy Mayor rotation schedule, this is neither fair nor proper.

To quell rumours and innuendos and to meet its duty to keep the Public duly informed of City business, Council owes an explanation to the Public as to the specifics of what it is that Councillor Chesney did so as to warrant the Public punishment that has already been meted out to him. Simply broadly stating "breach of trust and sharing of confidential/classified information" as stated on the Media Release is inadequate. More details and more specifics need to be supplied to the Public to explain Council's decisions if only to dispel the perception that some may hold that Councillor Chesney is yet again the victim of another "witch hunt" led by his detractors on Council. Council's failure to do so will only continue to disrespect and effectively disenfranchise the hundreds of voters who chose to elect David Chesney to City Council to represent their interests.

I look forward to an early reply.

 

Sincerely,

***********

Mayor Baldwin and the White Rock Coalition may think this was a great trick but I've got a treat to serve up to them. Several weeks ago there was a meeting in uptown White Rock that drew local realtors, commercial business owners, former White Rock Council members and well connected members of the community. The topic was how to bring about the re-amalgamation of White Rock with Surrey by the time of the next civic election. The driving force behind this concept was the way that the city is being run, the decisions being made and the leadership being shown. I made a point of going by that night and can report that this event was well attended. As to the identities of the people involved, lets just say that I've learned from White Rock on how to keep a secret. Some things you want to take to your grave.

Nocturnally yours
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 23, 2016


BC Hydro Bullying


"When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw."
Quote by former South African President Nelson Mandela

When BC Hydro decided to force their digital Smart Meters on the public several years ago we came to the conclusion for many reasons that we wanted no part of their future plans, informing them them we wished to retain the analog meter for our residential electrical system. We have constantly denied their requests to install their digital device, being forced into paying their overblown "Legacy Charge" rate of $32.40 per month while posting no trespassing signs and protecting the existing meter from tampering or unauthorized removal. For comparison, in Quebec their Opt-Out plan costs you a measly $5 a month for an analog electrical meter.

In February of 2016 we were mailed a letter from BC Hydro informing us of their intent to exchange the electricity meter on our house to a so-called Smart Meter. They warned that failure to comply would result in a $65 "Failed Installation Fee" being charged to our account. We returned this letter via registered mail, explaining once again that we did not want a digital meter on our house but would gladly accept an analog meter instead. Unfortunately "thanks, but no thanks" means nothing to these power mad corporate creeps.

Disregarding our letter, in June of this year BC Hydro's Corix representative ignored our "No Trespassing" sign posted on the property, came to the front door and threatened us with the bogus failed installation charge if we did not capitulate. He left the property when informed that he was trespassing and the Surrey RCMP were being called. In August, BC Hydro billed us the failed meter installation charge for a digital meter we had repeatedly informed them we did not want.


How is it a monopolistic Crown Corporation can force bogus charges on customers they supposedly serve? We have paid for our electricity consumption, the trumped up Legacy Meter charge (total of $1,028 over three years) but not this latest penalty. They are fully aware we do not want a digital meter yet they chose to send a technician to our house simply to activate the $65 plus tax charge for unwanted work that was never performed. There is nothing stopping these corporate crooks from doing this over and over at $65 a pop for each visit.

On Sept. 14th we received a Missed Payment notice on the $68.25 outstanding amount that BC Hydro called a "friendly reminder." Two weeks later on Sept 28th we received an Account Overdue notice threatening interruptions in service and being required to pay a security deposit. On Oct. 12 we received a Final Disconnection Notice that threatened if the balance was not paid immediately they would disconnect service. To date the juice is still on, allowing me to sit at my computer with lights and warmth while writing this latest TNT.

We have no intention of paying this unwanted bill that was forced upon us against our will. It is noteworthy that their letter warns that "before calling to request a reconnection, to prevent the possibility of a fire, please turn off or disconnect all electrical equipment" putting our safety and home at risk. Adding salt to the wound, there is a $30 reconnection fee that would then be charged to turn the electricity back on. What they failed to mention in their last letter was they would not reconnect the power without first installing a Smart Meter.

We've had enough of BC Hydro's bullying and are now contemplating legal action against them due to unauthorized billing, harassment, undue stress, loss of enjoyment, reckless endangerment plus legal fees. Because they are a Crown Corporation, we have to file a written notice of claim of our intent, then wait two months before proceeding with court action against BC Hydro. We intend to file for a court order suspending the threatened electrical disconnection until this matter is resolved before a judge.

While anti-bullying campaigns including Pink Shirt Day are celebrated here, for reasons unknown BC Hydro is allowed to threaten, intimidate and harass their paying customers. Christy Clark's BC Liberals may have their erasebullying.ca website for school kids but they allow BC Hydro to be the province's biggest bully against adults. Of course, BC Hydro as a government owned monopoly can ignore the wants and needs of their customers as they are the only game in town and short of going off the grid you have very limited options.

I believe that BC residents need to know about this issue and wonder how many other people are in a similar situation of having their lights and heat turned off heading into the dark and cold fall season. Don't be surprised if Surrey Shirts prints and delivers pink "BC Hydro STOP Bullying" t-shirts to their head office in Vancouver sometime in the near future. While the joke is that BC stands for "Bring Cash", in BC Hydro's case it either stands for "Bullying Customers or "Beyond Corrupt."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 17, 2016

Taking a Stand on Trees

There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the Maples want more sunlight
And the Oaks ignore their pleas

Lyrics to "The Trees" by the iconic Canadian rock band Rush

Everyone knows that the third time's the charm but fortunately the remnants of Typhoon Songda that arrived on Saturday night did not pack the punch that was originally advertised. Our neighbours to the south in Oregon and Washington bore the brunt of the storm that brought damaging winds of 60 to 80 miles per hour to these states, while here most of the gusts were in the 60 kilometer speed instead. It was still rare to have three storms of this magnitude in such quick succession in October, with Friday's storm sometimes looking like a hurricane with the driving wind and pelting rain that came in sideways. Blown down trees, broken branches and flying debris were the norm for that day with one death being attributed to the nasty weather, that of 15 year-old Shakir Salaam, a Clayton Heights Secondary student who was struck by a falling tree in a Surrey park near the school and died later in hospital from his injuries.

Wind and rain storms are nothing new to this region with everything from Hurricane Freda in 1962 (aka The Big Blow), the Hanukkah Eve windstorm of 2006 that leveled portions of Stanley Park, to the freakish August 29th gale that blew into BC last year leaving more than half a million BC Hydro customers in the dark. While wind storms can cause damage at any time of the year, when deciduous trees have yet to shed their leaves they act as sails allowing the wind to exert much more energy on them often leading to broken branches and downed trees. This was the case on Friday when I received multiple reports from White Rock of trees that had fallen over in parks throughout the city. Even the tall native evergreens are more damage prone because many have yet to shed their older foliage as is normal in the later fall. Add in insect infestation or disease such as the laminated root rot present in many of our urban parks, venturing into the woods during windstorms can be dangerous especially when you consider a hundred year old Douglas fir tree can often weigh over 10,000 lbs.

I've had my own experiences with windstorms over the years and trees falling around me. When still a teenager I was crossing the street to a friend's house at night during a power outage when a large branch broke off from tall fir trees in his yard. Over the howling wind and in total darkness, I didn't hear or see the 20 foot long branch as it fell through the air like a long arrow with a jagged broken tip. It struck the ground only a step behind me, sinking deep into the water logged soil before falling over. At three inches in diameter this branch most certainly would have caused serious injury if I'd been struck by it. Not learning from this lesson, years later a friend and myself went picking wild mushrooms in the Watershed Park during a storm. While we were in the forest the wind speed increased dramatically and we saw five trees fall near us, escaping the danger by cutting through the Delta Works Yard rather than taking the trails to leave the forest. More recently I got to watch as a huge branch broke from my neighbour's fir tree in Crescent Heights that was so big I cut it into firewood, counting the rings to 75 years old and this was from forty feet off the ground. They now park their cars in front of my house away from danger when strong winds are forecast.

Trees are an integral part of any urban landscape design and we have at least a dozen of them in our yard varying from 15 to 80 feet in height. Though I prune the smaller ones myself, I have a certified arborist regularly inspect and work on the larger trees to ensure that they are healthy, properly structured and able to withstand our periodic wind storms. If you see heavy seed set, leaves withering and dropping early or unusual needle fall, it is likely your tree is diseased or possibly rotting out in the core of the trunk. Ivy should never be allowed to grow on tree as the roots can penetrate into the bark causing rot and weakness or the thick vines can wrap around the trunk strangling growth causing the tree to snap in winds. If you have a tree with multiple candlestick trunks, usually from a previous topping or injury, it is wise to have them safety cabled so that if they break they will remain in the tree instead of falling from height. Large evergreens should be cut back away from the roofs of building and spiral pruned, eliminating long heavy branches while thinning the canopy and allowing the breeze to blow through. It may be expensive to get tree work done but this cost is minimal when compared to the damage that can be done if they are neglected.

I had the pleasure of knowing arborist Charles Jones from Raintree who unfortunately passed away late last year on a day when we were scheduled to be working together on a tree replacement project Over a quarter century we worked on a variety of dangerous trees; a tall alder leaning precariously against an apartment building on Christmas Eve, a 100 foot cottonwood rotting from the inside and bending dangerously towards a kid's playground and a row of tall pines at a townhouse complex that fell like dominoes and stacked like cord-wood from a massive gust of wind. Of all the crazy stories Charlie had to tell from his years as a tree surgeon (and believe me there were plenty) two stand out in my mind. He always said that the most surreal part of his job was standing in somebody's living room with a chainsaw on full throttle and chips-a-flying, bucking a fallen tree trunk into pieces so it could be removed from the house. The worst job he ever had was cutting his way into a bedroom so that firefighters could retrieve the body of a woman crushed by a falling tree that had sliced through the roof. If you have tall trees on your property, make sure you have them professionally cared for to ensure the safety of your dwelling and most importantly the people who live there.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 11, 2016


The Name Game

You likely will have heard about the ultra light crash a week ago Sunday in the waters near Crescent Beach. It actually happened directly in front of the Crescent Rock boulder, not far from the 101 Steps at the west end of 24th Ave. Lost in the excitement of the plane crash story was that emergency crews were originally dispatched to the wrong location, the 1001 Steps staircase in Ocean Park at the west end of 15A Ave. Fortunately the two passengers were uninjured in the ditching and did not require medical attention from firefighters that were busy lugging their gear to the shoreline a mile away. Had their injuries been severe or life threatening, this simple mistake due to the similar names of these beach access points could have easily cost lives.

For as long as I can remember the names of the two staircases on the western side of the Semiahmoo peninsula, the 101 Steps and 1001 Steps have been confused with each other, mistaken for each other or believed to be one in the same beach access point. Heck, even the names are stupid with the 101 Steps having 190 steps and the 1001 Steps having 347 steps if my memory and counting is correct. Due to an almost total lack of signage by the City of Surrey, it is nearly impossible for people to locate them unless they have either a cell phone or GPS unit. Even this weekend when I was out taking pictures, people I met coming up the 1001 Steps in Ocean Park believed it was the 101 Steps instead. There is a weathered old sign welded in place at the corner of 15A Ave. and 126A that says "1001 STEPS TO BEACH" that is the only clue to their existence. Near the top of both the 1001 Steps and 101 Steps is a City of Surrey sign printed with "Stairs To Beach" that was installed several years ago. At the Olympic Trail near 13th Ave. and 131 St. which leads onto the shoreline east of Kwomais Park, there is no notification except for the sign warning you not to get locked in after dark.

With the closeness of names and constant confusion about location, I believe it is high tide..., I mean high time for these beach trails to get some new names and some proper signage. In the last month the City of Surrey posted a historical information sign reading "Christopherson family - Part of Surrey's Cultural Heritage" at the trail head at the west end of 24th Ave. and Christopherson Road in the Crescent Heights neighbourhood. Since the 101 Steps (no sign about that) go down the hill through Christopherson Park (no signage about that either) I thought that it would be logical to rename the confusing 101 Steps to the "Christopherson Steps." Well low-and-behold, it turns out that they must have someone else with a little common sense working at Surrey City Hall because with no fan-fare or public announcement at all, the 101 Steps have suddenly changed names on the South Surrey Parks listings and COSMOS site to the Christopherson Steps. Of course nobody knows anything about this because of the lack of signage regarding any of these features. To be very honest, it was news to me up until Sunday night when I wrote this TNT column.

To end the decades of confusion with the 101 Steps and 1001 Steps, I believe the 1001 Steps should also be given a new name with historical significance and I recommend the "Stevenson Stairs", after the Stevenson family who settled the area and where nearby 128th St. was formally called Stevenson Road. I'm pretty sure that the Surrey Heritage Advisory Committee could put together a little sign together like the one now at the Christopherson Steps to give residents and visitors a little taste of Surrey's history while also welcoming them to the beach in Ocean Park. The only "1001 Steps Trail to Beach" sign could then be cut down and given to the museum for preservation as it definitely looks like it is already an antique. I will admit that there is a slight problem with this plan in that the Ben Stevenson View Park is located only a block away at 1799 Ocean Park Road but it is likely that almost nobody knows about this little gem of a place blocked by a pump station and guarded by chain link fence at front. The view might also be a little better without all of the alder trees, bushes and blackberries spoiling the vista so that you have to stand on the benches to take in a sunset.

In short all of these beach staircases and trails including the Coldicutt Ravine Trail in White Rock need their names posted at the top and bottom so people know what they are called and that they are at the right place. This is vitally important in case of medical issues on the shoreline, forest fires on the bluff, accidents involving trains or pedestrians on the BNSF tracks plus marine vessels in distress. On the main arterial roads near the various stairs there should be signs posted with the staircase or trail name plus the all important words "To Beach" with an arrow. On 20th Ave. near 128th St. there is a sign that reads "Crescent Beach" with an arrow but a similar sign at 24th Ave. on 128th at the Crescent Park Elementary was removed during last year's roadwork and never replaced. The Olympic Trail should be added to the list of Surrey Parks along with a listing for Sandy Trail that connects Crescent Beach to Crescent Heights, a pedestrian walkway that many locals don't even know exists. Access points to the shoreline around the Semiahmoo peninsula should not be a secret or be impossible to find because they are kept hidden from the public.

While on the subject of signage it is time that Surrey gets its head out of the sand and stops pretending that the clothing-optinal Crescent Rock Beach does not exist. Stretching 6.5 Km. from White Rock to Crescent Beach, this rugged and secluded shoreline has been officially recognized as a legal nude beach by the Surrey and White Rock RCMP. There is no mention of this fact on either the 1001 Steps or Christopherson Steps South Surrey parks listings even though there are routinely hundreds of naturists and naturists quietly sunbathing or skinny-dipping in this area during the warmer months. This regularly leads to awkwardness when people out for a walk and unaware of the nude beach boundaries happen across folks who apparently forgot their swimsuits at home. Signage and internet listings about Crescent Rock Beach plus very simple ""Clothing Optional Beyond This Point" signs near Crescent Beach Marine Park and White Rock West Beach would be appropriate. As it stands, the only signage is a flat rock painted with "NUDE BEACH" that is just south of the Crescent Rock boulder. Let's just call it a sign of the times.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

October 03, 3016

42 Tonnes of Crap

It really burns my ass when I see the various concrete kilns along the Fraser River pumping tonnes of pollutants into the air on a daily basis, all with the blessing of Metro Vancouver. If you drive Hwy 99 in the morning you can see the brown pall that they leave across the sky that sometimes even forms its own cloud bank. This is because they use coal or even old rubber tires as cheap fuel to cook limestone to create cement which is then used to make concrete to build our new modern skyline. Imagine my surprise when I got a tip on Friday about a rubber coating company planning on moving into the Campbell Heights Business Park in south-east Surrey that has applied for a license from Metro Vancouver to release 42 tonnes of pollution into the sky just upwind from Brookswood. Somehow this apparently flew under the radar with the corporate media and unfortunately Friday was the last day for the public to have their say by leaving comments on the metrovancouver.org website.

R. Wales Canada, a subsidiary of Weir Canada Inc. from Missassaugua Ontario has purchased a 5.8 acre parcel of land from the Beddie Group and the Surrey City Development Corporation that is the City of Surrey's very own development company. Weir is planning on building a 114,000 Square foot Industrial Rubber Rebuilding Plant at 18933 34A Ave to replace an existing facility in Richmond (also permitted by Met-Van) to provide rubber and elastomer coatings to equipment used primarily in mining and oil sands production. Emissions from the plant will include include that from their natural gas boiler, steam generator, urethane curing ovens, discharge from a controlled pyrolysis burn off oven, filtered exhaust from a paint room, adhesive booths, and other industrial activity. Air contaminants include Nitrous Oxide, Sulphur Dioxide, VOCs (volatile organic components), particulate matter, Carbon Monoxide, Hydrochloric Acid and HAPs (hazardous air pollutants known to cause cancer or serious health impacts). Air pollution from this plant will be released for an average of 5840 hours a year on top of the 8760 hours for the boiler creating a total of 42 tonnes of emissions a year. This works out to 115 Kg. a day, or the equivalent of five bags of concrete floating into the bag each and every day into the surrounding neighbourhoods. The HAPs are nothing to be happy about with 1.2 tonnes of these dangerous chemicals released into the air every year.

While unable to reach them this weekend, a group calling themselves South Surrey Clean Air and Water have put out flyers about this business coming to town, listing their email address for more info as sscleanairandwater@gmail.com with a mailing address of PO Box 111, 800-15355 24 Ave., Surrey for those wishing to contribute to their cause. Their posters question the 42 tonnes per year of emissions and how this was never part of the Surrey Application Permit that listed it as "warehouse/light manufacturing facility." They report that while Weir was to have conducted preliminary dispersement modelling tests and environmental studies that none are available to the public. A map showing the plant's proposed location contains a statement that if you live within five kilometers of its location (with south-west prevailing winds) that you will experience these airborne particulates and chemicals. The person who tipped me off about Weir's Met-Van permitting application also pointed out that the East Kensington Elementary school is close by and told me that that dye put into run off water from the Campbell industrial Park has shown up in the schools well water. The huge Loblaws warehouse that houses food for distribution to Superstores is apparently worried that they might have to upgrade their ventilation system to keep Weir air pollution from contaminating their food stuffs.

Even if Weir gets their air pollution permit from Metro Vancouver it is not guaranteed that the new plant will not spew far above the 42 tonnes per year of contaminants into the sky. A stack report for Metro Vancouver done in 2013 at the existing Weir plant in Richmond shows levels of pollution release far above what is allowable. Particulate matter had a contaminant permit limit at 120 mg/m3 yet the reading was 408, almost three and a half times the allowable limit. The out of compliance explanation was the cause needs to be investigated and an action plan formulated. The other epic fail on the test results was for Sulphur Oxides with 800 mg/m3 being the top allowable reading but nearly 1900 being the actual test number, far more than double the standard. If these same types of numbers are used to calculate what the actual output of air pollution and toxins might be, the 42 tonnes suddenly climbs to 77 tonnes per year and the stack test only checks three of the seven contaminants. To give Weir credit, the released contaminants showed a marked improvement in the 2015 test with all levels being less than permissible levels but the 2013 tests show how estimated tonnes of contaminants released can vary widely from what is planned. Having lived in the Brookswood neighbourhood in the past only blocks from where this new plant is scheduled to be built, I would be concerned on the effects to the air, the possible smells and long term health effects from exposure. All the more reason to live near the beach in south Surrey says I.

It is patently unfair that a business applying for a permit to pollute the air doesn't have to advertise to alert folks who will be affected as to their plans. Homeowners in south Surrey and Brookswood in Langley should have been notified by mail as to the information contained in what is laughably called an "Environmental Protection Notice." Weir should have been forced to publish ads in local newspapers (maybe even the White Rock Sun) so residents could have a chance to let their opinions be known. It appears that only the White Rock Sun has picked up on this story and it is now too late to post your comments or concerns at weircanadacomments@metrovancouver.org. With little public opposition due to an almost complete lack of knowledge, it is likely that Metro Vancouver will simply rubber stamp this project allowing pollution to spew into the Campbell Heights and Brookswood regions for decades to come. When you have a developer owned council in Surrey First and a city owned development company in SCDC, the environment and civic rights get lip service while corporations receive a license to contaminate the air we breathe. Unfortunately this is the same situation we saw with the Ebco hot-dip galvanizing facility last year where residents of south Surrey were left in the dark by City Hall, showing a pattern of indifference to the people whose lives will be the affected the most.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

September 26, 2016
Musical Chairs With Seats Up For Grabs

 

The next BC Provincial election may be tentatively scheduled for May 9, 2017 but already advance moves are being made by those holding power to ensure they keep their jobs, offices and ferry rides to Victoria. In fact, one Liberal MLA Peter Fassbender who represents Surrey-Fleetwood already opened his election campaign office on Sept 17 with Premier Christy Clark there to show support. Personally I think that an elected official should focus on the job of representing their constituents instead choosing to start their campaigns nearly eight months before election day. Remember that their are 51 days between the day the writ is dropped and the voting actually takes place, with this self-serving MLA deciding he needs 234 days to campaign before ballots are cast. Around the Semi-pen there is a shuffling of the chairs and a possible changing of the guard that should make for some interesting times as candidates are selected to run for the various political parties here.

Forgetting about the politicos for a moment, the biggest change coming to this region in the next BC election will be the revised riding boundaries with the addition of the newly created South Surrey riding. It is gargantuan in size, running north to south from Colebrook Road and #10 Hwy. south to the Canada/US border. On the eastern edge it follows the Surrey/Langley border along 196 St. On the western side it runs along King George Blvd. up from the Peace Arch to 24th Ave., west to 128 St. and then north into Mud Bay. The Surrey-Panorama Riding runs north from Colebrook/#10 Hwy up into Newton, omitting the areas in the Semi-pen that it swallowed up in the last election. The newly aligned Surrey-Cloverdale runs north of #10 Hwy. from 156 St. to 188th St. Closer to home, the biggest change for me has been in the Surrey-White Rock riding which is everything west of the KGB, south of 24 Ave. except for the area of Crescent Beach and Crescent Park west of 128 St. Nice to be back in the fold as boundary changes for the last election meant that I was three houses out of the riding so that my loving wife could not vote for her favorite candidate. I still don't understand how Crescent Beach could have been lumped in with Surrey-Panorama or Surrey-Cloverdale before that but I'm glad to see this bizarre situation finally changed. To see the exact electoral boundaries for the entire province visit the following link: http://maps.gov.bc.ca/ess/hm/ebc/

With the boundary changes, it should come as no surprise that sitting MLA's are looking at moving to those ridings that are a little closer to home. Stephanie Cadieux, the embattled Minister of Children and Family Development and MLA for the current Surrey-Cloverdale riding is planning on sliding down south to run in the South Surrey riding after originally getting a political toe-hold in Surrey-Panorama. "Marvelous" Marvin Hunt has announced that the Premier of BC has asked him to run in Surrey-Cloverdale which is where he calls home. This means that the Surrey-Panorama riding is now vacant and constituents there will elect a new MLA next year. No one has yet to throw their hat in the ring so this riding will be one to watch as we head into what is bound to be a very interesting Spring. By far the most talked about MLA has to be Gordon Hogg who has faithfully served here as both Mayor of White Rock and then the Surrey-White Rock MLA for 40 years. First elected to the BC Legislature in 1997 he has been elected five times and now is at a crossroads looking at whether to continue on as MLA or focus on a position as adjunct professor at SFU after completing his Doctorate on public policy. We don't have long to wait as Mr. Hogg has informed me that he is planning a trip "down under" soon and will announce his decision before October 10th. Mark the date on your calendar folks and start your two week countdown to that rather important TNT Monday.

I have my ear to the rails and hear plenty of gossip and inane chatter here so if you've heard the rumor that Gordon Hogg is stepping down as MLA but planning on returning to run as Mayor of White Rock in several years, Mr. Hogg wishes to lay this far-fetched idea to rest. I doubt he was ever loosing any sleep over it but Mayor Wayne Baldwin can now relax at night with Gordon confirming this is a pipe dream at best, a bad joke at its worst. Showing that truth is stranger than fiction, Mr. Hogg revealed to me that he was courted to run for the Federal Liberals prior to the last Canadian General Election, meeting in person with Justin Trudeau on three different occasions. For a variety of personal reasons including that the riding being offered was in north Surrey and not here in the Semi-pen, he declined the invitation from the man who now is our Prime Minister. Upon hearing this news I began to wonder what his response would have been if it was the South Surrey-White Rock riding that had been offered instead. Imagine if you will, Dianne Watts running against Gordon Hogg instead of tag team of Joy Davies and Judy Higginbotham. We could have easily had Mr. Hogg as our Liberal MP with Dianne Watts instead contemplating running for the BC Liberals to be the MLA for either South Surrey or Surrey-White Rock. This goes to show you how fickle the winds of change can be, something I know about myself after turning down an offer to run for the Conservatives many years ago.

So this is where the speculation, conjecture, hyperbole and hypothesizing starts because if Gordon Hogg decides not to run again (that's my bet) the million dollar question is who will replace him as the Liberal candidate? Remember that Mr. Hogg was Mayor of White Rock before becoming MLA and history tells us that Mayor Wayne Baldwin might use this opportunity to consider taking a stab at Provincial politics. It is important to know that you do not need to step down from civic government when running Provincially, making this decision less financially devastating if you don't get elected. As far as White Rock Councillors go, Grant Meyers and Lynne Sinclaire might stop thinking about how to get their cheeks in the mayor's chair and instead look to Victoria for their political salvation. With Bill Lawrence recently selling the Sandpiper Pub giving himself extra time on his hands, the job as MLA in Surrey-White Rock or Surrey-Panorama might look rather inviting even if he doesn't live there. I don't see Helen Fathers or Dave Chesney running for the misnamed Liberals who are actually conservatives but politics do make strange bedfellows. Other names you might consider approaching the Liberals for the nomination have to be well known political hacks (meant in a nice way) Marget Woods, Ken Jones, Cliff Annabelle or maybe even Dennis Lypka. Of course there are always plenty of up and comers in the Liberal machine waiting for their kick at the can should "Good Old Gordie" decide to take his long walk in the snow.

The rumor mill has already started grinding away for me with questions being asked as to what I plan to do in the Spring. Having run against Gordon Hogg in the past two Provincial elections as the Green Party of BC candidate in the ultimate "Bambi Meets Godzilla" showdown (see the cartoon on YouTube) I don't think the third time would be a charm. If Mr. Hogg decides to go on permanent vacation, it is likely the Liberal Party will pick one of their own or a known fixture in the community with a high probability of winning here. While the Green Party is closest to my political principles at this time, I never quite fit into any one party's narrow agenda. I find Federal politics more interesting and would rather fly to work in Ottawa than take a slow boat from Tsawwassen. By far the most important reason for me not to run Provincially has to be the timing of the election, right at the busiest time of the year for me already. Two months of 14-18 hour work days with an average of only 6 hours of sleep a night is not the timid or weak of heart; I know I've done it twice before. While it would be wonderful to serve the community in an official capacity, I'll continue preaching from the pulpit I climb onto every Monday morning, bringing you my latest expose in The Naked Truth.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Sept 19, 2016

Mickey Mouse in Disneyland

Well we can finally put his name in the paper and show his photo unblurred for all to see. Surrey RCMP Constable Dario Devic who was recently videoed by the Surrey Creep Catchers while allegedly trying to meet a 15 year-old-girl is now facing two criminal charges, attempting to lure a child under the age of 16 and breach of trust by a public officer. You can see his smiling face on this CTV news report: http://bc.ctvnews.ca/surrey-mountie-charged-following-creep-catchers-sting-1.3075881 If the accusations are true and it turns out that the camera never lies, this is a perverted police officer caught in a sex crime attempting to lure a minor.

It was not long after I met Surrey Creep Catcher president Ryan Laforge (see TNT, Aug. 14, 2016 - Catching up with a creep catcher) that I learned his dedicated team of catchers was trying to reel in a really big fish. It was never revealed who they had in their sights but I had reason to believe it was a member of the police, a judge, school principal, politician or celebrity figure. Their mark was carefully baited in a sting where the person who identified themselves as "Officer Dan" emailed pictures of himself in an RCMP uniform and wrapped only in a towel to what he believed was a 15 year-old girl. After several weeks of communications, the trap was set and a meet was arranged on Sept. 7 near Central City in Whalley. When confronted by the team of a dozen catchers, the man in question took of running as soon as he heard the words "Surrey Creep Catchers." With this pedophile catching ring constantly in the news, it was remarkably brazen and extremely stupid that someone working for the police would even consider yet attempt to arrange for such a nefarious meeting.

As if the actions of pedophiles trolling the internet for victims was not dark enough, this story gets even murkier when you examine the legal machinations that followed. A vehicle allegedly belonging to the man who ran away from the Surrey Creep Catchers was towed away from the mall by the RCMP and the officer who apparently owned this vehicle was arrested at his home the next day. Considering the gravity of the accusations against him, this Surrey Mountie was immediately removed from active duty. Two days later he was released following a judicial bail hearing with conditions including no use of the internet, no contact with children under 16, and to stay away from areas where children would be expected to gather. It was also reported at that time that two 14 -year-old female home-stay students were removed from the Port Moody home of the arrested officer where they were apparently living. Crown Counsel received the report from the RCMP on Mon. Sept. 12 to decide if they had enough evidence to file charges with a further court appearance scheduled on Oct. 19th. As far as everyone knew, this was where the story went into a holding pattern waiting to see if the Crown Counsel approved charges as is the usual legal protocol in the Province of BC.

The bombshell was dropped last Friday when CTV broke the story on Friday, Sept. 16 that the Surrey RCMP had laid their own charges against Constable Dario Devic the previous weekend, shortly after he was arrested. This is extremely unusual as British Columbia is one of only three provinces in Canada that designate Crown prosecutors as the final decision makers in the laying of criminal charges. In most other provinces, it is the police who make the decision to lay charges with the Crown prosecutors then reviewing the case to determine if they will proceed with the prosecution. While the RCMP are undoubtedly embarrassed about yet another high-profile sex scandal involving their members, it is bizarre that they would lay charges on one of their own and then not bother to tell anyone. While the Surrey RCMP were quick to hold a news conference after Officer Devic was arrested, they apparently hid the fact that they jumped the gun on the Crown, now putting us into a new post-charge model to assess the substantial likelihood of a conviction. No one from the Surrey RCMP have yet to explain why the police decided to take the highly unusual step of laying the charges themselves. Hopefully this fundamental change won't result in the charges not proceeding or the case eventually being thrown out of court.

While the Surrey Creep Catchers are doing their best to expose the orgy of pedophilia that is sadly taking place in this country, they are up against a justice system that seemingly sucks up to child predators. By chance, Former Calgary Flames star Theo Fleury came out swinging this weekend against the Parole Board of Canada who released convicted sex offender Graham James on full parole last Thursday. In case you are new to the country and not familiar with the story, James was convicted for sex assaults against five WHL hockey players when he was coach of the Swift Current Broncos in Saskatchewan in the early 1990's. You can read all about the graphic details in Theo Fluery's autobiography "Playing With Fire" which led to some of the charges resulting in James's being sentenced to prison for a total of five and a half years. Showing his disgust and distaste for the lenient sentences and early parole that many sex offenders receive here, Theo Fleury stated "Canada is the Disneyland for pedophiles." While the Surrey Creep Catchers are portrayed as a Mickey Mouse operation by those in law enforcement, at least they don't have a problem catching their man.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Editor's Note: The following four questions have been sent to the Surrey RCMP Detachment plus Attorney General Susan Anton and we are now awaiting their response.
1) Can you explain why the Surrey RCMP filed direct criminal charges against Mountie Dario Devic on Sept. 10 instead of forwarding a Report to Crown Counsel for review as is the normal legal procedure in BC's pre-charge assessment process?
2) Why was the information on the criminal charges being filed in this high-profile case involving a member of the Surrey RCMP and the so-called vigilante group "Surrey Creep Catchers" not released to the media or the public at that time?
3) If the Crown Counsel now decides that the evidence supporting these criminal charges does not meet the standard of a "substantial likelihood of conviction" will charges filed by the RCMP against officer Devic then be dropped?
4) In the last five years, how many times has the Surrey RCMP filed direct criminal charges against an individual instead of submitting a Report to Crown Counsel for a Charge Assessment Review?

 

 

September 12, 2016

A Peace Of My Mind

Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, 'There's no place like home'.
Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, talking to Dorothy in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz.

Well, its official.

In results released by Metro Vancouver in their 2013-2014 My Health My Community survey conducted by Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health, the community of Crescent Beach and Ocean Park where I happily reside placed tops in the Lower Mainland for people reporting excellent or good mental health with a rating of 80 percent (we're #1..., we're #1!). While this does not explain my sometimes rambling TNT rants here in the White Rock Sun, it would appear that good weather, an ocean breeze, access to the beach, plenty of parks and wildlife plus a strong sense of community are having a therapeutic effect on this neighbourhood. It is really no surprise to me since I wanted to live near Crescent Beach since I was a kid growing up in North Delta because of all of the reasons I just listed. Since moving to the Semiahmoo peninsula fourteen years ago, I have owned three houses in the Crescent Heights area that are within two blocks of each other and I even sold my neighbours the house they still live in. I have no intentions of ever leaving, planning to have my ashes scattered along Crescent Rock Beach when my days here are done, hopefully many years from now.

This comprehensive survey includes responses from 33,000 people in the region, giving a highly detailed look at various community demographics. This includes age, gender, birthplace, education, household income, employment and ethnicity. For South Surrey/White Rock, not surprisingly 30% of respondents were seniors over 65, showing how the Semi-Pen attracts retirees to the region. Interestingly 78% of folks here report being born in Canada with a whopping 88% being Caucasian, putting the white in White Rock I guess. For schooling, a total of 70% had diplomas or degrees showing the value of post secondary education with 31% reporting a six figure income of $120,000 or higher. Unemployment in the Semi-Pen is a rock bottom 2% but 37% report not being in the labour force, likely because they are retired or too wealthy to bother working. In total South Surrey and White Rock had 71,866 residents over the age of 18 years old but this number has undoubtedly climbed in the past two years since this number was calculated.

This survey looks at a broad spectrum of health, community and infrastructure, giving the results while allowing comparison to the average rates throughout Metro Vancouver. In the Healthy Behaviors section, it reveals that 6% of folks here still smoke compared to almost double that at 11% in Met-Van. While females beat out males 40% to 17% in having 5+ portions of fruits and vegetables a day, the guys outdo the gals with 55% to 40% engaging in 150 minutes of physical exercise a week. Showing that you can teach an old dog new tricks, it is seniors 65+ who report more than 2+ hours of screen time a day at a whopping 71%, nearly doubling those in the 40-64 year age bracket. For the Built Environment, not surprisingly we report using cars to commute at a high 79% versus 55% for the rest of the Lower Mainland. While our median commute times are bang on the 30 min. Metro average, public transit commutes come in at 80 minutes per trip compared to 45 min. in Met-Van, showing our lack of bus service over a large geographical area. For the Health Status section, SS/WR was only 5% above the Met-Van average rating of 49% for general health while mental health was 68%, eleven points higher than the average but still nothing like Ocean Park and Crescent Beach benchmark.

There is plenty of other information and data that can be gleaned from this report with the Health Status section basically showing that the older you are, the sicker and fatter you get. Ratings for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, mood disorders, high blood pressure and multiple chronic illnesses are all relatively high in the elderly population here, with our demographics in the Semi-pen affect these results. The Community Health Indicators contains a large amount of information about our region compared to Metro Vancouver and Fraser Health with everything from cancer to binge drinking listed. To say the data is sobering would be nothing more than my cheap attempt at a cheesy pun. Still this report is worthwhile reading on the state of our community and can be found at Metro Vancouver's mycommunitymyhealth.org website, clicking on the RESULTS tab to take you into the meat and potatoes of this report. With that in mind, I think I'll blend an organic smoothie, grab the dogs and head to the beach for some fresh air and catch another beautiful and calming sunset over the waters of Boundary Bay while humming Ace of Base's hit song "Its a Beautiful Life", oh oh oh oh.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 


The Naked Truth - Sept. 5, 2016

No Relief For RELEAF

 

When the Ocean Ridge apartment complex burned on May 16th in White Rock, it was not only the 100 or so residents who lived there that were displaced. Many businesses also went up in smoke, including the RELEAF Compassion Centre located on Pacific Ave. When I visited the fire scene that terrible day, I watched as a pumper trunk directed its water cannon directly into the apartment above the store with a torrent of water running out over the awning and through the front door. Fortunately the businesses on the bottom floor had a concrete envelope, limiting the fire damage that gutted the wood frame apartments above. Amazingly RELEAF was able to salvage much of their furnishings and supplies to the point that they didn't even bother to file a claim with their insurance provider. Unfortunately this left 200 White Rock residents and 500 folks living in south Surrey without access to consultations, counselling or guidance about the use of medical marijuana for their various health problems.

The RELEAF Compassion Centre in Langley continues to operate and build up a loyal clientele and are still looking for a new location in White Rock where they were well received for one and a half years. While there are no regulations on dispensary placement in the City By The Sea, the owners tried to use the same zoning bylaws that the city of Vancouver has recently instituted. Of course with the relatively small geographical location surrounded by Surrey, they found it difficult to meet the desired distances from schools or community centres. An office was found in a professional building at the north-east corner of George St. and Russell Ave. close to the seniors grouped in uptown, with nice level streets and near a bus stop. The Property Manager was open to the concept and an Offer to Lease was signed for August 1st of this year. This was presented to the owner who asked questions about RELEAF'S operations plus then asked other business in the building for their feedback. Even though the average client age of RELEAF'S customers is 70 years old, the other tenants threatened to vacate and break leases if RELEAF was allowed onto the property.

The same indifference and cold shoulder had also been shown to RELEAF by White Rock's City Hall. A year ago in June of 2015, members of RELEAF appeared before Council, looking to them for guidance on how to establish a dispensary in town. They proposed a pilot project that would be part of the bylaw construction for dispensaries, giving time to work out details and get feedback from the community. Obviously unconcerned about the charter rights of medical cannabis patients and their providers, the pilot project was rejected along with any bylaw changes regarding dispensaries. RELEAF was back before Council in June of this year to once again speak with Mayor and Council looking for guidance instead of being in a self-regulating position. Prior to the delegation appearing before Council, Mr. Randy Caine whose daughter runs RELEAF, set up an appointment with Mayor Baldwin so he could approach him on this subject for more than the five minutes given in chambers. While Mr. Caine had an appointment and made eye contact with the Mayor through an open door, he was left in the waiting area for twenty minutes before finally having to leave for another appointment. There was never any call back from the Mayor's office about this failed meeting or explanation offered why Mr. Caine was not invited in for his scheduled talk.

In the end of the day, medical marijuana dispensaries are coming to White Rock in the very near future. Vancouver may be leading the way but they already are open in Delta, Surrey, Langley and Chilliwack. It makes no sense for officials to stick their heads in the sand on this issue pretending it doesn't exist. Instead of RELEAF'S office located in a professional building with naturopaths and holistic wellness businesses, it is likely that Weemedical Society, Cannamedical or even Weeds will move in, renting out one of the many vacant retail shops found on street level in White Rock. Rather than continue to treat medical marijuana with the same hysteria resulting from archaic propaganda such as the film Reefer Madness, it is time to realize that this is about people with health issues needing the support of the community. It is not necessary to continue to discriminate against sick folks simply because of the herbal medicine they are choosing to deal with their ailments. It would be refreshing to see White Rock's Mayor and Council being proactive on this issue and coming to the aid of people who have found relief in ReLeaf. It is important to realize that all of their customers living in White Rock are seniors with real health problems, not pimply faced teenagers simply looking to get high.

I know from an all-candidates meeting I was at several years ago during the last Provincial election that the elderly population of White Rock supports the legalization and medical use of marijuana. ReLeaf has already shown that the services they supply are welcomed and required by the sick and elderly living here. What ReLeaf needs is an office location, preferably on the second or third floor of an office building with elevator access in the uptown area of White Rock near public transit. A landlord who realizes the benefit of having ReLeaf back in the community and who refuses to stigmatize legitimate medical marijuana use would obviously be a bonus.

If you know of a location that would work or happen to have office space yourself for rent, then please contact RELEAF and see if you can work out an agreement (find them at http://releafcompassioncenters.com). For those seniors living here who are now unable to get their medicine due to inaction by White Rock City Hall, now is the time to phone or email your elected officials to let them know that just as Justin Trudeau replaced Steven Harper, this could become a very thorny election issue for them in a few years time.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

August 29, 201e


Testing..., Testing..., 1,2..., 1,2

Most people living in a modern city give little thought to the infrastructure around them, especially those services underground that are out of sight and out of mind. I'm pretty familiar with the workings of the Surrey Engineering Department, mainly through my interest in traffic safety but also from the many public works projects I drive by on a constant basis. Imagine my surprise when these strange metal cages started showing up in our Crescent Heights neighbourhood with a sign stating "Sanitary Sewer System Monitoring Program." Of course I had to raise a big stink and find out what was happening and what the testing equipment was looking for.

I called the number on the metal mesh box and was finally put in touch with those in Metro Vancouver who were responsible for this program. What really surprised me was that the sewer line being tested was operated and controlled by Met-Van, not the City of Surrey. While I knew that Met-Van operated the large sewer mains and treatment plants, I had no idea that they look after the three main trunk lines in this region, including the one two doors away that carries effluent away from White Rock and much of the Semi-pen. Yes Whiterocktonians, when you flush your crap it doesn't flow downhill like normal, it gets pumped straight uphill into Surrey where it then runs right to my house. While I'm sure that some of you will find this rather amusing or even somewhat appropriate, it then flows down to Crescent Beach where it is pumped and joins with the huge main at the bottom of Panorama Ridge that runs to the treatment plant.

It has been twenty years since Metro Vancouver last sampled sewage waters on a local level, with that test being done in the Vancouver region. With changing effluent quality, mainly due to dissolved pharmaceuticals, Met-Van is doing field testing this year in Delta, Surrey and little old White Rock to find out how big a problem this is and if steps are needed at the sewage treatment plants to remove drugs from the waste water before it is discharged. The Annacis Island Wastewater Treatment plant under the Alex Fraser Bridge puts 175 billion litres of treated water into the Fraser River every year where it is then washed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, now renamed the Salish Sea. Any chemicals left in the water can bioaccumulate in everything from migratory waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway up to pods of Orca whales living or traveling through the strait, not to mention the various salmon runs that travel through the mighty Fraser.

Two years ago, Environment Canada officials told a Senate committee that more than 165 individual pharmaceuticals and personal care products had been identified in water samples. Aluminum goes down the shower drain from anti-antiperspirants along with zinc from anti-dandruff shampoos. Medications swallowed by Canadians and excreted into toilets end up in wastewater because drugs are not completely metabolized and in some cases as much as ninety percent passes through our bodies. The International Joint Commission, a consortium of officials from Canada and the United States who study the Great Lakes report that only half of the prescription drugs and other newly emerging contaminants in sewage are removed by treatment plants. Those chemicals proven acutely toxic to algae or which can act as hormone disruptors in fish are of primary concern along with antibiotics and drugs that concentrate in the food chain.

The report on the findings in this Metro Vancouver study will not be produced for a couple of years while more data from the Fraser Valley is collected and analyzed. What will be interesting is to compare the numbers in the new study with the one done twenty years ago, especially when you consider the advancement in medicines and development of new digs that could possibly impact the environment. Even without these results, scientists are already looking at ways where designer bacteria can be introduced into settling ponds to break up chemicals or remove drugs from waste water utilizing membrane filtration technology at treatment plants. You can think about all of this the next time you are traveling through the Semi-pen and you see orange man-hole covers on the ground. These are the main drains that are property of Metro Vancouver, not your local Engineering Departments in Surrey and White Rock.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

August 22, 2016


Hip Yet Tragic

Do you remember where you were when hijacked planes flown by terrorists exploded into the World Trade Centre, causing the twin towers to burn and fall? How about what you were doing when you heard that Lady Dianna had died of her injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash in a Paris tunnel? I can tell you exactly where I was (Hwy 99 just north of the KGB) when I heard that blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn had lost his life in a helicopter crash in Alpine Valley Resort. If you were like a lot of Canadians you likely were tuned in to the CBC on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. to watch the national celebration with The Tragically Hip who were playing live in their hometown of Kingston. I was watching, singing along, laughing, crying and trying to enjoy what may likely be their last show while slipping into a melancholy funk.

I was somewhat of a concert hound at a younger age before the advent of computer sales for tickets when you could get front row seats simply by being the first person in line at the Concert Box Office at the corner of Georgia and Richards in Vancouver. I spent many a Friday night camped out on my fold up lawn chair with a sleeping bag waiting to grab the best seats in the house the next morning. Beyond this, working for five years at BC Place selling concert souvenirs plus actually dating a manager at Ticketmaster afforded me entry to many more concerts over the years. While the big bands like the Stones or Pink Floyd jam the largest stadiums they can find, it is usually killer bands in small venues that are the most memorable. This was never more true than when the Tragically Hip first came to Vancouver in 1989.

I'd become a fan of The Hip after hearing the song "Highway Girl" that was part of their self-titled EP "The Tragically Hip". When I heard they were coming to Vancouver to play at the Town Pump bar in Gastown, I knew I had to get tickets. I asked all of my friends if they wanted to go see this upstart band from Kingston but to be quite honest, none had never heard of them. I got up early in the morning and went to Willowbrook Mall in Langley to line up for tickets. Tragically, I was the only person there except for a couple of metal heads who were buying tickets for rock show. They were priced at $13 each with no limit on the amount that could be bought and I purchased two tickets for my girlfriend and myself. By the time the band came to town they'd released their second album "Up To Here" featuring the hit singles "Blow at High Dough", "New Orleans is Sinking", "Boot or Hearts" and "38 Years Old". All of these songs saw heavy air play and on the evening of the concert people were offering $100 for anyone who would sell their tickets with no one taking them up on the rather rich offer. The energy and atmosphere of this show was absolutely off the charts with the crowd response to the searing guitar riffs and lead singer Gordon Downie's soaring vocals so loud it felt like the roof was going to blow off.

In the 30 years that the band has been together, the Tragically Hip have woven themselves into the fabric of this country and their music become a soundtrack for the lives of many Canadians, myself included. Along the way they've released 16 albums, 9 that reached number one in Canada, with 54 singles and 14 Juno Awards. With front man Gord Downie being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, their Man Machine Poem tour became the most sought after ticket in cities across this land this summer. How huge was the final concert in Kingston? Big enough that the CBC showed it live from coast to coast, preempting the Rio Olympics! Think about that for a minute, for three hours the Tragically Hip were given higher ranking than the Summer Olympics, with our athletes in Canada House in Brazil watching on TV there and singing along. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance at the concert along with his wife, showing that even he recognized the importance of the moment. On big screens at organized viewing areas, in pubs and bars and in living rooms across the Great White North, this was a show for the ages.

 

What the Hell is Wrong With These People? - Part 2

As a long-time addict to the best coffee in the Semi-Pen, I usually start my mornings grabbing a cup of joe-to-go from the Holy Smoke Coffee Company in the tee-pee at the front of the Timberland Motel and Campground at 34th Ave and the KGB. On July 7, 2014 the nearby boulevard was the scene of the crime when an out of control Mercedes ML50 driven by a 17 year-old girl smashed into a parked car, a light standard and mowed down Timberland resident and Holy Smoke employee Jocelyn Hallier, critically injuring her and killing her German Shepherd dog Deville. I wrote about the horrific details in my July 28, 2014 TNT titled "What The Hell is Wrong With These People?" Rather than me regurgitating the entire contents of that earlier column, simply take a minute to scroll down and hit the refresh button in your mind before continuing on. My main bone of contention at the time was how no one, not the driver, her parents or any of her friends came by the Peace Arch hospital to see how the badly injured Jocelyn was doing, to offer condolences, or give an apology.

Last week was the sentencing date for the now 19 year-old girl who was driving the luxury SUV that fateful night. Two months ago she plead guilty to Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm charges that were laid as a result of this high-speed crash. They say that time heals all wounds and it is amazing to see Jocelyn back walking considering her head injury, crushed pelvis and numerous vertebrae breaks she received when the car full of teenagers smashed into her. At the sentencing hearing in Surrey Provincial Court, Judge Gary Cohen prohibited the driver, whose name cannot be released as she was a minor at the time of the crash, from driving for a five year term. She was also placed on two years probation and ordered to give a DNA sample to the RCMP. At this hearing both Mrs. Hallier and Holy Smoke owner Al Nameth submitted victim impact statements to the judge for his consideration. An important part of the sentencing not reported in the other community newspaper was that the driver must submit a written letter of apology to Mrs. Hallier for her erratic driving behavior that night, the devastating injuries she caused to Jocelyn and for the violent death of her dog.

In the courtroom the young driver appeared very upset several times during the proceedings and was described by her lawyer Michael Klein as being "extremely remorseful." She is said to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder due to the aftermath of the crash along with depression and anxiety and has not driven since the accident. The judge became emotional during sentencing saying "This particular sentencing is one of the difficult ones, both a crime and an accident, its not just the victim (who suffers) but also the defendant suffers a great deal, if the defendant has any sort of a heart at all." Here's the rub folks, I've been told that in the courtroom the defendant and her family members would not even make eye contact with Jocelyn. No attempt was made by anyone to approach her to offer a heartfelt apology for all the pain and suffering the teenage driver caused. Mrs. Hallier was lucky to have survived this accident and made a miraculous recovery after spending six months in hospital care. I realize that there are future court dates involving ICBC to settle damage claims that likely will be passed on to the owner of the vehicle but that is no excuse to not show some humanity towards the victim. You can cry your crocodile tears on someone else's shoulders because your inactions speak even louder than your lack of words. I have to hold up my thumb and index finger, slowly rub them together and tell you that's the world's smallest violin playing "My Heart Bleeds For You."

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

August 14, 2016

 

Catching Up With a Creep Catcher

But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here.
Lyrics from Radiohead's song "Creep"

 

It really is amazing what a small world it is and you can forget about six degrees of separation because it often seems that divine intervention is more plausible. Last week while at work the younger and definitely more hip members of the crew were sharing Facebook posts and YouTube videos all to do with Surrey Creep Catchers. They were also given plenty of exposure, multiple posts and a ton of comments on the ever popular Only in Surrey Facebook page. I checked out some of the videos showing older men being confronted while attempting to meet what they thought were young girls and boys they had trolled off the internet. With the story obviously going viral I planned on writing my next TNT column on this subject. Miraculously, without any attempt to contact the man responsible for the Surrey Creep Catchers, fate delivered Chapter President Ryan LaForge to my house on Saturday where we sat on the patio and talked about the ongoing pedophilia problem across Canada. Because of this chance meeting and with the WR Sun closing next week for summer holidays, you get this week's TNT a day early.

Taken directly from the Surrey Creep Catchers FB page, "We are a Canada wide movement that focuses on the apprehension and media publication of predators spreading awareness about an ongoing epidemic, pedophilia." Their surreycreepcatcher.com website boasts, "Creep catchers Canada Is a group across Canada ( Now Possible US ) that takes time out of there day-to-day lives to go online in social media rooms posing as underage children looking for potential predators. We record everything from the chat logs to the meeting video, we meet with them, then we post them online for the public to see as they have the right to know who these people are and that there in there area." Mr. LaForge formed the Surrey Chapter of this Canada wide movement only two months ago with the intent to lure predatory pedophiles into meeting with underage boys and girls. To date he has made eleven videos so far with plenty of others waiting to be assembled for posting online. You can view them online on YouTube at "Creep Catcher Surrey", taking note of the viewer discretion advisory. Their capture call-out of "Yer Done Bud" is now striking dread in those corrupt enough to be attempting to prey on our children.

It was my intention to contact Ryan LaForge this weekend and offer him one of our styling Surrey Shirts t-shirts as a sign of respect and a show of solidarity for what he is doing as a child harm prevention worker in our community. By a strange twist of fate, one of his family members is also a long time supporter of Surrey Shirts and he phoned us first in order to purchase more apparel but also to express an interest in purchasing t-shirts for the Surrey Creep Catchers. My wife Sheryl and I could not believe the timing or coincidence and immediately invited both of these fine men over to our place to discuss the Creep Catchers movement and to talk shop about their shirt order. It was literally fascinating to meet Ryan and learn about how the hunt for online predators has been an all encompassing passion for him. He makes the perfect spokesperson, standing tall and weighing nearly 300 pounds, he's not the type of person that is easily intimidated. I'm sure this comes in handy when meeting men in parking lots late at night who think they are about to have a date with a teenager. Imagine the skinner's confusion when they are expecting to meet a child plaything and up walks the Creep Catchers team with video cameras rolling and chat room evidence in hand.

As much as I applaud Mr. Laforges actions and endorse his social media shaming of potential pedophile predators, the same cannot be said for the local police department or the main social media sites. The Surrey RCMP have shown little interest in investigating the adults who have agreed to meet up with what they believe are young teenagers. While the RCMP have units dedicated to online child pornography, you would think that cases of child luring would be important enough that they could run the same stings as Creep Catchers. Imagine what Ryan LaForge could do with a badge and a budget, similar to the online predator baiting programs that are used by police departments in the United States. A special black mark goes out to the geeks behind Facebook and YouTube that continually block his site usage for weeks to a month at a time because those perpetrators shown in the posted videos complain about their privacy being invaded. I would think that with the online copies of the sexting, audio recordings of meetings plus video of the creep capture, that these so-called social media sites would put more emphasis on child safety than the shameful feelings of those seeking the company of children. In this matter, the folks behind YouTube and Facebook might as well get between the sheets with the perverts and trolls they willingly protect.

With Surrey Creep Catchers going viral and community support rallying against the predators in our midst you can expect to hear plenty more in the near future from the group whose motto is "We Don't Sleep." On Saturday, August 27th, Surrey Creep Catchers are planning on holding an all day barbeque party at Hawthorne Party in North Surrey from 12 noon till 6 p.m. It is located on the NW corner of 104th Ave. and 144th St. between Whalley and Guildford with the actual address being 10513 144th St. Surrey Creep Catchers have booked park space and are looking for volunteers to help with the event plus corporate donors to supply food and drinks or even to run the concessions. You can reach them on the Contact portion of their website if you can help or provide financial assistance. Surrey Shirts is planning on attending, selling our pro-Surrey merchandise along with official Surrey Creep Catcher merchandise, with profits going to help finance their activities. Expect big crowds and a large media contingent to cover the group that has been mistakenly labelled "vigilantes" by some for their non-violent style of confrontation and public humiliation of suspected pedophiles.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 09, 2016

Snake in the Garden

Recently we had a rather disturbing incident at our house near Crescent Park in Surrey relating to the quality of our tap water. I have a large water container that I take to work on a daily basis to keep me from getting dehydrated when the weather is hot and sunny. I filled the jug as usual, threw in a tray full of ice cubes and went to work. Halfway through the morning I took my first sip of water and it tasted awful with a heavy plastic chemical taste to it, so bad in fact that I spit it out. The men I work with also live in Surrey which gets its water from Metro Vancouver and the North Shore watersheds. I sampled the water in their jugs and it tasted fine but they would not even taste the stuff that came out of our tap after simply smelling it. Not knowing what was going on, I contacted Surrey who assured me they would have someone out to test the water that afternoon. Unfortunately no one bothered to show up, forcing me to look into this rather bizarre problem myself.

When I came home from work that day, tired and dehydrated, the first thing I did was to pour myself a glass of spring water courtesy of Canadian Springs. A friend of mine drives tanker truck for them and my wife and I frequently stay at the property in Chilliwack where this pristine artesian water comes from. I dropped some ice cubes into the big glass and sat on the couch drinking it when much to my dismay, the water once again started to taste and smell like plastic. While I realized the bottled water was fine, it dawned on me that the ice cubes were melting and releasing the same unpleasant taste into the pure H20. Knowing that there is only one waterline down our street, I took a glass of our contaminated water across the street to the neighbours. I sampled their tap water and it tasted fine but after one sniff of our water they both refused to even taste it. Walking back home I took note of the new garden hose we had bought from Costco and suddenly a little light went on. I squeezed the hand sprayer and the water that came out smelled like liquid plastic.

The hose that we had bought was 100 feet long and it had inadvertently not been turned off at the tap, creating a defacto extension of the house plumbing system. The hose bib for the outside tap was right next to the water intake line so every time there was a pressure fluctuation in the system, water from the new hose would flood into the house pipes. I knew that you should never drink from a garden hose due to stagnant water, algae, bacteria, dirt, insects and other creatures that can breed in this dark and wet environment. One of my friends who worked with me years ago drank from a garden hose in the early spring that we then used to fill up a sprayer which showed a mix of contaminants floating in it. He got very ill with violent diarrhea and vomiting, missing work for three days and losing 10 pounds in weight. You can purchase potable water hoses that are white, which are used to hook up recreation vehicles to a tap plus some stores like Home Hardware are now selling clear flat hoses that are drinking water safe. For most of the garden hoses available for purchase, they should come with a warning sticker on them, some with a skull and crossbones.

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment has warned that drinking water from a garden hose poses an unnecessary public health risk. Besides the problem of drinking what amounts to stagnant pond water, garden hoses are often made from poly vinyl chloride (PVC) plastic that has varying amounts of lead in it. This heavy metal can leech from the hose into the water, especially if it is left in the sun and exposed to high temperatures. The brass fittings commonly used in many hoses frequently contain up to 8% of lead in them. High levels of lead intake through drinking water like in Flint, Michigan have been associated with live and kidney failure plus decreased IQ results in children exposed to contaminated water. Chemicals call phalates are also added to the plastics of hoses to make them soft and bend easily but they have been linked to hormone disruption, birth defects and elevated risk of cancer. Another chemical often found in plastic hoses is Bisphenol A (BPA) that is also a known endocrine disruptor and a suspected carcinogen. No surprise that these chemicals are now banned from infant sippy cups and from plastic drink bottles, yet they are still commonly used in regular garden hoses.

To protect yourself, your children, pets and garden, it is advisable to follow these rules about garden hoses.
- Never ever drink from a regular home garden hose, fill your pet's water dish or allow children to drink or play in this water.
- Always ensure you turn off any tap connected to a hose or use a simple shut off timer to avoid back flow into your house.
- When watering gardens, it is advisable to allow the water to flow for two minutes before using on edible plants.
- If you have children, educate them on the risks and consider using potable water hoses while they are young.
- Keep your hose stored out of direct sunlight plus unscrew and drain it in winter when not frequently in use.
In a rather interesting circumstance, I recently gained a new business customer Fred Surridge Ltd. that sells heavy duty plumbing parts for municipal water systems (their motto is "where water is always our business"). The manager confirmed my theory about the plastic tainted water from the new hose infiltrating our household water system. He also told me that once a week he flushes every toilet and opens every tap in his house to drain the pipes and refresh the water. The reason is that for large modern houses with many bathrooms and complex piping systems, this is the only way to ensure that the safe drinking water delivered to your home actually stays that way.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 03, 2016

Chump to Champ

 

" Don't you know that you are a shooting star,
And all the world will love you just as long,
As long as you are,
A shooting star. "

Lyrics from Bad Company's song Shooting Star.

 

Usually I am writing about other people and events in the Semiahmoo peninsula but after the long weekend I've just had, Editor Dave Chesney told me that with this week's The Naked Truth I'd better train my sights on myself for a change. The reason is that this weekend was the British Columbia Rifle Association's (BCRA) 132nd Target Rifle Championship. Think about that for a second and consider how many generations ago that was. Except for the war years the BCRA has been holding these yearly events since 1874 when the long rifle of choice was a black powder single shot musket. While obviously the design and quality of firearms has improved markedly over that time, the simple act of shooting a bullet through a target at long distance remains the same. A steady hand, a skilled eye, knowledge of the conditions and a precise trigger finger all combine to allow the marksman to consistently fire shots into a small bulls-eye. In modern full-bore rifle shooting, 300 yards/metres is considered short range with long range shooting reaching back to 900 metres or 1,000 yards, the length of 10 American football fields. For perspective, there are 1,760 yards in one mile, meaning the bullets flight is well over a half a mile in distance.

The BCRA shoot is held every August at the General Vokes 600 m. military range in Chilliwack, just past the Slesse bridge as you head up the Chilliwack River Valley on the way to Chilliwack lake. With its rugged scenic beauty that have earned it the title as most scenic rifle range in the world, the Vokes range attracts marksmen (and markswomen) from around the planet, not only for the views but for the high level of competition and wide array of beautiful trophies. This year's event attracted the Great Britain Rifle Team with 18 shooters, support staff and spouses. Many of them were fresh from the NRA UK's annual meet held in Bisley England featuring the hotly contested Queen's Prize. A large contingent of Americans from as far away as Colorado and California also came north of the border to attend and try their luck against the Brits who are some of the best shooters in the world and by far the strongest team. Next weekend the GB Rifle Team will travel to the dreaded 1,000 yard Rattlesnake range in eastern Washington to battle with the Yanks before heading to the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association (DCRA) Canadian Full-bore Championships being held the following week in Connaught, Ottawa.

I've been shooting competitively now for over forty years and have had my share of victories along the way plus plenty of schooling by the world's elite marksmen. While my work schedule does not allow me to compete as much as I would like, I've taken steps to greatly improve my abilities over the past five years, allowing me to attend the last two world championships as a member of Team Canada. I'm not going to bother with a play-by-play of the entire weekend but I certainly used home field advantage to my benefit. When the gun smoke had cleared after three days of shooting over 10 different matches, I had beaten some of the most feared marksmen in the world, winning the following major prizes:
BC Target Rifle Grand Aggregate - Gold
BC TR Open Aggregate (open to all competitors) - Gold
BC TR Aggregate (BC residents) - Gold
Lt. Governor's Prize - Silver
Lt. Governor's Prize 3rd Stage - Gold
Short Range Aggregate - Gold
Long Range Aggregate - Gold
Life Governor's Match -Gold
City of Vancouver Match - Gold
There were plenty of other matches and aggregates that I won but the ones above were the major prizes, dropping only four points in three days of competition. Unfortunately I missed the famous "chair "ride by tying for the Lt. Governor's Prize only to only to lose it by three centre shots called V-bulls to David Calvert, the man who had recently won his third Queen's Prize in England. On the International Team Match held on Tuesday, the Brits showed their world dominance handily beating the US and Canada.

What is remarkable about all of this is while I am now the BC TR Champ, my father Robert Pitcairn who is now 78 years young is the current Canadian Target Rifle Champ. In two weeks time he will be heading to Ottawa to once again go for gold, showing that old age, experience and treachery know no bounds. That is one of the joys of shooting, you can remain competitive far into your adult years as long as your eyesight allows you to see a twenty inch bullseye at 1,000 yards. Now in my mid fifties, this was by far my biggest win with twelve trophies, five bullion badges and four medals completing the haul. Not to be outdone and showing how the Semiahmoo peninsula is hotbed for hot shots, the second place finisher in the BC TR Agg was White Rock's internationally famous gunslinger Jim Paton, with third place going to south Surrey's Robert Best, another shooter well known on rifle ranges around the world. The gold, silver and bronze bullion badges amazingly all came home to this little corner of BC.

For more information about the sport of full-bore target rifle shooting, check out bcrifle.org or dcra.ca.

See you at the range!

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 25, 2016

"Don't Fence Me In"


The Naked Truth - July 25, 2016

9:30 is the new 10 o'clock

On Saturday evening we were having a quiet evening at home when my wife and I decided to head down to Crescent Rock Beach to watch the sunset. We grabbed our beach bag, a couple of ice cold beverages, the two ankle biters and headed down to the shore using the "101 Steps" staircase at the western end of 24th Ave. We took note of the "Don't Get Locked In" sign that warns "Main Entrance Gate Locked at 10:00 PM" even though we knew we would be back well before the posted time. The beach was actually quite busy with plenty of folks like us waiting to take in nature's nightly light show. It was not a sunset that would ever grace the front page of the White Rock Sun but it was still a relaxing and peaceful time spent snuggling on a blanket amidst the warm rocks. As soon as the last rays of colour disappeared from the clouds, we packed our bags, leashed the dogs and made our way back up the staircase with several other couples leading the way.

When we finished climbing the 194 steps of the 101 Steps staircase, we quickly realized that something was very wrong. The heavy industrial gate covered with thick chain link fencing was locked closed with four people already standing there wondering what to do. The time was exactly 9:30 p.m., a half hour before the posted time the gates were to be locked. Since the other two couples had cars parked on the street only metres away, it was decided that we would all climb out. This was a group effort considering the fence is almost 7" tall and topped with sharp wire ends apparently cut on an angle to inflict maximum damage. The first man over played hero to the women, telling them to step on his shoulder first before helping them down. My wife had to pass her two dogs over to these strangers and the mutts were suitably non-impressed with what was happening. I climbed over wearing sandals, shorts and a t-shirt, making sure the sharp wire ends of the chain link didn't come close to any important parts. I've no idea how many other people had to either climb this gate or make the long hike around through Crescent Beach in the dark.

As you might imagine I was not too happy with being trapped at the stairs long before the gates were to be locked. I phoned Securiguard who performs this service for the City of Surrey to report the early closing and the dangers of forcing people to climb the fence. The woman answering the phone was unapologetic, telling me that it was not their fault and that they were following Surrey's orders to close them at "dusk" and not at 10 p.m. I asked her when one could tell it was officially dusk and she responded rather matter-of-factly, "9:40 p.m." Much to my surprise, I found out you can actually Google "Surrey dusk" and it will give you the official time, which was still at least ten minutes later than the gates were locked. Delving deeper into this dark and mysterious subject, I found out that there are actually three types of twilight before dusk, civil twilight, nautical twilight and astronomical twilight. Dusk actually occurs at the very end of astronomical twilight when stars can be plainly viewed as night is about to begin. Playground speed limits are enforced dawn to dusk with elementary school speed signs posted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You cannot get a ticket for speeding in a 30 kmh zone outside of these times, just like you shouldn't be locked in at the beach before 10 p.m.

The major safety issue here is what happens if you are not physically capable of climbing the fence or have a large dog or scared children that cannot be lifted over. At the 101 Steps, it is a long way in the dark to go back down the stairs, walk to Crescent Beach and then make your way back up to the end of 24 Ave. Where this really gets dangerous is at the other Surrey staircases onto Crescent Rock Beach, the 1001 Steps at the west end of 15A Ave. and the Olympic Trail on 13 Ave. at 130 St., both in Ocean Park. These are gated with the same 10 p.m. closing time signs and have gates that are much more difficult to climb than that at the 101 Steps. If you get trapped in either of these locations it roughly a two mile walk to get to either White Rock or Crescent Beach with a cab ride needed to get back to your vehicle. The worst part is that walking on the shore would be impossible, forcing people to walk on the BNSF Railway train tracks in the night, which is both illegal and hazardous. I realize that the gate closures were instituted to stop night-time partying by youths but you cannot close the gates before the posted time. For those that do not know, the locked time on the staircase signs changed during the year from 6 p.m. in winter to 8 p.m. for both spring and fall and then to 10 p.m. for the summer.

Not surprisingly, after I told Securiguard dispatchers that I was going to publicize this issue, on Sunday night the gates did not get locked before the posted 10 p.m. time, showing that dusk obviously came much later that day than the 9:39 p.m. I got from Google. This matter is going to be brought to the attention of Surrey's Park's Department plus Mayor Hepner and her Surrey First Council who can figure out if the actual closure time is now dusk or at 10 p.m. Either way, the signage at the stairs must be the same and be respected by those workers tasked to lock the gates. If you are half an hour late coming up, well then expect a long haul in the dark along the tracks to escape from the Ocean Park staircases. If the staff from Securiguard lock these gates a half hour before the posted closing time, then they should be fired or Securiguard's contract terminated because of the possibly dangerous situation this puts people in. Until this problem gets sorted out, if you are going to the beach in the evening remember to bring a blanket, liquid refreshment, a watch or cell phone, a jacket for when it gets cool and most importantly, a pair of bolt cutters for the lock at the top of the stairs.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

EEITOR'S NOTE - Here is the answer back from the head of Surrey Parks about the early locking of the 101 Steps gate.
While I don't think it is necessary to publish the letter, maybe a short note to let residents know that the gates should be locked between 10 pm and 10:30 pm for the remainder of the summer.
At the very least, an editors note at the bottom of the July 25, 2016 "Don't fence me in" TNT is probably warranted.

 

July 18, 2016

When I wrote last week's TNT titled "The Gauntlet" about the state of corporate community newspapers across this country, little did I know I'd already been thrown under the bus by Lance Peverley, the editor of the local Peace Arch News. Before I began writing this column for the White Rock Sun, I frequently penned many "Letters to the Editors" or "Let-eds" as I call them. I've had countless letters printed in a wide variety of newspapers including the Province and Vancouver Sun, many garnering the coveted "Letter of the Day" position. I think this is hereditary as my mother who now lives in Chilliwack also has a knack for rather blistering opinion pieces and is well known for pointing our hypocrisy and stupidity when it comes to our elected representatives. When I write a let-ed, they are thoughtfully created, carefully crafted, highly polished and usually require no editing for clarity brevity, legality and taste. They are emailed with the title "Letter to the Editor", begin with "The Editor", end with my name, address and contact information as is required, plus are sent to the email address for the Letters Page which in the case of the PAN is editorial@peacearchnews.com.

Our delivery of the PAN at our house is somewhat sporadic but last Wednesday's July 13th edition did show up at the door. I gave it my customary speed read through the various articles, taking time to read the entire Letters Page as is my usual custom. In there was a letter from the south Surrey/White Rock MP Dianne Watts titled "Constituents not shut out" that attempted to explain the eight month delay in the opening of her constituency office. In case you missed it here it is in its entirety.


Editor:
Re: Lack of MP’s office ignored, June 24.
I am writing to clarify the letter to the editor published regarding my Constituency Office.
Following the election on Oct. 19, we proceeded with the plan to renovate our campaign office into the Government of Canada office that would serve the constituents of South Surrey-White Rock.
Over the course of the next few months, unbeknownst to us, the ownership of the premises changed hands. During this time we had to renegotiate our lease agreement. This took longer than expected. Once completed, we proceeded with the renovations required.
A temporary office in White Rock was set up, through the City of White Rock, where my two local staff worked, handling all constituent requests, via meetings, phone and email.
I would like to thank Mayor Wayne Baldwin and the City of White Rock for their assistance with facilitating our temporary office.
Our constituents know we are now in our permanent premises in the Peninsula Village Shopping Centre, where we will continue to serve the people of South Surrey-White Rock. For contact information, please refer to my website – diannewattsmp.ca
MP Dianne Watts, South Surrey-White Rock

This of course was a rebuttal letter by Mrs. Watts to one posted earlier on June 24th titled "Lack of MP's office ignored." I decided I wanted to read what had been printed earlier plus know who had written the letter. On June 20th at the end of my TNT titled "Game of Drones", I'd posted a TNT Extra titled "Watts Watch", highlighting the eight month delay in her constituency office opening. Two months previous on the six month anniversary, I wrote a TNT titled "Watts The Holdup?" detailing the half year delay. When I searched up this earlier letter on the PAN website, here was what was posted.
As of Sunday, June 19, it has been eight months since the last Canadian federal election, and rookie MP Dianne Watts still does not have a constituency office open to the public to serve the residents of the Semiahmoo Peninsula (Open office to be part of MP’s open communication, May 27). It is strange and disappointing that the mainstream media who should be questioning this unreasonable delay and unknown renovation costs have been totally silent on this continuing debacle.
Don Pitcairn, Surrey
Imagine my shock and surprise when I realized that this let-ed was actually an edited news tip I had sent out to a wide variety of media outlets on the eight month anniversary coinciding with my "Watts' Watch"! When people send news tips to any reputable newspaper including the White Rock Sun, their identities are protected since it is the story information that is important, not the person who brought it to their attention. In this case, instead of having one of their reporters do their own story, the editor of the PAN saw fit to turn it into a letter to the editor, place it in the Letters Page and print it. This was an appalling lack of judgement that marks the second time over the years that the PAN has turned regular communications from myself into a let-ed and published an email as a letter to the editor. What was funny is that I was planning to write a response let-ed to Dianne Watts' letter until I realized what had happened. The lack of ethics and morals shown by Mr. Lance Peverley including a complete lack of response to my concerns leaves me no other option that to file a complaint with the BC Press Council to hold him and their Black Press rag accountable.

It is interesting that the PAN was fit to go this route rather than question Dianne Watts about her poor decision not to continue to use the previous Conservative MP's office only a block away. Nowhere in Mrs Watts' letter was the total amount of money spent on the complete renovations revealed and no PAN reporters obviously asked her for this information. What she did reveal was that Mayor Baldwin and the City of White Rock helped her set up a temporary office in the City By The Sea during the eight month period in question. The issue here is that the address of this temporary office was never posted on her parliamentary website, on former MP Russ Hiebert's old office window, or on the door of the storefront being renovated. In fact, when I talked to her staffers in Ottawa about the temporary office, they stubbornly refused to give me the address making me wonder if it was in her basement at the time. Even more curious is how several White Rock councilors I have recently talked to knew nothing about this deal that apparently was offered free of charge. Even more interesting is that they never realized that the MP had a temporary office anywhere in their small seaside town. The question now is where was this office, how long was it opened, was it actually staffed during regular business hours and how much rental income did the City of White Rock give away? Don't expect to see anwers to these questions anytime soon in the pages of the PAN. The newly renovated office at #595, 15355 - 24th Ave., Surrey did finally open on June 21st to little fanfare, no announcement on Mrs. Watts website or any mention about the official grand opening that I still hope to attend.

As far as the Peace Arch News goes, it still serves a purpose here in the Semi-pen. We use it to line the bottom of our compost pail so that the slimy vegetable peelings and spent coffee grounds don't stick to it. It comes in handy when painting, saving money having to buy paper to prevent overspray. When our old car developed an engine oil leak, it worked great to keep the concrete clean in our garage. Before she moved out of the neighbourhood, my daughter would use it to line the bottom of her budgie bird cage where it soaked up the excrement nicely. When my wife's dog had puppies, the pages of the PAN were essential in absorbing the puddles of urine and piles of poop left by the may fuzzy little rascals. Too many times I've seen the PAN get a story wrong and then fail to take the necessary steps to correct their erroneous position. Too often I've seen the PAN ignore a news story apparently because they were scooped by the White Rock Sun. Too often I've seen the PAN fail miserably to hold our elected officials accountable. I don't know if this latest snafu was a veiled attack on my credentials and integrity, an extremely stupid mistake or just plain laziness on their part. What I do know is that the PAN's editor has not bothered to respond back to me about their latest instance of yellow journalism. For that alone I wish to tell him quite publicly, up yours Lance!

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 11, 2016


The Gauntlet

If you are one of the many people who take the time to visit the White Rock Sun on a consistent basis I would like to applaud you for supporting Canada's first internet-only newspaper. With its timely reporting, daily changes in content plus the regular collection of features and opinion pieces like this one, I like to think that it is at the forefront of what it means to be a community newspaper. Oh sure, it does not get printed with ink onto newsprint or delivered to your door like the regular newspaper masquerading as a flyer delivery service but think of the time, money and energy this saves not including the effort to recycle all of that old fish wrap. The WR Sun is always fresh, timely and always there for you whenever and wherever you need it, plus no need to worry about bundles of newsprint piling up at your door while you're away from home.

Started by Mr. Dave Chesney 11 years ago, the WR Sun has grown and morphed with the times to become the proverbial little ant-that-could who stands up for freedom of choice, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Unlike many of the formerly privately owned community newspapers, it has not been bought up by media barons and corporate conglomerates where the message often becomes sanitized and watered down. Look no further than to the Peace Arch News, The Now, The Leader and the the newest addition to the family, The North Delta Reporter launched four days ago all owned by Black Press. The Glacier Media Group is another big player in the community newspaper scene, owning 66 different newspapers including the Delta Optimist, Richmond News and the Vancouver Courier. Both the Vancouver Sun and Province are owned by the Postmedia Network who also print the National Post and 13 other major newspapers across Canada including a further 40 community newspapers and free dailies including the local 24 Hours. As time goes on these large companies are swallowing up the local newspapers giving them omnipresent control over story content, which opinions get printed and the slant on editorial content.

While many of the local newspapers do a great job in digging up stories and reporting details on them, you have to wonder what the consolidation of control over the newspaper market is having on the freedom of the press. With the closing of many newspaper offices, those reporters and editors who still have jobs are more likely to write safe pieces rather than stick their necks out to find themselves on the chopping block. There have been many stories that appeared in the White Rock Sun, which were totally ignored by corporate media because they were too hot to handle or they put political power brokers in a bad light. Case in point was former BC Premier and former Surrey Mayor Bill Vanderzalm's informative piece on weather modification in Canada that only saw ink in the Georgia Strait, which was founded by its present owner, publisher, and editor Dan McLeod. A little closer to home, nobody but your truly would hold Dianne Watts' feet to the fire over the cost of her office renovations or not having a constituency office open here for 8 months after the last Federal election. A day after my "Watt's Watch" report came out as a TNT Extra on June 20th, Mrs. Watts' offices finally opened to little fanfare, hoopla or corporate media attention even though she was the last MP in the House of Commons to finally hang out her shingle.

If you've been a regular reader of the WR Sun, you'll know that I've been penning my weekly "The Naked Truth" for some time and if you scroll down into the dusty old archives you can read the first one I ever wrote back on July 20, 2009. I don't do this for fame, glory or monetary reward, it is my weekly rant where I get to share thoughts, insights, stories and commentary with the people of our community. Besides penning this column (actually key tapping is more appropriate), I keep an eye open for trouble, my nose to the ground and my ear to the rails looking for stories that I can report to editor Dave Chesney or possibly use in an upcoming column. I was the person who woke up Dave Chesney early on May 15th to report a large fire in the peninsula, having seen the column of smoke and the Surrey Fire Chief racing to the scene. This was the Ocean Ridge complex fire that became the largest fire in White Rock history. I also spotted smoke in the air from the Burns Bog fire last week while driving down King George Blvd. and reported it to the WR Sun, driving to North Delta to take the first photo that was posted. I take many pictures with my cell phone or camera, submitting the best ones to Mr. Chesney hoping to get the coveted front page picture. This is actually quite a challenge because of the number and quality of photos that are already submitted by area residents. A tip of the hat to the photographers, artists and people in the right place at the right time who continue to amaze with the sights of the Semiahmoo peninsula.

So this is where I throw down the gauntlet, pull off the gloves, whack you in the face and issue a challenge to you all. Dave Chesney may be the founder and editor of the White Rock Sun but in my mind it is collectively owned by the people of south Surrey and White Rock. It is your lives, your struggles and your triumphs that create the stories you read here on a daily basis. It is your news tips, story ideas, whistle blowing and amateur reporting that gives the WR Sun the scoop on the much larger news organizations covering our community. Instead of simply coming to read the White Rock Sun, take control of your newspaper by becoming its eyes and ears. Put editor Dave Chesney's phone number into the contact information on your cell phone, reaching him via land line at 604-541-7696 or on his City of White Rock cell phone at 604-356-3791. Put the WR Sun email address of editor@whiterocksun.com onto your hotmail or gmail account and send him your news tips and stories from around our community. You can contribute and submit anything that you think people would find informative or fascinating or that would make the White Rock Sun more interesting to read. If you are an opinionated SOB who likes to write, consider approaching Mr. Chesney about doing your own column as I'm sure I'm not the only person in the Semi-Pen capable of doing so.

In the end, you should think of the White Rock Sun as your newspaper! Take ownership of it, nourish it, help it to grow and watch it flourish. Become active in reporting your observations and stories to the editor along with sending pictures and links to articles from here that might be getting ignored or suppressed by corporate media. It was through active community engagement that the Georgia Strait in Vancouver went from an underground rag to a highly respected progressive newspaper with a large internet presence and heavy website traffic from across the globe. The WR Sun continues to grow and improve and the more people take ownership of it, the better it will become in the future. If everyone living here who reads the White Rock Sun were to contribute as much as I do to this newspaper, it would likely clean up at the annual Canadian Community Newspaper Awards. Just as you go to whiterocksun.com to find out what is going on in our community, you can be the one helping to shape content and informing your neighbours about what is happening in our little corner of the world. Not only would this make the Semiahmoo peninsula an even better place to live, it will make the White Rock Sun a newspaper you'll be proud to call your own.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

July 4, 2016

Bar Atlantis - Surrey's Hidden Jewel

 

If you scroll down the main page of the White Rock Sun to the very bottom you will find a link to detailed tide charts for this area. For sun worshipers and beach lovers this is a very important posting as it allows you to time your visits to the ocean either for low or high tides, depending on your preference. I usually like low tides as it gives more area to walk and roam, unless it is very hot when it is nice to have the waves near the beach to go for a dip. There are certain times of the year that I watch for and this weekend plus the next few days are very special with ultra low tides of just over one foot in height at the middle of the day. This makes for the perfect time to visit "Bar Atlantis" when it rises from the depths and becomes the best beach in the Semiahmoo peninsula.

Olympic Trail stairs

This massive sand bar measuring 50 m. wide by 800 m. long is located just west of Kwomais Point in Ocean Park. It can be reached via a long and somewhat treacherous walk from White Rock (stay off the tracks please) but the Olympic Trail in south Surrey is your best bet. This is a wooden staircase that goes down the bluff hillside from a trail head on 13th Ave. between 130th and 131st Street. The staircase zig-zags down the hillside and eventually ends up at what is locally known as "Stoner's Point", a lookout platform 177 steps down the slope. Just before the view point a rough trail heads into the ravine, with a massive granite boulder similar to the White Rock or Crescent Rock boulders perched on the hill just below the platform. The equivalent of 135 steps awaits you with missing treads, chunks of steel rebar rod sticking out of the ground and no handrails. This trail is rough, steep in areas and not for the faint of heart or those not in good shape. While technically illegal, you have to cross the train tracks at the bottom of the hill to access the beach but the railway's wire landslide detector fence is raised in this location allowing easy passage. The last obstacle before the sand are the rip-rip boulders lining the rail corridor that must be climbed with care and caution to avoid injury.

 

Bar Atlantis only appears when the tides drop to one or two feet, meaning it will only be above the waves for around five hours a day. Its hard packed and flat sand is fantastic to walk or run on, play football, soccer or bocci ball, throw a frisbee or to fly a kite. The view is spectacular stretching from Kwomais Point all the way down to the house stacked hills of White Rock far off in the distance with Mount Baker in the background. With the exception of one house where the owner has seen fit to cut down the trees on the slope for views, the bluff is a forested backdrop, lush and green compared to the barren wasteland that the Hump hillside has been turned into. The area is teeming with life with eagles, herons and crows in abundance and rocks crowded with starfish and anemones. You will find sand dollars up to four inches across all along this beach and plenty of tidal pools to catch your interest and that of any children you bring along. The sand tends to stay moist so it is best to bring a folding backpack beach chair along should you care to sit and sun tan. The shoreline near the tracks will be dry but it is rocky and strewn with large logs from last winter's storms, allowing little room for a blanket.

Most of the times when I visit Bar Atlantis it is completely empty but it appears the secret is out. There were up to a dozen people on the beach during the few hours that I was there although most did not stay long. Families with children living just up the hill in Ocean Park were there collecting shells and looking in the tidal pools. Dog owners and their pets came down for some exercise and time spent chasing balls into the surf. I met several couples who had walked all the way from White Rock with one group of ladies who were considering trekking all the way to Crescent Beach. Everyone I talked to was there because of the very low tides at that time, with most already knowing about the hidden beach. What I found interesting was the two gentlemen who were fishing for dungeness crabs, wearing waders into the water and using a simple net to catch them. I had heard this was possible but it was the first time I'd ever seen anyone having success, with several "keepers" in their buckets. While this area is part of Crescent Rock Beach and legal to use for nude sunbathing, I did not see any naturists or nudists there with only partially sunny skies and a brisk wind making clothes a necessity. I did finally get to fly the stunt kite that I was given on my birthday over three months ago and enjoyed the lack of obstacles to hit while I learned its speedy tendencies.

While you likely missed this weekend's ultra low tides of 1.8 and 1.2 feet, the next three days will see Bar Atlantis open for business with tides of 1.1 feet at 12 o'clock noon on Monday, 1.3 feet at 12:43 p.m. on Tuesday and 1.9 ft. and 1:24 p.m. on Wednesday. If you have never experienced this large stretch of sand, consider putting in on your list of things to do or maybe calling in sick for work and making it a four day weekend. Remember that this hidden beach will be above the water for several hours either side of the listed low tide. Monday looks to be the best day with sunny periods in the afternoon but Tuesday and Wednesday are forecast to be wet and cloudy. This is what makes Bar Atlantis so special to visit, you need ultra low tides, in the middle of the day, on the weekend, with good weather. When the stars align and these four variables come together, it rates as the best sandy beach in the region. If you come for a visit without checking the tide charts, all you will usually see are the waters of Boundary Bay lapping against the railway rocks without a hint of what lies below. Plan it properly and you will have a day to remember and will become a tide watcher looking for the next special time when Bar Atlantis is high and dry.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 27, 2016

$30 Million Discrepancy

For years now I have campaigned for a variety of safety improvement projects related to existing infrastructure throughout the Lower Mainland. Some of these were very small and required little physical changes or large injections of capital while others ran bills into the millions of dollars. The cable median barriers on Hwy. 99, concrete barriers to protect faulty bridge railings throughout BC and the separation of traffic on the #10 Hwy. hill approaching Scott Road are all examples of this. Instead of myself coming up with more ways to spend taxpayer money, this TNT can actually save Canadians a cool $30 million. The sad part is that our MP Dianne Lynn Watts should be the one pointing out this common-sense cost savings instead of a lowly scribe working for the White Rock Sun.

It was only a few years ago in November of 2013 when Dianne Watts was Mayor of Surrey that Surrey's transportation committee nixed the idea to spend $4 million to build an underpass on Beecher St. under the BNSF rail corridor. While this would have alleviated the train blockages to the only two roads that access Crescent Beach, it was deemed that this project was too much money for Surrey's budget, especially when the rerouting of Metro Vancouver's sewer lines and installation of a pump house were also included. With this tunnel being necessitated by the Surrey Fraser Docks coal terminal plans with extra coal trains rolling on the BNSF tracks, it was thought that Port Metro Vancouver should pay the freight, sort of speak. Even though the tunnel was turned down, this concept was included as part of Surrey's annual request for infrastructure funding to the Federal government. A few years later and now this story really goes off the rails.

A report this month by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities detailed plans to build a tunnel under the BNSF tracks allowing access to Crescent Beach at a price tag of $35 million. I didn't need a calculator to figure out that not only two years later and the ballooning price out of Ottawa has suddenly jumped $31 million. A little bit more math, this time with a calculator, showed that this is an increase of a whopping 775% in only two years time. Gee, and to think that I complained about my Surrey property taxes going up eleven percent in each of the last two years. We should not forget that Dianne Watts is on the Conservative shadow cabinet as the Official Opposition Critic for Infrastructure and Communities who first brought forward the rail safety motion on this issue forward. Since she was Surrey's Mayor when the original tunnel plan was scuttled, she should be aware of the huge discrepancy in pricing between those drawn up in Surrey and those in Ottawa.

We don't need a lavish edifice to Ottawa spending and out of control deficit spending on Beecher St., a simple tunnel under the tracks would do. Even with inflation, the most this project should cost is $5 million, realizing a cost savings of $30 million. While Port Metro Vancouver was fingered to help pay part of the bill, I think that the BNSF Railway should be partially responsible for this infrastructure upgrade. The reason is that it was the frequent blockading of the two entrances to Crescent Beach by stalled trains, sometimes for hours on end, that started the conversation about the need for uninterrupted access. Instead of going with the new $35 million plan, maybe Dianne should ask her buddies at Surrey City Hall for a copy of their slightly dated tunnel plans to see if they were accurately conceived and costed. While far below the estimated $300-$500 million to move the BNSF tracks to a safer inland location, it seems excessive that the price tag for a tunnel into Crescent Beach would increase so astronomically in only two years.

It is wonderful that Dianne Watts is championing our causes in the House of Commons but this huge cost overrun needs to be brought to the attention of the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities. With the current price this works out to $28,000 for every resident of Crescent Beach if these costs were paid by them. The BNSF Railway should be on the hook for some of the tunnel costs since they are the root cause of the problem. For comparison, the massive concrete and steel trestle railway bridge over Mud Bay that was recently completed had a budget of $5.5 million so you have to wonder why a small tunnel would cost almost six times that. It seems that once politicians arrive in Ottawa and go to the House of Commons, they lose all common sense and grasp of financial responsibility. I'm surprised they haven't considered simply purchasing a hovercraft for everyone living in Crescent Beach so they could leave regardless of any stalled train. At $20,000 for a new model, they could buy these for a paltry $25 million, saving $10 million. While this may seem ludicrous, it is still cheaper and just as stupid as what is now being planned.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 20, 2016


Game of Drones

 

As time has gone on and the clothing-optional Crescent Rock Beach between White Rock and Crescent Beach has become more well known, it is increasingly attracting larger crowds to its rugged and secluded shores. Its hard to say whether it will ever become a victim of its own success as many people feel has happened at Wreck where fully clothed voyeurs and bus loads of foreign tourists regularly descend the stairs to take in the sights. Its tough to masquerade as a nude beach when the majority of those visiting the area are wearing clothes. Fortunately Crescent Rock does not seem to have this problem with almost everyone taking the time to get there enjoying the experience of sunbathing au' natural plus going for a cooling skinny-dip.

While it does take a few stairs at either Coldicutt Ravine, the Olympic Trail, the 1001 and 101 Steps staircases or a long walk from White Rock or Crescent Beach it is not like Crescent Rock is difficult to access. The amount of watercraft on Boundary Bay varying from paddleboards and kayaks to Sea-doos and power boats means that relaxing at Crescent Rock can never be expected to be a totally isolated experience. The train tracks also bring those looking for some scenery to admire with cameras often visible in the windows of the passing AmTrak train and engineers on BNSF freight trains leaning out the window or even standing on the locomotive cat walks while slowly rolling along the nude beach. Low flying planes, ultra light aircraft and helicopters including the RCMP's Air 1 also do low level low speed passes on a frequent basis. While interesting to see, the three paragliders who frequently visit from the King George Air Park get rather annoying after multiple low altitude passes in front of the main nude beach area south of Crescent Beach.

While your privacy cannot be assured, it is reasonable to expected not to be photographed in the nude while relaxing on the beach. Friends and couples do take pictures of each other and can ask permission for others to be in the background of different shots, plus I have seen models being professionally photographed there on many occasions for use in their portfolios. With cell phones all now possessing high quality cameras it is not like the old days when you could spot the voyeur by their large SLR camera and long telephoto lens. Unfortunately the web is full of sites with spy cams and hidden camera videos that appear to have been taken on nude beaches with unknowing people suddenly becoming unwitting stars for a worldwide audience of trolls and perverts. Most naturists say that if you want to see what's going on then come down to the beach, take off your thin veneer of textiles and enjoy yourself with the rest of the people enjoying the freedom of spending part of your adult life as nature intended.

Unfortunately recent technological developments have now added a new way for the illegal recording of people relaxing at the nude beach. While at Crescent Rock recently with my wife, we were informed that a drone was seen hovering low over the beach, flying the length of the main nude recreational area south of Crescent Beach and then taking off towards the top of the bluff. Considering the value of the residential properties in the Ocean Park and Crescent Park area, it is not surprising that someone there would own a drone, especially now that they are becoming very affordable. Most of these remote controlled flying machines have gyro stabilization plus high definition cameras on them allowing for startling details to be shown. What the person operating this drone needs to realize is that while nude suntanning and skinny-dipping on Crescent Rock Beach is legal and officially recognized by the local RCMP, filming people nude without their knowledge or consent is illegal and can bring lengthy prison time.

The "Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act" that was brought in to protect people from cyber bullying also has protection from technological voyeurs. Taken directly from this legislation: Everyone who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years. In this Act, “Intimate image” means a visual recording of a person made by any means including a photographic, film or video recording, in which the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts or is engaged in explicit sexual activity; in respect of which, at the time of the recording, there were circumstances that gave rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy; and in respect of which the person depicted retains a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time the offence is committed.

Hopefully this drone fly-by was a one off incident and that the video taken was not going to be used for titillating or pornographic purposes. Members of the nude beach community have now been contacted about this drone incursion and to the realization that filming might be happening without their knowledge or consent. The Surrey RCMP have now been informed of drones over the nude beach and will investigate if further flights are spotted over Crescent Rock Beach. Nude beach regulars will be keeping an eye out for these flying video platforms and watching where they go when leaving the bluff area, then reporting this information to the police. It is a shame that in this day and age that some people still continue to sexualize the human form and attempt to exploit others who reject the culture of body shame. For those who might be hoping to capitalize on aerial images taken of naturists and nudists at the local nude beach, there is a federal prison cell waiting for you if you get caught.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

TNT Extra - Watts Watch: On Sunday, June 19 it has been eight months since the last Canadian Federal election and our MP Dianne Watts still does not have a constituency office open to the public to serve the residents of the Semiahmoo peninsula. No official opening date has been announced, which is an embarrassing disservice to our entire community. It is strange and disappointing that the mainstream media who should be questioning this unreasonable delay and the renovation costs have been totally silent on this continuing debacle.

 

 

June 14, 2016


There Goes The Neighbourhood

An important part of being a homeowner is conducting regular maintenance on your property, not only to keep up with the Jones's but to ensure that real estate values and kept up not only for your own dwelling but the entire neighbourhood as well. Like most of my neighbours I mow my lawn on a frequent basis and ensure that the landscaping is maintained to keep weeds at bay with shrubs pruned. Unfortunately it looks as if the unsightly "ghost ghettos" I have been seeing in places like Richmond and North Delta are now making their way into the Semi-pen.

The house down at the corner was bought and torn down a couple of years ago and a new beautiful modern house built in its place with quite attractive grounds. The builders listed the property for sale with ReMax when it was completed but due to a high asking price it never sold. These people then moved in for a year, likely to avoid paying the GST and it was relisted earlier this year with New Coast Realty getting the listing. If you are not aware of this company, they are the ones with the 778-888-7777 phone number, Chinese writing on their signs and the vast majority of their realtors catering to Asian clientele. This was the company at the centre of the "shadow-flipping" scandal that has helped to drive land prices here to unrealistic and unsustainable levels. You can see their website at http://newcoastrealty.tk/ or read about their involvement in this questionable practice from a Globe & Mail article last April at the following link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/vancouver-real-estate-firms-advertisements-feature-shadow-flipping-homes/article29704220/

The house in question sold quickly back in February with the New Coast Realty sign only staying up for a short time with the "SOLD" sticker never being displayed. Since that time the lawn has only been cut once and that was when it was already long in the spring. It has been left to turn into a meadow complete with wildflowers and the grass now at knee height. The landscape beds that were formerly kept clean on a regular basis are now a salad bar of weeds that are slowly covering the smaller shrubs. If the unsightly mess of a yard wasn't enough of a clue that it has been purchased by an Asian investor (the owner's name from Surrey City Hall was ethnic Chinese), the turned down blinds, lack of lights at night plus the stack of yellowed newspapers at the front door might be a clue that the house sits vacant most of the time. The oldest PAN at the doorstep was dated May 26 showing that someone was likely there three weeks ago. The RCMP officer who lives across the street told me he has never seen anyone there in the four months since it sold and I'm sure he would have noticed.

Friends who live in the Chantrelle neighbourhood recently complained that while sales have pushed house prices to over $3 million, many of the homes that have been sold now sit empty and dark. Properties that were once lush and manicured now have yellow seedy lawns that get cut only occasionally by commercial gardeners with weeds taking over the landscape and pools turning into ponds. They complained that they are losing their sense of community as houses are purchased as mere holding properties and families move out of the area to greener pastures. They said the best way to discover what properties were vacant was simply to watch for the tote bins out on the street on garbage day. Most people put out their green waste on a weekly basis this time of year due to smell and flies, plus with garbage and recycling on a two week basis, not many people would miss this otherwise it means you'll get once a month pick up. Who in their right mind would want garbage rotting in their black garbage can or have recycling overflowing in the big blue bin for four week? Even if you were away, you'd arrange for a neighbour or a friend to roll them out for you.

It is bad enough having houses sit empty while prices and rents soar, we shouldn't have to sit back and watch while negligent owners allow their properties to become a blight on the neighbourhood. The City of Surrey has bylaws on maintenance, beautification, livability and sustainability with standards for all property owners to follow. The accumulation of junk discarded materials and garbage, dead landscaping, uncontrolled growth of landscaping and deterioration of fences or buildings is considered unsightly under Surrey's bylaws. If your new neighbours are eroding the quality of your community but neglecting their investment, you can confidentially report their unsightly properties by making an online complaint to http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/667.aspx or by phoning 604-591-4370 to initiate an investigation. If the property is found to be neglected, a deadline for cleanup will be set by the bylaw officer after the owner has been notified, and if ignored the city will clean it up and add the costs to the owners property taxes.

If people can afford to purchase million dollar properties only to leave them vacant, then they can definitely afford to hire people to maintain their investment. Richmond is looking shabby and run down with all of the properties that have been left to basically go fallow. It was amazing to see last week how many of these unsightly properties did not have garbage totes in front of them on their last collection day. This problem is only going to grow here in the Semi-pen unless we nip it in the bud and these negligent owners are held accountable for ensuring their houses do not become a blight on the community. I will be reporting the nearby house with the field for a lawn on Monday and then see how long it takes before someone drives a Massey-Ferguson tractor with a hay-bailer onto the lawn to attempt to mow it. We should not have to live in a ghost ghetto of abandoned houses with jungles for yards just because rich foreign investors are too cheap and ignorant to look after their so-called homes.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

The Naked Truth - June 7, 2016

Unreal Estate

This TNT should be considered a continuation of my January 11, 2016 column titled "Rich Man, Poor Man" that detailed the 16.75% increase in property values in 2015 for my quarter acre lot in south Surrey and its 35 year old box of a house. As if the real estate market wasn't already increasing at ridiculous rates last year, the increase has been stratospheric since then with the economic fundamentals out of sync with reality and lack of wage growth. Well this week we received our 2016 property tax notice from the City of Surrey and it should come as no shock that there was a substantial increase in the amount that the blood suckers in the local tax department are looking to bleed from residents.

We own our own home and quality for the basic grant so I thought I would share the numbers from the past few years for our rather simple two level abode in Crescent Heights. Way back in 2013 before the market went insane, our property tax excluding services came in at a lowly $3,373. By 2014 it had gone up marginally to $3,405, an increase of only one percent. In 2015 it rose again, this time to $3,792 or a double digit increase of 11 percent. This year it followed last years gain, increasing a further 11 percent or $430. Not bad for the City of Surrey increasing taxes by 22% in only two years, making me wish my RRSP's could perform with those rates of returns on a year to year basis. While I have to admit that the mill rate that these taxes were based on was reduced, the dramatic and drastic increase in property value allows Surrey to rape residents for increased taxes that for us amount to $806 over the past years alone. To put it in relative terms, this increase would have paid for the new hot water tank I recently had installed in our basement.

If you scroll down to the "Rich Man, Poor Man" TNT in the archives you can read about the math behind our property value increase last year that equated to $720 tax free for every day that I went to work last year. It turns out I'm not the only person looking at these increases as they equate to the real world. Vancouver mathematician Jens Von Bergmann of MountainMath analyzed the Vancouver real estate market for last year and calculated that the average after-tax income in that city was $26 per hour for actual work, with homes earning a whopping $126 an hour. Now I don't hold an undergrad degree in physics and computer sciences and a PhD in mathematics like Mr. Von Bergmann but by even I can figure out that means owning a house in Van beats working by $100 an hour. Hell for those kinds of numbers I wouldn't mind working overtime and on weekends to boot! It turns out that while the entire population of Vancouver earned $17.9 billion working last year, property value increases blew that away, posting a whopping $24.6 billion in gains.

The numbers aren't going to get any better for this year with real estate prices in Tsawwassen and South Surrey reportedly believed to have increased by a further 45 percent. The house only three doors away next to the property that I previously owned is currently on the market for a juicy $1.9 million. I could have bought this place eight years ago for around $700,000. In Sunshine HIlls in North Delta the house my parents used to own on a half acre view lot just listed for $1.8 million and sold four days later with multiple cash offers from foreign bidders, finally selling at $2.2 million. This is in North Delta for a 40 year old home! When I told my folks about the selling price they questioned their move out to Chilliwack 17 years ago when they retired instead of holding on to this $2.2 million winning lottery ticket. I told them not to worry as it would not be long before their prices went through the roof as people cashing in near the coast brought suitcases of money eastward with them.

When buying reaches a frenzy like this, it is usually a sign that the end of the good times is near. Simply look back to the real estate crash here in the early 1980's to see eerie parallels to what is now happening. Should the interest rates increase or property values plummet, you will see people walking away from their mortgages with banks passing on the financial pain to their other customers. The same buying frenzy has happened in other investments including the dot com bubble that burst or the Bre-X scandal that both went down in flames. Remember the old adage that what goes up always comes down and with real estate, it is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Take away the speculators, the flippers, the Asian flow of cash and all of the homes currently sitting empty and this market would dry up faster than the fire hydrants during the big White Rock condo fire a couple of weeks ago. As the one who pens the Naked Truth, I guess I have to be the one who points out that the Emperor has no clothes and that the house of cards built on greed is getting ready for a big fall.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

May31, 2016


Hear We Go Again

Long before I started writing The Naked Truth for the White Rock Sun my community activist spirit was alive and well working on a variety of issues here in the Semi-pen. I first got involved with SmartRail to bring attention to the shoddy condition of the BNSF Railway tracks here and efforts to improve railway safety plus promote the concept of high-speed rail. I really got a name for myself by promoting the naturist recreational use of the rugged and isolated shoreline between Crescent Beach and White Rock that is known as Crescent Rock Beach, Surrey's version of Wreck Beach. More than anything, it was Nav Canada's decision to unilaterally change flight approach paths to YVR, flying commercial jet airliners over south Surrey and White Rock that really got my hackles up.

It was just over nine years ago on May 10, 2007 to be exact that Nav Canada, whose offices are in Newton behind Costco, decided to change YVR's flight paths to increase capacity and improve air traffic control capability. Unfortunately this monopolistic business that was created by the Canadian government to control our skies did not tell anyone in Surrey of their plans, even those in Surrey City Hall that was located only a few miles away. It did not take residents long to figure out that something drastic had changed when 747's began dropping flaps over residential neighborhoods at all times of the night and day. Needless to say the public uproar from formerly quiet neighborhoods was swift and unrelenting. This lead to the formation of the south Surrey Citizens Against Aircraft Noise (SCAANS) here in the peninsula, Calm and Peaceful Skies (CAPS) in north Surrey and Against Aircraft Noise in Delta (AANOID) in south Delta with these three regions all being impacted by this draconian change that was done without public input.

Surrey's Mayor Dianne Watts who is now the MP for this region responded to the litany of complaints by forming the Nav Canada Working Group that I was invited to join. Over time it was renamed the Surrey Airspace Task Force (SATF) and went on to create the SATF Request For Action document prepared for meeting with Members of Parliament in April of 2009. This 25 page document is available online on the Surrey website should you wish to peruse the devil in the details at https://www.surrey.ca/files/SATF50MPsdocumentfor7April2009ab.pdf
Surrey also commissioned a study, hiring a company called Direct Approach Consulting Inc. who created a corporate report about this debacle and changes that were being called for to bring some peace and quiet back to the skies over communities south of the Fraser. It is also on the Surrey website at http://surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/R070-49ED.pdf
Take a minute, do your homework and get up to date by reading about this historical feud that is once again rearing its ugly head.

Without going into the myriad of details found in these two documents, the end result was that our MP Russ Hiebert got involved and eventually Nav Canada altered their GRIZZSTAR flight path to mitigate aircraft noise pollution as much as possible to the affected communities. On those airplanes coming from the south inbound for YVR that controllers allow to fly a visual route, they were to be instructed to fly "in the middle of Boundary Bay." Noise monitoring terminals were installed with the nearest one in Ocean Park while YVR initiated WebTrak (http://webtrak5.bksv.com/yvr5) that allows for real time minus 10 minutes web tracking of flights as they happen and on a historical basis. Almost all of the inbound jetliners disappeared from our airspace with them flying as promised in the centre of Boundary Bay away from public beaches and residential areas. Unfortunately time has a way of fading memories and it appears that the new crop of air traffic controllers at Nav Canada have forgotten to keep planes away from here. Overflights are becoming commonplace for planes flying on visual with Ocean Park and Crescent Beach being the most seriously impacted. Because of this, I thought it was time to let Mrs. Watts know what has been happening here while she is working in Ottawa so I sent her the following correspondence last week.

Dear Dianne Watts,

Since you were the Mayor of Surrey when Nav Canada changed the flight paths for YVR in May of 2007, you are likely well aware of the concerns of residents in south Surrey about the increase in noise from commercial aircraft suddenly flying through our airspace.

Should you want to refresh your memory of the details of this historical affair, here is a link to the Surrey Airspace Task Force Request for Action document prepared for meeting with Members of Parliament in April of 2009: https://www.surrey.ca/files/SATF50MPsdocumentfor7April2009ab.pdf . You may also want to peruse the following City of Surrey Corporate Report R070 from April 28, 2008, titled "Nav Canada Airspace Procedure Changes and Direct Approach Consulting Inc. Report and Recommendations" available at: http://surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/R070-49ED.pdf . Besides the changes finally made to the flight paths, YVR instituted WebTrak linked to noise monitoring stations in the region, allowing real time observations of flights both incoming and departing from YVR and the noise levels associated with them. For flights not following the GRIZZSTAR flight path, incoming jets from the south were supposed to be directed to fly up the "middle of Boundary Bay" away from Crescent Beach and Ocean Park on their way to YVR.

Sadly, there has been a marked increase in the flights now flying over the western side of the Semiahmoo peninsula. From my home in Crescent Heights and at Crescent Rock Beach, I have seen an appreciable increase in jet traffic over Ocean Park and Crescent Beach. On Tuesday, May 17 from 7:23 pm to 7:35 pm a total of four jets flew over this region with Nav Canada controllers obviously allowing this to occur. The sound levels at the Ocean Park monitoring station registered 62-63 decibels, but realize that these four planes flew past in only 12 minutes while I was on our patio eating dinner. I also watched at commercial airliner fly over Crescent Beach at 6:26 a.m. that same morning while outside getting ready to leave for work. You can see these planes for yourself online at: http://webtrak5.bksv.com/yvr5

Crescent Beach is the main marine recreational site for half a million people from Surrey, plus many residents here purchased our properties here at high cost to be away from aviation noise pollution. It is bad enough that people at the beach have to deal with the noise from passing BNSF freight trains but the aircraft are only adding to the growing din. As the new MP for this region I would ask that you follow in Russ Hiebert's footsteps and take the needed action to remind Nav Canada of their obligation to direct panes away from the Semiahmoo peninsula when not needed for safety reasons. I'd suggest asking for flight path maps from Nav Canada to see exactly how widespread this problem has now become.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn, Columnist, White Rock Sun

 

P.S.

If I want to go see an airshow, I head out to Abbotsford in August or hang out at the end of the runway on Lulu Island in Richmond to see planes landing. I would not live in Sunshine Hills, Panorama Ridge, Newton or Guildford simply because of the high volume of low level commercial air traffic these regions now receive and the noise associated with them. For those who were involved in this initial fight and the people who are now noticing Air Bus A320's and Boeing 767's dropping their flaps over south Surrey as they slow for eventual landing in Vancouver, now is the time to write your MP and demand that something be done again. The same email that Dianne Watts received was also forwarded to our MLA Gordon Hogg plus Surrey's new Mayor Linda Hepner and her Surrey First councilors so they are all aware that this problem has again reared its ugly head. Now is the time for them to show leadership and clip Nav Canada's wings and ground the planes flying outside of the agreed corridor far from populated regions of the Semiahmoo peninsula.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

May 24, 2016

Pride in Surrey, No Pride in Surrey

My wife Sheryl and I are now recovering from the marathon that was the 70th annual Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair. Going there as a spectator or just to enjoy the Rodeo/Fair experience is one thing but working it for four days and three nights is completely another. We were there hawking our Surrey Shirts apparel the entire Victoria Day long weekend as one of the many vendors lining the midway. Saturday and Sunday are 13 hour work days not including travel, prepping for the show, taking down the display plus securing it for the night. This leaves little time for sleep or eating, ensuring that most of the food you get to consume for the entire long weekend is found on the fairgrounds. While Lemon Heaven and Those Little Donuts may be okay for an outing, I would not recommend trying to subsist on them for four days. That being said, working the Cloverdale Fair selling Surrey apparel is a rewarding experience with all of the amazing people you meet from all walks of life. More than anything, we love the diversity and interaction with our fellow Surreyians.

From the onset, Surrey Shirts was always going to be controversial as it deals with subjects, slogans and logos relevant to the city of Surrey. It started out innocently enough with my desire to wear a shirt with the word "Surrey" emblazoned on it so that I could represent my chosen home town. Finding that none were available, I had an embroidered jersey produced that I thought looked rather styling if I must say so. Other people obviously felt the same way as every time I wore my new favourite shirt into the big city of Surrey BC, I was constantly asked where I got it and started taking orders to produce them. Soon enough I began creating new designs for t-shirts and Surrey Shirts was born. With a website created we started selling our clothing online, soon attracting the wrath of the City of Surrey because of some of the messages on some of the more edgy designs. After an initial "Cease and Desist" letter from their legal department several years back that resulted in our website going viral, we thought that we had smoothed the feathers we'd ruffled at City Hall. In the end Surrey Shirts is a pro-Surrey apparel company and if I wasn't proud of the city I call home, I would not live here and certainly wouldn't promote it by wearing shirts boldly printed with the word "SURREY."

2016 marks the third year in a row that we have sold our merchandise at the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair. We were actually surprised to be allowed entry as we had been initially denied access to the lowly Cloverdale Flea Market due to the media interest in our wares and legal skirmish with Surrey. In the first year at the Rodeo we had to remove several of our shirts from the display in our tent under threat of expulsion due to pressure directed from City Hall. While not thrilled with the situation that we viewed as misguided censorship, we found a way to play within the rules and still get invited back to the party. Last year went well with none of our designs including the controversial anti-gun and anti-gang violence shirts being pulled from the public's eye. We did not imagine having any difficulties this year but on the second day of the Fair were told that an undercover Surrey by-law inspector had been through our tent. They reported their findings back to someone from City Hall where it was decided that one of our designs should not be displayed on Surrey property. While we had been showered with plenty of Surrey pride from residents to that point, it was the "Surrey Pride" shirt that they took offense too. Those with images of handguns and bullet holes were okay; the one featuring a small rainbow was not.

This t-shirt was developed when we were invited to the Surrey Pride festivities several years ago at Holland Park in Whalley. It should be noted that this is City of Surrey property with the event being supported by City Hall. Our Surrey Pride t-shirt features an image somewhat similar to the current "Surrey - the future lives here" logo but instead has two different monoliths, a small band of rainbow colours below and the altered slogan "the future lives queer." It is protected not only by the Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms regarding political expression plus Canada's Trademark and Copyright laws that allow for parody and satire. Besides being created for this event in support of the LGBTQ community, it was also printed to help put pressure on Surrey's Mayor and Council to get with the times and finally fly the rainbow flag in front of City Hall during Pride week. While we did not attend the Pride festival last year due to scheduling conflicts, this t-shirt sold well several years ago and didn't incur the wrath of any censoring bureaucrats or by-law officers at Holland Park. I wrote a TNT column about this back on July 7 of 2014 titled "Pride in Surrey Alive and Well" should you care to scroll into the archives below and read it. The "Surrey Pride" t-shirt is part of our design collection and has been for sale online since it was created.

It is annoying in this day and age that Surrey's Mayor & Council don't take a public stand on supporting actual diversity, acceptance and tolerance in our city. If only the LGBTQ community found themselves being cared for and catered to like our Indo-Canadian community as recently seen in the colourful Vasaki parade and celebrations in Newton. Once again the symbol of those with a different sexual orientation and the flag of freedom that they wave proudly has been pulled from view and forced back in the closet. Imagine the uproar if Surrey tried to hide and suppress the saffron triangle 'nishan sahib' flag of the Sikh's. Considering the historically bad treatment of gay people in Surrey, the violence and persecution they endured here for decades and even cases of residents from Surrey attacking folks on the streets in downtown Vancouver over their perceived relationships, I find this simply appalling. This continued lack of leadership on this issue is a black mark on the Surrey First Team and calls into question the wisdom of voting for political slates for civic representatives. How often do I have to say that Surrey is a becoming a big city and it's about time they started to act like one?

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was being sworn in last year after his election victory, he was asked why having a federal cabinet with an equal number of men and women was important to him. He attracted international attention and praise with his simple and to the point answer about gender equality, "Because its 2015." While Surrey First does not need to wrap itself in a Pride flag, they should appreciate all the colours of the rainbow and direct staff at City Hall to not censor or bully those who wish to sport these colours on Surrey public property or during city run events. If they want to know why, I'll update Trudeau's now famous little quote and tell them, "Because it's 2016." I promise that Surrey Shirts "Surrey Pride" t-shirt will be for sale in Holland Park on June 26th at this year's Pride Festival and we will not take it down or cover it up regardless of any political threats, intimidation, threats of expulsion of promises of future exclusion from civic run community events. Lets hope that the bullshit stops here and City Hall finally gets with the times.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

www.surreyshirts.com

 

 

May 16, 2016

5 Corners Alarm Fire

 

No matter what we get out of this,
I know I know we'll never forget.
Smoke on the water and fire in the sky.
Smoke on the water...


Lyrics from "Smoke on th
e Water" - DEEP PURPLE

 

Well, that was a real barn burner wasn't it. Make sure you circle May 15, 2016 on your calendar as that was the biggest fire in White Rock history folks. I heard the boys from Hall 12 in Crescent Park roll out very early yesterday morning and as I drove north on the KGB, a Surrey Fire Service superintendent SUV roared by me at the Art Knapps with lights-a-flashing. Watching him in the rear view mirror, I noticed the huge column of black smoke in the distance rising from the Semi-pen. I figured it was a large structure fire (or a commercial plane crash) somewhere in south Surrey and immediately reported it to News 1130 where it was the first they had heard about it. Shortly afterwards, I phoned White Rock Sun editor Dave Chesney to report about a big fire somewhere in south Surrey or White Rock. When he looked out his one window, he saw the billowing clouds of smoke and realized that something was seriously amiss near the 5 Corners. Between editing the White Rock Sun, responding to reporter inquiries and dealing with residents angry over a lack of water (people were being burned out of their homes and residents called to complain regarding a wide variety of topics.

The fire originally started at a wood framed condo under construction in the 15200 block of Royal Avenue next to the Star of the Sea Parish. With no drywall to retard its spread, the wooden structure was quickly engulfed by fire with flames licking at the concrete block fire wall on the West side of the Star of the Sea. It is only by the grace of God and the quick actions of firefighters dousing this adjacent building that it was also not consumed by the flames but reportedly suffering some smoke and water damage. Unfortunately the condos next door at five corners were not so lucky with prevailing winds and dry conditions allowing the blaze to ignite the structure and spread into the roof where it was hard for firefighters to access. RCMP officers arrived on the scene and quickly pounded on doors to alert residents to the danger, with many running from the building with only the clothes on their backs. At the end of the day I visited the scene and was amazed to see the fire still burning twelve hours later and what looked to be the entire roof of the building gone. If you lived on the third floor, your condo was burned out and if you lived below, the smoke and water damage would have been extensive. All 110 people reportedly escaped the fire with many being taken by transit bus to the Centennial arena.

Besides all of the people who will now be looking for new accommodations, there were over a dozen businesses on the ground floor that will now be closed while it is decided if the building is to be repaired or the entire structure demolished. Coffee With Attitude, aka Laura's coffee shop, got its beans a little too roasted and will not be open for a while. This is a great loss to the community because it was a great community meeting place and Laura was so loved and respected by many of her loyal customers from both White Rock and Surrey. Only a few doors down, Taka's Sushi had its fish fried and the last time I saw it today, three aerial water cannons were dousing the apartment directly above its awning. My favorite there was always the flame seared "Super White", which now seems like a punchline to a bad joke. Also burned out was the ReLeaf Compassion Centre run by Randy Caine formerly of Hemyz and his daughter Tara. When I called him earlier in the day to see if their business was involved in the blaze, he told me he'd been there and basically watched the office go "Up in Smoke." Nothing like a little black humour to get you through the dark times.

This conflagration brings into focus many issues with White Rock's ability to handle large fires. While the City By The Sea pays a lot of money for their own fire department, it had to call in Surrey to help manage the blaze, making some question why two fire departments are needed in the first place. The densification of buildings in White Rock is also now on the front burner with residents of the burned out condo claiming there was not enough room between the building under construction and their building, especially since wood frame construction was being used. One of the topics of conversation at the fire scene was if the demolition of the large Merklin reservoir that is being rebuilt affected the supply of water needed to fight the fire plus the water pressure available. A White Rock resident reported to me that he saw water hoses being placed across 16th Ave. to fire hydrants in Surrey in order to increase available water from this Metro-Vancouver system. During the fire, portions of White Rock were without water leaving them vulnerable in case of a fire there. I've had unconfirmed reports that the Bosa towers were without water for five hours on Sunday and this is White Rocks tallest building. There is no point in allowing all of the planned tower construction if there is no way to put them out should they catch fire. Of course, there is also the issue of the boil water advisory which is now in place due to the pressure variances throughout the White Rock well water system and brackish stale water sitting in fire hydrants from Surrey.

As far as the cause of this fire, word on the street is that it will likely be investigated as an arson. Interestingly, there were two other criminal incidents that happened on early Sunday morning. The nearby Sandpiper liquor store had its front window smashed by two young men and some bottles stolen of liquor stolen soon after the fire at Five Corners was reported around 5 a.m. Shortly after 11 a.m. that same morning a small fire was reported in the alley off of a home located in the 15900 block of Pacific Ave. near Stayte Road. Not being a big fan of coincidence, it is possible that all of these incidents may be related. For residents of White Rock and especially along Pacific Ave. make sure you report any vandalism, theft, or minor arson to the police. Check any video surveillance tape you may have for early Sunday morning after 4 a.m. to see if there is anything of interest. If you find empty of smashed liquor bottles on your property, do not pick them up or clean the debris, instead contact the White Rock RCMP to see if they might shed evidence on what has the hallmarks of a mini booze fueled crime spree. While bad things come in threes, my hunch is that the same perps were likely responsible for all of this carnage. Keep an eye on the WR Sun for photos of those involved in the smash and grab at the booze store to see if we can put some names to their faces.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

May 09, 2016

Bin There, Done That

 

Sometimes you can find a story right around the corner from where you live, which is where I first noticed a poster that someone had stapled to the utility pole just down the street. The bold headline reading "Local For Profit - Scam Advisory" caught my eye along with the following text: "Do NOT be fooled into thinking you are giving your clothing to charity by putting them in the bins at the "Coke" store. Keith receives several hundreds of dollars a month per bin from this 100% for profit venture that takes your clothes and sorts it and sends them to be resold (the good stuff goes in container to Eastern European associates)." In smaller type at the bottom it went on, "I do not advocate any organization, but I have checked out that the Legion (an actual non-profit organization that support our vets) does benefit significantly from the bins on their site and that outfit actually does "give back" and is reimbursed under contract with the Salvation Army. The poster was signed "Douglas Sinclair, Ocean Park Resident" but with no contact information.

The store in question is the Crescent Park Market at the corner of 128 St. and 25 Ave. It has a blue bin for recycling your used books with DiscoverBooks.com. Next to that are two large green bins for clothes and shoes operated by GreenInspirationBC.ca which lists the Boys an Girls Clubs of South Coast BC and ChariTree Foundation.org that is called "The children's environmental education charity." The proprietor of the store Keith has a sandwich board next to these bins that says "WARNING! This is not a dumping corner, but part of your neighborhood & our community. Please be co-operative, never dump away your stuff. Thanks." Interestingly, at the top of the sign someone has vandalized it, scrawling "4 Profit SCAM" similar to the headline on the poster I found. The corner store owner Keith admitted to getting a small amount of money for the bins but thought the poster was sour grapes. A quick trip to the 240 Crescent Beach Legion showed there were three of the blue bins for books from the same DiscoverBooks.com as at the Market. There were also two yellow bins for clothing bedding and shoes run by OperationGiveBack.org. Even with a sign saying "NO DUMPING, Camera Surveillance, Violators Prosecuted", the side of the bins looked like a garbage dump with boxes of household goods that looked like they'd been rummaged through.

Discover Books is the new name for Thrift Recycling Management that has become the largest used book seller in North America. Originally interested in recycling the paper from used books, in 2004 they began sorting and selling valued books online through Amazon.com. While they operate as a for profit business, they make donations to charities, libraries, environmental groups and thrift stores. The remainder of the books that cannot be resold are shredded and turned into pulp for sale to companies like Weyerhaeuser, ensuring that 97-98% of the books they receive stay out of the landfills. With GreenInspirations.ca, they are a for profit enterprise that makes donations to two local charities with no word on what percentage of their profits. This company does send approximately two shipping containers a week to Europe with the rest packaged for shipment to India, Asia and Africa depending on the suitability of the warmth of the garments. The rest of the donated clothing that cannot be reused is recycled and the fibre sent to textile plants for repurposing. For Keith's Crescent Park Market, not even a whiff of a scam though the companies behind the bins do not donate all of their money to charity.

Where this story gets weird is the rather bizzare OperationGiveBack.org bins at the local Legion with their faded writing and paintings of a murder of crows sitting on a tangle of electrical lines. Based out of Orlando, Florida, Operation Giveback for Wounded Warriors Inc. was a non profit organization created by veterans of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Their motto was "raising awareness and resources for our wounded warriors, their families, and the children of our fallen heroes." The key word here is "was" because as of March 31, 2016, OGB put out the following press release:
All Operation Giveback (OGB) events are CANCELLED until further notice. Operation Giveback for Wounded Warriors, Inc. (OGB) will be going into a dormant state effective immediately. All events and activities are hereby canceled until further notice. Currently OGB is undergoing a restructuring administratively, therefore, placing the organization in a “dormant” state. This basically means that the organization will cease operations, however will continue to retain its corporate identity. The hope is that by taking the necessary time to deal with the serious operational challenges and financial shortfalls we can return to full operational status in the future.
Strange indeed that the company whose name is on the clothing bins at the Legion is now insolvent. Funnier still is how the Ocean Park resident who is mad enough to be putting up posters around town about the donation bins at the Crescent Park Market never found out about this. Looks like the village of Ocean Park might have found its idiot.

At the end of the day, all of these donations bin companies provide a service to the community by keeping materials out of the landfill. If you can find one that gives a sizeable portion of profits to actual charities, then good on you. If you are like me and don't want to throw usable goods into the garbage, then these bins are a godsend. If someone else can read or resell one of my old books, wear a shirt that is still in good condition, or get people clothed in Africa for pennies, then I'm all for it. Heck, you wouldn't believe the amount of choice relics that we have gotten rid of at the end of our driveway simply by putting them out with a "free to good home" sign. Keep in mind that even charities like Big Brothers and Canadian Diabetes Association, which will pick up your used clothing and household goods sell their donations to for-profit companies like Value Village for resale. If you want to donate your used goods and ensure that all of the money goes to charity, then The Salvation Army is your best bet as sales of your unwanted goods help to fund their operations. You can arrange for donation pick up by calling 604-513-8828 ext 112 or drop it off at their bins at the back of the store located a 1327 Johnston Rd in White Rock.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 02, 2016

Sex in the Semi-Pen

Sex in the Semi-Pen

South Surrey and White Rock are usually seen as quiet and conservative communities where not much exciting ever happens and puritanical views are the norm. This TNT looks to lift the veil on this misconception and expose the sexual experimentation taking place that might even involve your friends and neighbours. Boring old White Rock you say..., not if you know where to look for an erotic good time.

This all started from a chance encounter with a woman at one of my suppliers, who was at the Pacific Inn Resort and Conference Centre several weekends ago. She was there with her husband for a friend's 60th birthday party on Saturday, April 16th, with their guests staying on the third floor. It turns out that they weren't the only game in town with people from Sinergy Lifestyles Club taking the rooms on the first floor and holding a "Masquerade Play Party at the Palace." On their FaceBook page they describe themselves as "Sinergy Lifestyle Clubs is the new wave of Lifestyle. Fun, sexy events with an amazing vibe for adults who want let loose and have an unforgettable night." With DJ's pumping out EDM beats in the bar, the masquerade party switched at midnight to lingerie and boxers including a free standing stripper pole brought in for the event. Later in the evening the first floor became a sexual free-for-all with naked people walking the halls, group sex with doors open for all to see and a main play room for consenting adults. It could be that the name "The Pink Palace" has nothing to do with the colour of the exterior walls.

Deciding to research this titillating topic a little further (I love this job), I went onto the Craigslist personal ads, searching South Surrey and White Rock. It may come as a surprise but there is an active adult lifestyles MFM club in south Surrey that is run by a woman. They welcome couples and ladies 19+ and select single men 19 - 55 to no pressure events with youthful looking/acting men over the age of 55 considered. While they don't post the address they list themselves as "professionally run safe events at an upscale venue with private & open spaces." They are currently advertising a "Saturday Night Mardi Gras Sex Party" on May 7th, an "EMD Meet & Greet Dance Party with After Party - 8 pm - 3 am" and on May 28th (can I actually print this in the WR Sun?) EDiTORS NOTE - NO!!

!Looks like the lady in charge of the festivities knows how to get what she wants as they also hold "Cubs and Cougars" nights too. In case you missed it, last weekend was the "Lingerie Party from 8 pm - 1 am." My Saturday night was a little tamer with a movie on Netflicks, buttered popcorn and a few drinks with my wife Sheryl in a fuzzy housecoat. Hey, it works for us.

This is not the only lifestyles group active in the peninsula as their is another swingers club catering to members over 40 years-old that is currently accepting new applicants. Here is the main info from their ad in the "Casual Encounters" section:
"We're a private members only, invitation only group geared for those who appreciate a quiet environment while getting to know other members. The music is relaxing, and the gatherings are small scale. The group is 100% non smoking, no drugs, and most events are alcohol free. (not promoted or encouraged). Healthy clean living white collar professional types. Blue collar welcome, but know that it caters to the non-partier crowd. We host fun vanilla type social events, games nights, as well as intimate gatherings. There is a small monthly membership fee to support the club, as it is member run. The social events are all over the lower mainland, but the intimate ones are at a private residence near the border. If you're interested in applying, please reply with a bit about yourself."
What is rather interesting is that just like the first club, this group is "female led with male as security."

Growing up in the 1970's in Sunshine Hills, North Delta we often heard rumors about so called "key parties" where couples would meet and the men put their car keys into a bowl. At the end of the party the women would blindly select a set of keys to determine who she went home with for a night of sex. A good buddy of mine grew up next to a married couple who were both doctors and he has stories of the out-of-control naked pool parties involving parents of his friends that he often watched from his bedroom window. I guess it should come as no surprise that these type of clubs and those following a swinger's lifestyle are alive and well in the Semi-pen. The internet has meant that connecting with folks looking for sexy fun and erotic times is only ever a click away. At the end of the day the motto "different strokes for different folks" needs to considered along with my old favourite that I heard from a drag queen in Vancouver years ago, "Its only kinky the first time honey." Now that really is the naked truth.


Don Pitcairn

 

April 25, 2016


The Poisoned Semi-Pen

It took a year but White Rock residents can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the folks in charge at City Hall have finally managed to produce a planting plan for the defacto clear-cut that now exists on the Hump hillside between East and West Beach. The Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) was presented preliminary plans for replacing all of the vegetation and trees that were chainsawed, chipped and mowed. Scroll deep into the TNT archives including May 11, 2015 for the full story in multiple columns that goes back six years to when there was a fully established transitional forest on the Hump before it started to be attacked for the sake of views for people living on Marine Drive. Hard to imagine this desecration was sold as needed to improve slope stability and lines of sight for the railway, along with the entire hillside somehow having to be razed simply to fix some retaining walls at the top of the slope. Unfortunately the Hump saga does not improve with this latest effort to somehow undo all of the damage that has been done on BNSF property that was paid for with tax-payer money.

While the BNSF Railway had to bring in a train to take away the stacks of tree trunks left at the base of the Hump after the logging was done, the replanting plan does not contain any trees. None, nada, nil, nix, zip, zero, zilch, not a single freakin tree either big or small. (editor's note - THE SECOND CUTTING TREES ARE STILL LAYNG BESIDE THE TRAIN TRACKS AT THE B ASE OF THE HUMP.)This came from Diamonhead Consulting who appear to have taken over tree planning ever since White Rock arborist Alicia Otto resigned from working for the City By The Sea. No big trees to soak up water from the historically slide prone slope, no thick roots to help hold the soil in place, no deep tap roots acting as pilings to stop slope mass wasting, no leafy branches to shade under story plants and no canopy for food and shelter of wildlife either. The only trees on the Hump will be the one Grand fir known as the "Eagle" tree, a few lone alders and the trees left near east beach by some active slide sites that were not cut down when the slope movement was noticed. For those walking the sidewalk along Marine Drive, you can forget about having shade from the blazing summer sun as was the case before all of the tree cutting started.

Amazingly it has been decided that efforts will be made this year to remove the blackberries from the hill, even though hoses and sprinklers were installed last year to water them during the summer heat wave. While the city is working with Diamonhead to find a non-herbicide way of getting rid of them, it is likely that they will have to be hand dug from the hillside. What is funny about this is the BNSF Railway regularly sprays Roundup along the tracks through White Rock and south Surrey to kill blackberries. Considering the size of the Hump and the amount of blackberries growing on it, hand removal will be an expensive proposition with all of the digging and trampling weakening the soil. I've had plenty of experience dealing with killing blackberries and I can tell you that unless every chunk of root is gathered and every green piece of cane collected they return with a vengeance. It takes years of diligent control to ensure complete eradication and even then they are often reseeded by birds that have eaten berries from nearby groves. My guess is that by removing all of the trees, White Rock expects the birds pooping out all of the blackberry seeds will give up on the Hump for greener pastures elsewhere.

The list of the five plants that are to hold the steep hillside of the Hump in place consist of bracken fern, nootka rose, oceanspray, salal (not "salad" as was reported in the PAN), snowberry, and thimbleberry. Here's a quick breakdown of each of these individual plants and their characteristics, including several that are toxic:
Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) - One of the world's oldest ferns that is over 50 million years old, it has large triangular fronds up to 2.5 m. tall from a wide creeping underground root system. It is poisonous to animals such as rodents, dogs, horses and cattle when eaten, with its spores containing ptaquiloside (PTA) leaching into the water supply and linked to the incidence of gastric and esophageal cancers in humans.
Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana) - Grows up to 3 metres in height, often in thickets with 2-3 inch pink fragrant flowers appearing in summer. It needs sun but will tolerate shade, often growing along forest edges.
Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor) - A fast-rowing deciduous shrub up to 5 m tall, it is found in wet coastal forests in areas dominated by Douglas fir, to drier cooler mountain areas further inland. Known for its strength of wood, First Nations people used it for digging sticks, spears, arrows, bows plus medicines.
Salal, (Gaultheria shallon) - a leathery leaved shrub 0.2 to 2 m tall, sprawling to erect. Evergreen, its thick, tough, egg-shaped leaves are shiny and dark green. Tolerant of both sunny and shady conditions it is a common coniferous forest understory species that is often used for greenery in the floral industry.
Snowberry (symphocaricarpos albus) - growing 1-2 m. tall, this small evergreen shrub is known for its white berries in winter that give it its name. While an important food source for upland game, it is considered poisonous to humans with ingesting the berries causing vomiting, dizziness, and sedation in children.
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) - A dense deciduous shrub up to 2.5 meters, it typically grows along roadsides, railroad tracks and in forest clearings, commonly appearing in clear cuts. It produces a bright red composite fruit in late summer that when picked leaves a hollow core resembling a thimble.

Renown White Rock horticulturalist and former member of the EAC Barry Belec listened to the presentation about the Hump hillside planting plan and spoke to the committee about its merits calling the suggestions "inappropriate" due to lack of root mass and depth. I talked to Mr. Belec about the list and he questioned how plants known for growing on the margins of forests where they benefit from some shade would do in the high-heat and full sun environment of the Hump. When I asked what his suggestions would have been for the Hump, he responded with a list of trees and plants found in a typical seaside forest that promote slope stability. The trees included Douglas fir, Western red cedar, alder, big leaf maple, vine maple, mountain ash and dogwood, with under-story plants of mock orange and red current. In other words, plants that are found naturally here and most that were pre-existing on the Hump before it was cut down by White Rock. He believes that the removal of the blackberries and the plants suggested by Diamonhead are an "exercise in futility" and that the small plant list was developed to placate the arrogance and folly of Mayor Baldwin and members of the White Rock Council who supported the forest removal.

I would suggest that the known toxicity of both bracken fern and snowberry make them unsuitable for planting in the highly public area between Marine Drive and the promenade. It is now estimated that the re-planting of the Hump hillside will take 3 to 5 years to complete. By this time the roots of the softwood trees that held the slope in place for years will be rotting away and if we have a high precipitation event, it will be interesting to see what happens to the hill when there are only little shrubs to retain the soil. If a landslide comes from the Hump and covers the tracks or impacts a train, will the city of White Rock be liable for BNSF costs since the city were the ones who cut down the trees in the first place? Would the replanting list that includes replacing fir trees with poison ferns be considered negligent in a court of law, especially in America where the BNSF Railway is based? Hopefully we won't find out but I would certainly sleep better if Transport Canada were to suggest to the BNSF that they install a section of landslide detector fence at the base of the Hump hillside to protect passing trains from mudslides. While they're at it, maybe they could also put up an electric fence to keep away those vegans wanting to enjoy a fiddlehead and snowberry salad for lunch down at the beach.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

April 18, 2016

Stop At The Bar When Driving

 

This TNT is dedicated to the memory of Douglas (Carlos) Unicume who died after being run over by a vehicle involved in a crash on a quiet corner of White Rock in 1989.

I have spent a lot of time up ladders and climbing tall trees using chainsaws and power pruners that can chop off a digit or even a limb in the blink of an eye if you are not careful. I still have all of my fingers and toes fortunately but it is not the wide variety of razor sharp commercial power equipment that scares me. Driving in the Lower Mainland or even walking near an asphalt roadway is by far the most dangerous thing that I do. Over the years I've had a few accidents (mostly minor and mainly not my fault) and had plenty of near misses including the latest one where I was run off Crescent Road avoiding a head-on crash with a speeding car. It is not too surprising that all of the carnage I have witnessed has made me extremely safety cautious especially when it comes to driving, roadways, engineering and signage. Dont let this TNT title fool you, its a different kind of bar that just might save your life.

My latest driving episode with Murphy in the passenger seat occurred last Friday morning when I was going through White Rock. I was heading east going uphill on Roper Ave. looking to turn left onto Foster Street. At that time the sun was low in the sky and with the hill was in my eyes effectively blinding me with the visor doing little to block the sun. The reflective vinyl coating on the stop sign only works when light is shining on it and with it being shaded I missed it in the glare. Fortunately I realized at the last second there was a stop sign and jumped on the brakes in time. Making it to my destination only a hundred metres up Foster, I looked back at the quiet intersection wondering why I had come so close to running the stop sign. I didn't have long to wait as while I was looking a car traveling the same direction up Roper drove at full speed into the intersection. An SUV heading south on Foster applied maximum brakes, screeching to a halt and barely missing the car that has blown through the stop sign. The driver who had the right-of-way was obviously shaken by the very close call and they simply sat in the middle of the road calming their nerves for almost a minute before slowly driving off.

A look at the corner quickly showed a serious deficiency that is likely contributing to crashes on these hilly intersections. Undoubtedly the sun being low in the sky and in line with the east-west hilly roads during Spring and Fall plays a significant role in causing drivers to miss stop signs. Besides the red and white octagon, the other visual clue to drivers to halt is the thick white line painted before the crosswalk known as a stop bar. In White Rock the crosswalk lines are painted 8" wide as is standard and what is used in surrounding Surrey. The big issue is that most of the stop bars in the City By The Sea are also the same thin 8" width. The line painting crews in Surrey paint a double or even triple line, creating easy to see stop bars that are 16" or 24" wide. The skinny stop bar lines in White Rock are even more dangerous when at the crest of a hill where they are basically invisible and useless. Showing the difference between the two neighbouring cities, Surrey not only uses 24 inch stop bars at the crest of hills but now utilizes new retro-reflective clear coating with high-index microscopic glass beads that sparkle like a thousand tiny cats-eyes. While it is ten times more expensive to apply than the regular line paint, Surrey uses this new super-reflective product even on quiet residential roads within subdivisions if hills are involved.

Back in 1989 a buddy from work named Doug "Carlos" Unicume was talked into not driving down to spend his winters in Nicaragua as he had been doing for some years. His girlfriend at the time said that it was dangerous and wanted him to stay in safe old White Rock. He was sitting on his mountain bike at the corner of Roper and Martin when someone ran a stop sign, crashed into another vehicle and then went off the road crushing him to death instantly. If memory serves me correct he was 27 or 28 years-old when this happened. I went to his funeral at the time and many years later happened to locate a memorial dogwood tree dedicated to him planted in Crescent Park near the pond. I don't know the specifics of this long-ago accident that resulted in his death but the high number of stop sign running crashes in White Rock makes me wonder if the thin stop bars were partly to blame. I do know this crash happened around ten in the morning, which was about the same time I was being blinded by the sun last Friday driving up the very same street. When I phoned my old manager to get some specifics on Doug's fatal accident, he informed me that his Mother lives at the corner of Roper and Foster and that she estimates there is an accident there every three weeks on average.

White Rock - corner of Roper & Foster

I know that roadway line painting season is just about upon us and that White Rock will be having contractors perform this service this year. I would suggest that the Engineering Dept. upgrade all of the 8" stop bars to the 16" wide ones used everywhere else. Surrey just painted the intersection two doors up the street from our place and it uses the 8" crosswalk and 16" stop bar lines as shown in the picture used for this TNT. For busy roadways and hills, the 24" wide stop bars would greatly improve safety and for hill crest stop bars the ultra-reflective glass bead clear coat should be used for greater visibility regardless of the extra cost. A study should be done looking at how to improve traffic flow through White Rock, possibly making more straight through streets where safe to do so or installing four-way stop signs at crash prone intersections. Yellow stop sign ahead warning signs should be posted before intersections where drivers have ran stop signs and caused accidents in the past. ICBC and the local RCMP should be able to provide statistics to the Engineering Department about where these crashes are happening, how often on average they occur and the causes behind them. The hills in White Rock are always going to be dangerous but that doesn't mean that nothing should be done to try and make the roads safer for everyone.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

April 11, 2016

Watts The Holdup?

Definition of "holdup" from dictionary.com
noun [hohld-uhp]
1. a stop or delay in the progress of something.
2. a forcible stopping and robbing of a person.
3. an instance of being charged excessively.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on Oct. 19, 2015? I have to admit I had to Google up the date so don't think you are suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer's disease if nothing came to mind. Here's a hint for you, that day was important to the democratic process in Canada. It also saw Liberal Justin Trudeau replace Conservative Steven Harper to become our 23rd Prime Minister. If you guessed that it was the date for the last Federal election and you were voting then you go to the head of the class and collect a gold star. Its hard to imagine that in just over a week it will have been half a year since Dianne Watts was elected the MP for South Surrey - White Rock by a mere 1,439 votes. Its even harder to imagine why her constituency office has sat vacant and closed to the public for this entire long stretch of time.

Mrs. Watts office is located at #595 – 15355 – 24th Avenue, Surrey, which is in the Peninsula village shopping centre sandwiched between Plum women's clothing store and Big Gary's Vacuums. This is the very same location that was quickly pressed into service as Dianne Watt's Conservative headquarters during the last election. I visited the office during that time and it was tastefully appointed and nicely decorated from its past use as a fine art store. With her election victory it was decided to keep this prime retail store location and convert it to an office, with extensive renovations required to do so. Taped to the front door is a simple note stating the following: This office is transitioning to my constituency office. The office will be undergoing renovations in December. Please call 604-542-5510 or Email admin@sswr.ca for assistance. Thank you for your patience. Dianne Watts, Member of Parliament. The diannewattsmp.ca website has a posting promising "Constituency Office Opening Soon" stating the office is presently undergoing renovations and will be opening in the coming weeks. That posting was dated January 14, 2016, nearly three months ago.

A peek past the brown butcher paper covering the office windows reveals a construction site that is nowhere near completion. There are bare concrete floors, steel studs for interior walls and a t-bar ceiling with only the metal hangers in place. On a table nearest the door the blueprints were plainly in view showing the waiting room, reception, two offices, meeting room, module areas, washroom and even a large kitchen in back. Unless a hoard of construction workers descend this week into Dianne Watt's office and perform some Holmes on Homes magic, there is no possible way this former store will be transformed into an office and open on April 19, a full six months after last year's Federal election. What is interesting is that Russ Hiebert's old office on 152 St. at 24 Ave., only a block away as the crow flies from Dianne Watt's new location, still sits empty. In case you were wondering, all of the four Liberal MP's in Surrey plus the one in Delta have their offices up and running and they've been open to the public for months. To be fair, I was told by an employee at an adjacent business that Dianne Watts was seen surveying the construction of her new office last Saturday.

It is going to be interesting to see "Watt" this boondoggle is costing Canadian taxpayers. When the lease is signed, the landlord doesn't care how long your renovations take and the monthly payment conservatively estimated at $3,000 to $4,000 per month for this prime retail space still needs to be paid. Then there are the costs for the architect, engineer, interior designer, development permits, buildings inspections, etc. The construction bill is destined to be enormous since this renovation was a complete makeover down to the bare walls and a total rebuild with all new finishings and modern trappings. For those thinking that these building costs will be partially offset by not needing paid office staff for half a year, better think again. The notice on Watts website about the constituency office opening soon states: My staff are working remotely and available to assist you. They can be reached by mail at the above address or by calling 604-542-5510 or by emailing Dianne.Watts.C1A@parl.gc.ca. No word on whether calls are being forwarded to people's homes, to Dianne Watt's basement, another rented office somewhere in the Semi-pen, or a call centre in Mumbai, India.

Former office of Russ Hiebert

It should not take more than six months to open a simple constituency office since it took only a few weeks to open this space originally when it was utilized for the election. There is plenty of office space available for lease in south Surrey and White Rock that would not have required extensive and expensive remodeling. The decision to lease prime retail space at a major area strip mall instead of renting cheaper existing office space nearby needs to be questioned. The amount of money spent leasing this storefront, all of the construction expenses plus decorating and furniture costs has to be revealed once the work is complete and the doors finally opened. For the ultimate in savings, Dianne Watts should have considered moving into Russ Heibert's old digs that were still in a highly visible location beside IHOP that eliminated the need for a large kitchen. Somehow I don't think that the outgoing Conservative MP would have objected to the new Conservative MP utilizing the same offices that somehow worked for the past 11 years. Instead Dianne Watts is wasting tax-payer money while not making herself available to the general public, which are the same complaints that were being voiced about Russ Hiebert during his time in office.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

April 04, 2016

Fit to be Tied

You often don't have to go very far to find a story about the Semi-pen, all you have to do is keep your eyes open for the devil in the details. Case in point was last Thursday when my wife and I decided to take advantage of the amazing warm weather and low tide to go explore the shoreline near Kwomais Point. While many in the region are familiar with the 101 Steps and 1001 Steps in Surrey plus the Coldicutt ravine trail in White Rock, very few are aware of the Olympic Trail, aka Stoner's Point. This stairwell is on 13 Ave. just west of 131 St. in Ocean Park with a wooden staircase heading down to a viewing platform known locally as "Stoner's Point" because of all of the people who go there to smoke pot. A narrow trail before the view/blaze spot leads down the bluff to the BNSF Railway tracks and onto the most isolated and desolate portion of Crescent Rock Beach.

We went to this location to check out the sunset, the view of Baker and also see if "Bar Atlantis", a hidden sandy beach visible only at ultra low tides, had risen from the sea. Little did we know that we would inadvertently stumble across the latest threat to railway safety here involving the BNSF. Similar to the damage witnessed near Crescent Beach, the rail corridor had been badly eroded by wind, waves and smashing logs to within two metres of the rails. The BNSF were obviously aware of the damage as portions of the rain bed had been marked with orange fluorescent spray where it is likely that large rip-rap boulders will soon be installed to shore up the line. I detailed this type of damage in my March 14 TNT titled "Storm Tracking" that has pictures of erosion below the tracks near Crescent Beach. While concerning, it was not the fresh washouts that got the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, it was the condition of the ballast surrounding the ties that hold the rails.

For those not familiar with railway terms, the ballast is the broken angular rock that surrounds the creosoted railway ties (or sleepers) that the tracks are attached to. Besides acting as a stabilized base that can handle the crushing weight of fully loaded trains, the ballast holds the ties in place, which then holds the rails in place. The sharp edges of the stones make it difficult for them to slide over each other in the way that smooth round pebbles would, thus locking them in position. The rails are prone to heat expansion and contraction so instead of being bolted directly to the ties, they are held by friction with clips or anchors allowing longitudinal movement as they expand and contract. With the old 38 foot lengths of rails that were bolted together, rail movement was not to critical because of the joints and spaces between the sections of steel. Modern train tracks including those now in use through White Rock are continuous weld rail with sections sometimes up to two miles long. If the railroad ties are not covered with ballast rock, especially the ends that lie perpendicular to the tracks, it is possible for the rail to expand and warp sideways, creating what is known as a "sun kink." Google search "sun kink rail" for some rather bizarre images of this phenomenon.

Ballast rock usually is laid level with the ties but the tracks at the base of the Olympic trail had noticeable gaps between the rails and the ballast rock. The ends of the wooden ties were completely exposed on both sides for a long distance. With the lack of ballast rock holding the ties in place, it is possible for them to move sideways from rail expansion or pressure from heavily loaded trains rounding corners. I forwarded pictures of this section of track to a friend of mine who works for CN performing track maintenance across Western Canada. He messaged me back that this was an unsafe condition and that there should be a slow order on this track until the problem is corrected. He went on to say that Transport Canada has strict standards for ballast placement and there should be a minimum of one foot of rock on each end of the ties in order to safely hold them in place. I don't know if here are other areas of the BNSF tracks here that have exposed tie ends but I will be informing Transport Canada's railway safety inspector Dennis Maskall of this issue so that he may check the tracks from the US/Canada border to New Westminster to see if this is a systemic problem.

My railroad buddy sent me a picture he took of track they were working on that kinked in the heat last summer because of a lack of ballast rock. Simply imagine what would happen if a train attempted to roll across rails that snaked from side to side. Warping of the tracks at the Olympic Trail would cause a derailment at an area that would be difficult to access and even harder to clean up. Sun kinks have already caused more than 2,100 train derailments in the U.S. over the past 40 years or an average of 50 derailments a year. Increasing temperatures from climate change coupled with rising rail freight levels is only expected to increase the risk of sun kink derailments. In 2012 after a rash of these derailments including two involving BNSF trains, the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration issued a special safety advisory warning railroads to inspect buckling prone sections of track. As long as the BNSF is going to roll trains along the waterfront through the Semiahmoo peninsula, they are going to need a better track safety record when it comes to the maintenance of their rails.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 29, 2016

Driven to Distraction

 

Ah, keep your eyes on the road, your hand upon the wheel
Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel
Lyrics from "Roadhouse Blues", The Doors

 

I realize that laws are like bureaucrats, they keep on increasing exponentially to the point of insanity in our quest to keep up with the lowest common denominator. It is getting to the point that common sense is becoming quite uncommon and we are being micromanaged by politicians and the judicial system to the nth degree. Case in point was the conversation I heard on the radio the other day, either on CKNW 980 or NEWS 1130 where an RCMP officer was talking about distracted driving. He promised that the police were going to be targeting distracted drivers looking for those talking on cell phones, texting behind the wheel, driving with pets or their laps or drinking coffee. Yes you read that right, the simple act of sipping on your non fat half caff latte from Starbucks or even a double double from Tim Hortons can apparently result in you being penalized for distracted driving if it affects your ability to safely control your vehicle.

The engage.gov.bc.ca website's section on titled Distracted Driving 101 has information about this traffic menace with B.C. banning the use of hand-held electronic devices by drivers in 2010 that will now include three penalty points in addition to the $167 fine. They list speed (105 deaths), distraction (88 deaths) and alcohol (86 deaths) as being the top three contributing factors to deadly motor-vehicle crashes in the province. Obviously distracted driving is a serious problem that requires laws to stop what has become a dangerous behaviour on our busy streets. Unfortunately the penalties for distracted driving do not even come close to speeding or DUI. Here are the penalties for both taken directly from that website:
Speeding in excess of 40 km/hr may result in a violation ticket of $368, three penalty points and a seven-day vehicle impoundment. For speeds over 60 km/hr, in addition to the seven-day vehicle impoundment, the violation ticket increases to $483.
Drinking and driving in B.C. may result in administrative sanctions or criminal charges. Administrative sanctions include monetary penalties ranging from $200 to $500, plus a $250 license reinstatement fee, a driving prohibition up to 90 days, the possibility of a vehicle impoundment up to 30 days, and possible referral to remedial programs.

While BC's laws specifically control the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving, the RCMP has a much broader take on what constitutes distracted driving. Taken directly from the rcmp-grc.gc.ca website they define it as, "Distracted driving is a form of impaired driving as a driver's judgment is compromised when they are not fully focused on the road. Distracted driving qualifies as talking on a cell phone, texting, reading (e.g. books, maps, and newspapers), using a GPS, watching videos or movies, eating/drinking, smoking, personal grooming, adjusting the radio/CD and playing extremely loud music. Even talking to passengers and driving while fatigued (mentally and/or physically) can be forms of distracted driving." Where the extra enforcement is coming from is distracted driving that leads to driving without due care and attention, resulting in a $368 dollar fine, $201 more than for using a cell phone behind the wheel. An example would be swerving, speeding or changing lanes unsafely while holding food or carrying a dog in your lap. The same could be said for putting on makeup in a car when weaving all over the road or reading a map, newspaper or letter and driving dangerously while doing so.

 

You do not have to look far to see the effects of distracted driving. On Monday I was traveling along Crescent Road, following a car that varied in speed 10 kmh below and above the posted limit and constantly crossed the white shoulder line while weaving. When I finally passed this vehicle near the KGB, there were two elderly ladies sitting in the car eating lunch. If it had been late on a weekend night, I would have suspected the driver of being under the influence of alcohol and likely contacted the police about their erratic driving. I've seen it all on Hwy. 99 over the years with people reading the newspaper, shaving, putting on makeup, brushing their hair, etc while being completely oblivious to their dangerous driving. On a more serious note, a friend of mine and his passenger were seriously injured several years ago when a young driver attempting to change a CD in their car stereo ran a stop sign and t-boned them at high speed on a rural road in Chilliwack. Even closer to home, one of my daughters was rear-ended on Hwy. 10 in Cloverdale by a RCMP cruiser last year with her car nearly written off. The rookie officer admitted to looking at his dashboard mounted computer screen and not noticing the traffic slowing unexpectedly in front of him. Yes, the cops are human too.

 

Last year, the BC Liberals conducted a province-wide survey to gauge the public’s opinion regarding the changes in law towards distracted driving. The results have not yet been released and we have been promised that changes to the penalties for distracted driving will soon be forthcoming. I can save the government plenty of research, bureaucratic salaries and political bickering in the legislature over this topic. Simply raise the fine for distracted driving from the current $167 to the $368 that is charged in this province for both excessive speeding and driving without due care and attention. I believe it makes sense to have the fines the same for these various issues involving dangerous driving. With further distracted driving infractions, have ICBC levy a Driver Risk Premium (DRP) like they do for excessive speeding meaning increased insurance costs for motorists who continue to flaunt the rules. For drivers who are repeatedly caught like the Vancouver lady who has gotten 14 tickets for using her cell phone while behind the wheel, revoking her driver's license for a period of time and then forcing her to retake the testing along with being re-enrolled in BC's graduated licensing program might finally get her attention.

Don PItcairn

 

March 21, 2016


Surrey In The Cross-Hairs

 

It has been said that political correctness is the new fascism. Take a second to actually think about this quote and what it means. Nowhere was this more evident than Surrey First's recent decision to delay approval for the second annual BC Rod & Gun Show in Cloverdale scheduled for mid April. Security concerns were cited, along with handguns being sold, plus they wanted to ban ammunition sales from some bizarre reason that hopefully will see them also banning arrows for the crossbows utilizing the same mentality. There seems to be a desire by those in City hall to link the sale and trade of legally registered firearms to legitimate firearms enthusiasts and hunters to the ongoing gun violence that is plaguing the City of Surrey. Note to Mayor Hepner; it is not the law-abiding citizens who have passed mandatory government firearm safety courses and cleared RCMP background checks that are the problem in Surrey. Its about time you actually started targeting the real issue of gangsters and hoodlums with illegal handguns shooting up the streets. You have allowed this serious public safety problem to persist in this city for far too long.

It probably should come as no surprise that Council has thrown a major roadblock into the plans for the upcoming show. Back in 2014 organizers complained that City Hall had sabotaged their plans for holding the inaugural show. Amazingly they did finally agree to allow the 2015 show in the Agriplex building at the Cloverdale Fair Grounds. I attended the show for three day as a vendor, no not selling firearms but instead my wife's Surrey Shirts apparel line (some with guns, knives and bullet holes I must admit, tsk, tsk, tsk). The show was very well attended with 8,500 people going through the turnstiles for the three day event. It had a large security detail with plenty of uniformed police officers also in attendance plus a few Canadian Army soldiers in camouflage fatigues armed with rifles. Video cameras, both visible and others concealed, kept watch over the crowds and the transactions. Other than a few minor problems the crowd was peaceful and well mannered, which really should come as no surprise. I will go out on a limb here and suggest that it is highly unlikely any of the firearms sold at last year's BC Rod & Gun Show were used in crimes in Surrey since that time, unless they were stolen first.

Showing the ridiculousness of the thought process into delaying this event, Mayor Hepner is on record as saying "If it's a sportsman show or an outdoorsman show, why don't you call it that? Why do you call it 'Rod and Gun'?" Sorry Linda but its called the Rod & Gun Show because BC Rod & Gun Show are the ones putting on the event. In case there is any confusion with the head Surrey girl, the Rod word in their title means fishing rod. Locally there are also the Richmond Rod & Gun, Langley Rod & Gun, Mission Rod & Gun, Ridgedale Rod & Gun (in Abbotsford), Agassiz-Harrison Rod & Gun, Hope Rod & Gun plus plenty more clubs across BC with the same moniker. Maybe they should all be forced to change their names to "Fishing & Hunting Club" for political expediency? I would certainly hope not. Fortunately in south Surrey the gun club here is named the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club, which hopefully will keep them from being closed because someone trying to be politically correct takes offense with their title. Showing the backlash against Surrey's decision, there is a petition you can sign at the change.org website titled "Allow the BC Rod and Gun Show to be held."

Having a "Rod & Gun" show in Cloverdale will not sully Surrey's already sordid reputation for violence or lead to an influx of weapons onto the streets. No, it was the 56 shootings in 2015 plus another 12 already this year that are making headlines for Surrey across Canada. In case you missed it a 23 year-old Surrey man was shot in the shoulder on Friday night in Guildford at 144 St. and 92 Ave. with the victim showing up bleeding at Surrey Memorial Hospital soon after. The next gun play was on early Sunday morning with a home being targeted and bullet casings littering the roadway near 132nd St. and 110 Ave. The thugs perpetrating these brazen crimes are not the type of people who would be attending the BC Rod & Gun Show. It is much more likely to be like the husband and wife who are friends of mine wanting to take up target shooting and hunt for wild game that recently used me in their RCMP background checks. The same can be said for another friend and his girlfriend who wanted their PALs (Possession and Acquisition License) after an all-to-close encounter with an aggressive grizzly bear at a remote wilderness hot spring last fall.

Luckily it appears that cooler heads have prevailed in this matter that that common sense rose above the political posturing. A posting on the BC Rod & Gun Show Facebook page announced on Sunday morning that "For those of you following the news, we have satisfied all City of Surrey Councils requests. See you at the show April 15th - 17." This posting was also accompanied by a new cover photo oddly showing a fishing rod and a hunting rifle, imagine that. The organizers obviously managed to smooth ruffled feathers with Council, getting the show approved far in advance of the next council meeting scheduled for April 11, only four days ahead of the planned dates. The event is being billed as "Surrey's biggest new and used hunting and fishing show." No word yet on whether handgun and ammunition sales have been banned as had been suggested, even though these are legal for purchase at local outdoor stores with ammo being available at the nearest Canadian Tire. For information about the BC Rod & Gun Show please visit their website bcrodandgunshow.com where you can purchase adult tickets for $10, family passes and weekend passes, with children under 9 years-old getting in for free.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 14, 2016

 

Storm Tracking

 

When you live and work in the Lower Mainland, you expect to have to deal with some weather but I must admit that the storm on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning reminded me a lot of the last air bomb that hit the coast in August causing so much damage. I happened to be on the road to Chilliwack during that rather interesting weather event and if I had a dashboard camera, a compilation of the tape of my journey would likely have garnered millions of hits on YouTube with all the destruction I witnessed firsthand. On Wednesday afternoon, my workers and I were pushing hard to beat the clock when the rains hit with a vengeance, driving us from the job site an hour before quitting time. On Thursday morning I woke up in the dark with the power out, the winds blasting outside and water dripping onto our dresser in our bedroom after being blown from a plugged gutter outside. It wasn't until ten o'clock that we were able to finally get back to work when the wind and the rain finally relented and I had fixed our drainage problem.

As this storm hit on the hide tide, the winds pushed the seas to levels not usually seen here. Beach Grove in South Delta was flooded yet again by storm surge topping low-lying dykes and seawalls, flooding nearby residences in what is now becoming a regular occurrence. In White Rock, waves larger than I have ever seen caused damage all across the promenade, ripping at the lawns and brick edges of the walkway, closing it and Canada's longest pier to the public. It actually turned out to be a good idea for Transport Canada to force White Rock to install chain mesh on the safety railings next to the BNSF tracks. The new fencing worked as an effective log catcher, keeping windswept debris from being deposited onto the rail corridor. Much of the rip-rap boulder barrier along the White Rock waterfront is now too low to deal with the increasing tides associated with global warming plus increased storm activity and frequency. In Crescent Beach the walkway that is the dyke had gravel and logs strewn across it, while the Crescent Beach pier looked more like a floating dock with the waves almost at the decking. Check out the rather amazing pictures posted in the WR Sun if you have not seen them yet.

The BNSF railway along the Semiahmoo peninsula was also assaulted by the high winds and waves. Just south of Crescent Beach around the Crescent Rock boulder that sits as the gatekeeper to the naturist beach, there were three areas of the rail bed that were scoured by waves. These removed rocks and vegetation, leaving steep and unstable earthen walls next to the tracks. It is unknown how many more areas between Crescent Beach and White Rock also experienced erosion as it is illegal to walk on the tracks plus weather conditions and train traffic make this a very dangerous proposition. All along the shoreline near the 101 Steps pedestrian overpass at the end of 24th Ave., the shoreline has been seriously eroded, trees along the beach either toppled or left with roots exposed, with sections of the rail bed eroded right to the crushed ballast rock. In the ten minutes I was there on Saturday afternoon, two BNSF freight trains rolled by heading south, one with empty coal cars and the other with mixed freight including many gasoline tankers. While we were experiencing a break between the storms, the eroded slopes just below the tracks showed significant rock and sand fall as the the heavy trains passed by. I probably should have been taking video for posting on YouTube instead of still shots for the TNT but several people there also witnessed this erosion happening.

I realize that there are many people accusing folks here of being NIMBYs and saying that relocation of the train tracks is a non-issue because the rail line was here first. Unfortunately it is not only trees falling onto the tracks and the ever present fear of landslides causing a train derailment into Boundary Bay that are of concern. Wind driven waves pose a significant threat to this 110 year old rail line that was originally constructed on the inter-tidal zone of the shoreline across the peninsula. It was back in 2009 that the BNSF spent $800,000 and dumped many train car loads of rip-rap boulders along the 6.5 km. of shore from White Rock to Crescent Beach to protect the line from wave damage. In 2008, several winter storms caused multiple areas of damage with several of these washouts reaching a metre away from the rails. In the worst storm back then, SmartRail member Phil Legood even saw a CN trail stop, its engineer exit and walk the rails past a section where waves were breaking over the tracks to ensure it was safe for the train to pass. In 1984 during a particularly nasty stretch of weather, a 75 foot section of tracks was left hanging four feet in the air after waves scoured the land away under the rail bed. With rising sea levels and fierce storms becoming commonplace, it may only be a matter of time until the BNSF is forced to reroute away from the shore of Boundary Bay to a safer inland location.

I heard on Sunday that the BNSF Railway was going to perform emergency repairs to the shoreline and install rocks and boulders on the damaged sections of rail bed here. I don't know if they were able to get this work done this weekend but as I am writing this TNT the wind is howling outside and there is a wind warning in effect from Environment Canada with expected wind gusts of 90 kmh matching the strength of Wednesday night's storm. In an hour and a half we will hit the next high tide, estimated at 3.7 m. on the local tide charts for White Rock. Thankfully this is a full metre below the high tide that happened last Friday morning at 6:45 a.m. when waves were pounding into the rocks in front of the Museum and throwing debris into Crescent Beach. Whether (weather?) this latest winter blast will exacerbate the erosion at the base of the BNSF tracks remains to be seen but I am planning on going to visit the shoreline on Monday morning both in Crescent Beach and White Rock to survey the damage. If I see significant changes, more destruction or anything threatening rail safety there it will be posted as a TNT update along with pictures. Likewise, if you see any problems with the BNSF rail line or have storm footage from across the Semi-pen, please forward them to Dave Chesney of the WR Sun at editor@whiterocksun.com.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Editor's Note: Here is a link to a story by the CBC aired on Friday about the BNSF Railway and wave erosion causing safety concerns:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/white-rock-railway-erosion-safety-1.3488439

 

 

March 07, 2016

Crash Crescent

Last weekend I was heading out of the Semi-pen early on Saturday morning when I rounded the sharp corner heading onto the straightaway in the 13300 block of Crescent Road and came across the latest crash on this dangerous strip of asphalt. On the side of the road was a Ford sedan with serious front end damage and pieces of plastic wreckage, dirt and chunks of turf across the roadway. I quickly stopped to talk to the man standing by the car, learning that he was okay and waiting for a tow truck to take away his damaged vehicle. It turned out that the driver who had caused the crash had exchanged information and managed to drive his crippled car away. What had happened was a speeding car heading east had lost control on the corner where the yellow chevron warning signs were, spun out backwards into oncoming traffic and hit the damaged car still at the scene. Its not very often you see a rear end collision where the vehicle with front end damage was not to blame but that was the case. This very same corner was where a white late-model sports car, possibly a Chevelle, spun out and crashed backwards into some trees after passing my wife Sheryl on a dark and rainy night when she was coming home three weeks before. Fortunately there was no one driving the other way at the time of this other accident or the results could have been horrific given the speed involved.

This is the third installment of TNT's in the WR Sun dealing with the dangers of the Crescent Road racetrack, the others being "Another Day - Another Death" (Oct. 14, 2013) and "Crescent Road Carnage" (Feb. 19, 2013). While some of the safety recommendations I made were instituted, many were ignored and the racetrack is still open for business as usual. In the 4.7 km of Crescent Road from the KGB to 128 St there are a total of 15 turns in the road, with five of these being the sharp corners where accidents constantly happen. The first two are in the 30 kmh zone by the Esso station at Elgin Rd. where this slow speed zone because of the dangers posed by the gas pumps keep this speed limit in this area artificially low. The next two sharp turns are at either end of the straightaway just west of Elgin Heritage Park that have been the scene of multiple accidents and deaths, while the last is in the S turn approaching the north entrance to Crescent Park near 128 St. There have been so many cars into the fence on the north side of the road at this last location that the owners have now put concrete blocks near the roadway, red reflectors on stakes in the lawn and red reflectors attached to the fence to alert drivers to the danger.

If Surrey would actually properly address the issues on the peninsula's most dangerous road, they could dramatically reduce the incidents of high speed crashes on this windy stretch of asphalt. While they have put up large yellow and black chevron signs in several locations showing curves ahead, they are needed at all of the major corners on crescent where crashes routinely happen. There are still no curve ahead signs or slippery road signs in many of the high crash areas. The promised lighted radar signs showing motorists their speed have yet to appear three years since I first brought up the dangers of Crescent Road. While they saw fit to install multiple speed bumps on 124 St. in Crescent Heights that is a main arterial and a bus route that also includes 25 Ave., they refuse to put speed bumps on Crescent Road even though it is a sure-fire way to control speed on what is often used as a racetrack by speed demons with high powered vehicles who live in this region. In Mexico they use speed bumps to lower highway speeds through each town, including larger cities like Puerto Vallharta. They decrease driving speeds without causing congestion and are extremely effective and a lot cheaper than paying for police to run speed control.

In North Delta there is a notorious corner on Nicholson Road behind Scottsdale Mall that used to see plenty of crashes. These even included a friend of mine who years ago put his Nova through a tree and into a large concrete sign moments after installing a fresh 350 V-8 into his car, fortunately without serious injury except for the tree of course. In this location Delta Engineering installed concrete islands with signage in the centre of the road to separate the lanes, decrease head-on crashes and slow traffic. I frequently work in this area and have seen that this traffic calming effort has worked extremely well over the years. It's not like Surrey Engineering doesn't now know about this traffic pattern as they installed similar traffic islands at the corner of 130 St. and Marine Drive in Ocean Park several years ago. This was done to help with the safety at this blind intersection that happens to be in the middle of an S turn but it would also be a great improvement at the three high crash corners on Crescent Road. As someone who has been forced off the road to miss an oncoming driver who was totally in my lane several years ago, if nothing is done to update this antiquated and dangerous stretch of roadway, then we can expect more serious accidents and deaths to continue until something is finally done.

It has been three years since this TNT trilogy about the dangers of Crescent Road first began. While I previously appeared before Surrey's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to voice my concerns on this topic, very little has been changed and the same types of crashes happen over and over in the very same locations. In the latest accident, I've been at three serious crashes within a hundred feet of each other and know of three people that have died in that same spot. I've always said that bad engineering kills people, especially when you throw in speeding, wet roads, cell phone use and maybe even a little drinking and driving. What is really scary is being the person driving safely along Crescent and being hit by an out-of-control vehicle coming in the opposite direction at high speed. If the dangerous corners had islands to separate traffic, it would not only slow people down but would reduce the likelihood of deadly cross-over accidents. If Surrey can afford new sidewalks down by Nico-Wynd, then they can make safety improvements to Crescent Road that will protect the people who live in the peninsula. If nothing is done to control speed and separate traffic on the sharp corners, we can expect more "car-nage" in the future.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 29, 2016


Three Course Meal - Bon Appetit

The Appetizer

While a different flavor than the rest of today's TNT, I would be remiss in not pointing out that this column falls on a rather special day. If you are reading this on Monday then you are enjoying the extra day made possible every four years by the bizarre calendar event known as Leap Year. Enjoy it while you can as the next Leap Day falling on a Monday when this column gets posted is way off in 2044, seven Leap Years from now. I actually had to do the math myself since Encyclopedia Google didn't go that far into the future. Will the White Rock Sun still be publishing, will I still be breathing, will Dave Chesney be Mayor of White Rock? Hard to say but if I manage to live that long I'll be an octogenarian by that time.

The reason for Leap year is that the earth circles the sun in 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds. With a nearly six hour discrepancy between the suns "tropical year" and our Gregorian calendar year, without Leap Year important seasonal days like the vernal equinox or winter solstice would quickly get out of sync. For the romantically inclined, February 29th is also known as "Sadie Hawkins Day" where women get to ask men to marry them. This ritual actually originated from an episode in American cartoonist Al Capp's classic hillbilly comic strip Li'l Abner back in 1937. Not too concerned with protocol, Feb. 29th was the day that I proposed to my wife Sheryl several Leap Year's ago. Now every four years I have to buy her flowers only two week's after Valentine's Day. I guess I should have thought that one out beforehand.

Meat and Potatoes

You may have read or heard that Surrey's old Mayor/South Surrey & White Rock's new MP Dianne Watts was in the news last week applauding the announcement of a federal study into railway safety on the BNSF corridor along the peninsula waterfront. As the Conservative critic for infrastructure and communities, Mrs. Watts is part of the Standing Committee for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the House of Commons. Coming only weeks after Surrey and White Rock agreed to spend $700,000 to assess possible BNSF Railway relocation routes inland, the Ottawa study will concentrate only on erosion threatening the rail corridor and blocked access to Crescent Beach. While there was no mention of it in the local newspapers, the Vancouver Sun broke the news that last weekend a BNSF train had blocked both roads into Crescent Beach for an hour and 39 minutes. There was no word on why the train had stalled on the tracks but this is not an unknown situation. Taken from Surrey Corporate Report 8710-00 prepared by the Surrey Fire Chief for Mayor & Council, July 23, 2015, regarding BNSF trains blocking access to Crescent Beach, here is a list of previous incidents. Here's the link if you want to check out the full report: https://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/CR_2015-R161.pdf

January 5, 2016

5, 1:45 AM, a fallen tree from the slope on the south Crescent Beach causes a northbound coal train to make undesired emergency brake application (UDE), blocking all access to/from Crescent Beach for 4 hours.
December 27, 2014, 10:15 PM, a knuckle failure on the south Crescent Beach curve causes a northbound mixed freight train #5614 to split and idle within the community for 90 minutes while being put back together.
August 2, 2014, 9:35 PM, a knuckle failure on the south Crescent Beach curve causes a northbound unit coal train to split and engage UDE blocking all access to\from Crescent Beach for 10 minutes at the Beecher street crossing and for 3 hours at the McBride street crossing.
June 26, 2014, 7:15 AM, a knuckle failure on the south Crescent Beach curve causes a northbound, mixed freight train to split, and engage undesired emergency brake application (UDE), blocking all access to/from Crescent Beach for 45 minutes.
November 12, 2010, 7:00 AM, mechanical failure caused emergency Brake Condition blocking both access points for 30 minutes.
June 2007, mechanical failure caused Emergency Brake condition blocking both access points for 30 minutes.
Missing from the list was the incident in Feb./Mar. of 2007 where a BNSF freight train was hit by a mudslide between Bayview Rd. and the 101 Steps/24 Ave. overpass in an area that does not have the landslide detector fence, blocking both access roads for 45 minutes.

The reason that it was known exactly how long the latest train blocked the two road entrances is that because of the BNSF Railway's repeated stoppages, Surrey decided it needed actual proof of these incidents. Transport Canada's Rail Regulations contain a Stopped Train Protocol that calls for roadways to be cleared in five minutes in the case of a train blocking incident, not several hours. After the Corporate Report from the Fire Chief last summer, Surrey erected a closed circuit television camera (CCTV) on a pole next to the "Welcome To Crescent Beach" sign on Crescent Road and have also installed a large electric eye across the tracks near McBride Avenue that senses stopped trains. This equipment is monitored at the City Traffic Operations Centre and the Fire Dispatch Centre, providing the city and first responders with immediate knowledge of rail traffic at the entrance points to Crescent Beach.

Surrey Mayor Hepner has promised to forward information about this latest blockage including video footage to Transport Canada so they can investigate this incident. With the cutting off of Crescent Beach from emergency services for hours at a time plus the constant threat of landslides and wave erosion threatening derailments, both Surrey and White Rock hope to file a request for relocation of the BNSF tracks under the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act. With the $22 million the BNSF have invested on the line here in the past few years, the $350 to $500 million price tag for a new inland rail line, plus the federal Liberals holding the other four Surrey seats, its safe to say this is a legacy project at best if not just pure political fantasy during uncertain economic times.

 

The Dessert

Its always good to save the really sweet stuff for last and since this TNT focuses on railway safety involving the BNSF, I thought the following news was rather timely. One of the WR Sun readers reported that a landslide had impacted the train tracks 150 m. north of the 1001 Steps in Ocean Park, believing this incident happened on Feb. 18th during a week of heavy rains. I went to this latest slide site on the weekend to confirm this and found a new slide site directly beside another one that happened last year.

In this most recent slide approximately 240 cubic yards of material from the hillside broke loose and fell into the ditch beside the tracks, ripping out 45 m. of the Landslide Detector Fence (LDF) in the process. The break in the system would have immediately triggered red lights all along the tracks, stopping all train traffic. It is not known if any of the dozen large alder trees up to 12 inches in diameter blocked the rails in this slide. The 15 dump truck loads of mud, scrub and trees was excavated out by Railway crews and deposited on the ocean-side portion of the corridor. While this kind of slope failure is quite common along the Ocean Park bluffs during heavy precipitation, of great concern is a large Surrey storm culvert directly beside the slide site. If the debris had poured into this area blocking the culvert, drain water would have quickly filled the ditch beside the tracks, possibly eroding the rail bed with flood waters.

Once again the LDF, the two pieces of wire you see strung along the base of the bluff, protected the trains from running into slide debris. Since Dianne Watts is now showing great interest in railway safety here, I'm going to suggest she tell Transport Canada to have the BNSF install the LDF on the 400 m. long unprotected section of the bluff near Crescent Beach plus along the base of the Hump that was recently cleared of trees by White Rock. As far as access to Crescent Beach goes, maybe the federal government will help shell out a portion of the $4.5 million it will cost to put a tunnel on Beecher St. under the BNSF tracks. A cheaper option would be the $500,000 to $1.1 million for an emergency access road under the trestle bridge by the marina. It should be noted that both of these options were turned down by Surrey First with Dianne Watts as the leader several years ago due to their cost.

I hope you liked your Monday meal, don't forget the 15% gratuity and make sure to grab a mint on the way out the door.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 22, 2016

Justice Delayed, Justice Denied, Justice For Hudson

On July 18, 2015, 20 year-old Hudson Brooke was shot to death in the parking lot of the south Surrey RCMP detachment by police officers. Because it was a police involved fatal shooting, the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) took over the investigation of this incident. Scant information has been released but it is public knowledge that Hudson was coming home from a beach party in White Rock, he ended up in the parking lot of the RCMP station/Semiahmoo library several blocks from home where he was involved in an altercation with the police. A female officer was wounded by a bullet that hit her foot and Hudson died in a hail of gunfire with seven bullets allegedly striking him. It has been reported that there were three RCMP officers in the parking lot at the time when Hudson was killed and that two different sounding guns were heard. Other than police issued firearms, there were no other guns or weapons at the scene meaning he was unarmed when first confronted. There are security cameras at the entrance to the back door of the station and just inside the front door that allows access to the police station and library with recordings from both cameras being seized for evidence.

There have been many troubling questions about Hudson's death from the very beginning including the police releasing information that they believed he was "suicidal" when the deadly confrontation happened, something his family and friends strongly dispute. The Brooks' family was not contacted about his death for nearly 12 hours after the shooting, with his corpse being left on the pavement almost the same amount of time before being removed. With the IIO taking control, there has been almost no movement on this file since they are backlogged with other police involved shooting investigations across BC and bogged down waiting for laboratory results regarding the firearms used. A month after Hudson's death a Facebook page named "Justice For Hudson" was created to keep his memory alive and to help rally public support to ensure that justice was done in this matter. It now contains hundreds of postings and thousands of comments, many expressing sadness and outrage how this could happen in our community. Shortly after that, Hudson's mother Jennifer Brooks arranged for a march on Oct. 18, exactly three months after the shooting, to bring attention to the community and put media pressure on the IIO to complete their investigation. It was well attended with many people wearing #JusticeForHudson hoodies and wrist bands to show their support for the deceased young man.

With a critical lack of information since that time, a second rally was held on Sunday, Feb. 21st at four p.m. on 152 St., now seven months after the shooting. While I missed the first rally, I've stopped several times to see the memorial outside the RCMP station and have followed the rather glacial process of the investigation. After reading every single post and comment on the Justice For Hudson FB page, I decided to attend the latest protest for myself. I was rather surprised at the size of the crowd estimated at 100-120 people, many with professionally produced placards and #JusticeForHudson apparel. The crowd consisting of family members, friends and concerned citizens gathered at the Starbucks by the Rialto theatre. Conspicuous by their absence was any local politician from any of the three levels of government here. Just after four o'clock the crowd crossed the street, heading north past the cop shop and all the way down the street to 24th Ave. where they crossed and circled the block, gathering at the memorial. All the while, people in the crowd would yell, "What do we want? Justice! Who do you want it for? Hudson!" followed by a chant of, "Answers! Answers! Answers!" In total, the march took 35 minutes, tying up traffic all along the route. To their credit, the RCMP provided traffic control for the march, blocking side streets and stopping traffic, allowing Hudson's family and supporters to complete their walk without incident.

If they wanted publicity, this march certainly achieved it with camera crews from CTV and Global in attendance plus professional photographers from various media outlets. The sadness and anger contained on the Justice For Hudson FB page was quite evident in the crowd that formed around the memorial for Hudson Brooks when the march was completed. Hudson's mother Kelly used the planter there as an impromptu soap box, telling the gathered masses "We will not stop, we will not quit until we get answers." She called it "unacceptable" that an unarmed young man requesting help would be shot "one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times" by the police, emphasizing each number with a shake of a pointed finger. The most poignant moment had to be when she utilized a line from the #BlackLivesMatter campaign against police violence in the United States, yelling out, "Hudson Brooks' life MATTERS!" Seeing the anguish in her face, hearing the pain in her voice and seeing the tears in the eyes of the surviving sister and brothers was heartbreaking to say the least, with plenty of others visibly upset in the crowd. March 30th will likely be the next busy day at the Hudson Brooks' memorial as this would have been this young man's 21st birthday had this tragic event not happened.

While gangland shootings and murders have become far too commonplace in the city of Surrey in the past few years, the death of Hudson at the hands of the RCMP raises many questions that beg to be answered. Let's hope that the IIO does its job and properly investigates his death in a timely and professional manner. We certainly don't need another white-wash like what originally happened in the Robert Dziekanski taser death at YVR nine years ago. In the meantime I'd like to think that police forces across Canada would put as much time, effort and funds into de-escalation training for its members as it does for firearms practice. Trust me when I say that pulling a trigger is easy; ending conflict without resorting to deadly force has to be taught and practiced.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 15, 2016


Love on the Rock

I'm not a smart man... but I know what love is.
(Forest Gump talking about marriage with his girlfriend Jenny Curran.)

There really is no better time for Valentine's Day than on a Sunday. It gives men some extra time to shop for their loved ones instead of spending the last moments elbow to elbow with the other cave dwellers at the local supermarket card aisle. Trust me, I know of what I speak as I've found myself in long lineups after work on Feb. 14th searching for that special gift on shelves that have been picked over like buzzards on road-kill. Having V-day on Sunday means that the shopping pressure is off and if you are an incurable romantic like me, you can turn this one day expression of your affection into a weekend long romp. Best of all, the NFL season ended with the Super Bowl a week ago, the NASCAR season doesn't start with the Daytona 500 until next Sunday, who cares about the NBA All-Star game (West beat East 196-173 in case you missed it) and well..., the Canucks suck.

Valentine's Day celebrated annually on February 14th started as a Western Christian feast day honouring early saints named Valentinus, including several who were believed martyred for their religious beliefs. It was not until the 14th century that the day began to be associated with courting, romance and love. In the 18th century UK, it became common for people to express their adoration for each other by giving bouquets of flowers, gifts of chocolates or candy and the sending of what became known as valentines cards. Over time Valentine's Day symbols came to include the colour red, heart shapes, roses, doves and the winged Cupid cherub armed with bow and arrow. Although Valentine's Day is celebrated around the world, it is not observed as a statutory holiday in any country. Of course there always has to be a stick in the mud and it was reported last week that Iranian police have warned retailers not to promote "decadent Western culture through Valentine's Day rituals." Indonesia and Saudi Arabia also do not tolerate Valentine's Day celebrations, seeing it as an affront to Islam of course. Heck, even North Korea celebrates Valentine's Day but it is likely that all cards showing affection must be addressed to their supreme leader Kim Jong-Un.

While love may be free, showing it and showering that special someone with gifts, dinners and romantic getaways doesn't come cheap. It is estimated that Canadians will spend an average of $165 to celebrate Valentine's Day, with men spending twice as much as women. I dispute this claim for while I received a nice loving card from my wife Sheryl, the Carlton card I gave her cost $6, chocolates at $9, gerbera flower bouquet $25, Taka sushi $52, and Ocean Park pub night $58. This rounded out the orgy of love spending at $150 not counting the drinks at home or the breakfast and dinner I cooked for her. Of course, there are many gifts she gives me on a daily basis including the one that I appreciate the most; she tolerates me and the Sunday evening time I spend penning the TNT. Across the line in the United States the National Retail Federation estimates that V-day spending will contribute a total of $19.7 billion to their national economy. The most often gifted item is candy followed by greeting cards, an evening out, flowers and jewelry. Not surprising, dating couples spend more than married couples, with those living together the longest spending the least.

The weather may have hampered outdoor romantic adventures this weekend but White Rock and Surrey have beautiful places to visit while holding the hand of the one you love. Top of the list has to be the White Rock pier and promenade, along with the public walkway across Crescent Beach. I always enjoy a table with a view so the Boathouse and Washington Avenue Grill in White Rock plus Pelagos Greek restaurant in Crescent Beach get my vote just for their stunning ocean vistas. These places may have the view but the veritable Old Surrey Restaurant on 72 Ave. in Newton was recently named one of the top 50 most romantic restaurants in Canada, one of only five dining establishments in B.C. named for this honour. For scenic beauty it is tough to beat Kwomais Point Park at the southwest corner of the peninsula with its viewing platform above Boundary Bay where a friend of mine's daughter got married last year. For those who like towering evergreens, fresh air and nature walks, Redwood Park and Crescent Park in south Surrey both have plenty for naturalists and lovers to enjoy. Last on my list of local romantic spots has to be the Serpentine Fen and if you are the type of person who gets Valentine's Day cards for your pet, dogs are welcome there too.

Well that's it for this week, I've got to cut this column short and get back to spending quality time with the woman who means the world to me. I can only hope that if you are reading this TNT that you put a little extra effort into letting your significant other know that you appreciate all that they do for you on a constant basis. Valentine's Day may only happen once a year but that does not mean you can't show affection or warmth without a special day to celebrate it. Sometimes a love letter or an unexpected bouquet of flowers for no reason at all says a lot more than mass produced cards or overpriced roses on Valentine's Day. Relationships must be nurtured to keep them fresh and too often we tend to take the people closest to us for granted simply because they are always there. Try to break out of the relationship rut, make an effort to surprise your significant other with spontaneous expressions of your feelings and most of all, show them that you care.

A hug, a kiss and an "I love you" don't cost a penny but they can be priceless when really needed.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

B.C.'s cop watchdog gets more teeth

Dogged by controversy, the IIO is hiring more investigators to tackle police death complaints.

(click here to read THE PROVINCE story)

 

 

February 09, 2016


Family Day, Flag Day, Holidaze

I'd like to take a moment to personally congratulate Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberal Party. If it weren't for them I would have been writing this column on Sunday night after watching the epic defensive struggle that was Superbowl 50 where the Cinderella story of Peyton Manning unfolded as per the script with the Denver Broncos beating the Carolina Panthers. With a menu of nachos 'n fixins, ripple chips with dip, buffalo wings and pizza washed down with copious amounts of fine craft beer, I really don't think it would have been an enjoyable experience penning yet another TNT after the Vince Lombardi trophy was finally handed out. Instead I got to enjoy a relaxing hot tub with my wife, get to bed at a reasonable hour and actually sleep in later than usual on Monday morning all thanks to the fourth installment of BC's Family Day. Unfortunately due to Surrey First's lack of foresight, I still had to set the alarm clock in order to get up to put out the damn recycle totes since the BFI refuse trucks come every Monday morning like clockwork, holiday or not (grrr).

Family Day is still a bit of anomaly when it comes to holidays in Canada. It is not a country-wide statutory holiday, only being observed here in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. While we celebrate it on the second Monday (this year being Feb. 8th) the other provinces hold it on the third Monday, falling this year a day after Valentine's Day on Feb. 15. Not to be left out, PEI holds Islander Day on the third Monday of February while Manitoba also observes Louis Riel Day on that same day. The third Monday of February is also President's Day in the US, which is a day off for most Americans. The bad news is that since Family Day is not a federally established holiday, government employees do not get the day off which explains why our Canada Post letter carrier showed up even though the Province newspaper carrier was a no-show. The same can be said for national companies with employees across the country who have to go to work while the rest of us get the day off with pay and time to spend with friends and family. It would be interesting to see how sick days spike on Family Day, especially with many workers seeing this holiday as insulting and unfair.

You could not have asked for a nicer Monday in which to enjoy the newest BC holiday. Only a week in to February, it was spring-like conditions with sunny skies and highs of 13 near the water and 16 inland. I took the opportunity to work the morning (the joys of being self-employed) wearing shorts and a t-shirt, making it home in time for my wife and I to take the dogs for a walk down to Crescent Rock beach. While there were no naturists to be seen yet, there were plenty of people sitting down on the logs and rocks, taking off their jackets and rolling up their sleeves to catch a few rays and get a vitamin D boost. I'm in favour of a holiday in mid winter as with the date of Easter varying from year to year based on the lunar calendar, it can be more than three and a half months between stats. This year Easter is on March 27th, in 2017 it is April 16, in 2018 it is April 1st (no fooling) and in 2019 it is all the way back to April 21st. What better way to break up the winter doldrums and beat a case of SADD than to get a day off to relax and spend time with loved ones. For those Cincinnati Panther fans, it also gave them time to recover from any headache or hangover associated with losing the Superbowl after having a league best 15-1 season.

Back in January of 2011, I proposed we celebrate Canada Flag Day, opening a page on Facebook to promote the concept of a coast-to-coast holiday in February (on FB at "Canada Flag Day Holiday"). Here is the last posting that explains why the Feb. 15th date was chosen:


The second year anniversary of Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic Winter Games is fast approaching and Feb. 15th (Friday this year), the day that Alexandre Bilodeau won Canada’s first gold medal (in men’s moguls), is a perfect time for an all day and night celebration.
Feb. 15th is also when the Maple Leaf was first introduced as Canada’s flag back in 1965 so you can celebrate our Olympic’s “golden anniversary” of winning the most gold medals of any country in the world by wearing your best red and white Canadian Olympic attire and waving the Maple Leaf tied to a hockey stick.
This day also happens to be the 15th anniversary of the declaration of National Flag of Canada Day. Red and white were first designated as Canada’s official colours in 1921 by King George V. Coming the day after Valentine’s Day when we celebrate love, these colours could not be more appropriate or a holiday better timed.
While Family Day will become a statutory holiday in B.C. this year on the second Monday in February, Feb. 11th, 2013, Flag of Canada Day on Feb. 15th should instead be a national holiday from coast to coast. At the very least, make plans to wear red and white that day, especially if you have a "relaxed Friday" dress code at the office.
The time has come for ordinary Canadians to stand up and wave the flag across this great country of ours. Take off work, phone in sick and pretend it’s still the Olympics because on February 15th its Flag of Canada Day (aka Flag Day) and we’re going to party eh! As the Canadian Heritage website states, “Our Flag, Our Pride, Celebrate it!”

Now I'm not really sure why but recently there has been a surge of people looking to join in this Facebook page, enough so that I believe it is time to actually put some time into it, post proper pictures and to promote this idea for a national holiday for all Canadians. A February stat should not be just for the ones lucky enough to have provincial governments that think their hard-working taxpayers deserve a break from working all winter to spend time with their family. Another concept being pushed is for a return to old times when every Sunday was family day. This ended in April 1985 when it was found the Lord's Day Act that prohibited Sunday shopping violated the Canadian Charter. Now its just another day to go to the mall, get your oil changed, cruise the aisles at Wal-Mart or go to the bar for a drink. Of course the reality is that for us to enjoy shopping on Sunday, it means that many moms, fathers, brothers and sisters spend their Sundays toiling to keep the doors open. I really enjoy what I do for a living and basically get paid to play but at the end of the day I'd rather be spending quality time with loved ones or relaxing in the great outdoors. We need to send a message to Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberal Party that all hardworking Canadians deserve a day off this time of year.

Naturally yours,


Don Pitcairn

If you would like to see BC's Family Day put in line with the rest of the country SIGN THE PETITION

 

 

February 01, 2016


An Ear For News

 

It is amazing where topics and stories for the TNT sometimes come from but keeping an eye and ear open in our community often pays dividends. I was sitting in my office on Sunday evening just after 6 o'clock, laying the groundwork for this column when I first heard the noise. It started off with a low drone, slowly rising in volume as the pitch increased to a high whine. I quickly slid open the window to ensure what I thought I was hearing was real just as the sound reached a shrieking crescendo and then slowly began to spool down. While it had been at least twenty years since I had last heard one, there was no mistaking the not too distant sound of an air raid siren.

The civil defense siren as they were properly known were used to provide emergency warning to the populace of approaching danger and then often to signal when it is safe again. They were first designed to warn of air raids in World War 2 and later used to warn of nuclear attack during the Cold War. When I was a kid, we had one of these sirens in North Delta and it was tested on a frequent basis in case the Russians attacked North America. In some regions, these sirens warn of destructive weather patterns and are instead called tornado sirens. I phoned E-Com at 9-1-1 to inquire as to what this siren had possibly been about, informing them I thought it may have originated from Surrey Fire Hall 12 on 128 St., some seven blocks away. After a few minutes, the operator informed me that the siren had indeed come from that location and that the staff there had been "performing an equipment test."

Thinking there might be more to this story than what I was being told, I put dinner on hold and made my way up to the Fire Hall. Several of the officers there answered the door looking rather surprised that someone had noticed and then took the time to find out the reason for the so-called test. It turns out that the last civil defense siren siren left in Surrey is mounted on top of the roof of the building there. When it was a volunteer station, this horn was used to call firefighters to the hall when they were needed to help put out a burning building. There is even a push button signal behind glass at the front door where residents could summon the volunteers, which has not worked for years since pagers made it obsolete. The siren is no longer used for official purposes but Sunday night two members of the Surrey Fire Service were having retirement parties across the street at the Crescent Beach Legion...and that's kind of where the story started and ended. One of these men had just finished thirty years of service but never had the privilege of pushing the button and blowing the dust out of this relic. I met him across the street where he was easily identified by being the guy in the room with the biggest grin.

Having a fully functioning civil defense siren on the fire hall that services Crescent Beach and Ocean Park is an asset that can be used to improve public safety here. Ten years ago the Semiahmoo Peninsula Citizens for Public Safety (SPCPC) that subsequently became SmartRail, appeared before Surrey Council, proposing a siren system to be located near the BNSF tracks. The warning system would be used in the case of a derailment of dangerous goods requiring the evacuation of areas within 5 km. of the corridor. Considering the large number of blockages to both entrances to Crescent Beach that have happened recently, the explosive Bakken crude oil trains now rolling here plus large amounts of hazardous goods including chlorine gas, utilizing the alarm in case of a rail disaster would be prudent. After all, Surrey has nixed the plans for an underpass into Crescent Beach and the emergency evacuation phone alert system that was contemplated several years ago also got shelved. Why not use an emergency notification system that is already in place and working? In the case of a rail disaster here, the firefighters in Hall 12 would simply switch on the horn to alert residents to the need to turn on their TV's and radio's to find out about any evacuation plans. Simple, cost-effective and something that could be done tomorrow.

Of course the siren could instead be reserved for retirement parties or to warn of the upcoming zombie apocalypse (got that one from the firemen). While I like the sound of the last suggestion, since absolutely nothing has been done to improve the safety of Crescent Beach residents from hazardous goods on the BNSF trains, utilizing this siren in case of a railway disaster is a no-brainer. All it would take is to educate residents living in Crescent Beach and near the rail line that the siren means there are issues on the tracks and that an evacuation is warranted. Of course the other option is to continue to do nothing, for politicians to stick their heads in the sand at the beach and to keep cashing those paychecks for doing absolutely nothing for the folks now living next door to an industrial rail line carrying toxic chemicals along a slide prone bluff. At the very least, please rewire the red "ON" button next to the front door at Hall 12 so someone can turn the siren on manually if disaster strikes.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 26, 2016

Climate Change, Global Warming, Weather Disaster

 

It's funny watching the news media bring us instant reports from across the globe that is pumped into our living rooms on cable TV or via the internet on a plethora of news feeds (the "This is CNN" James Earl Jones/Darth Vader soundbite comes to mind). They touch base on the latest greatest story that often revolves around the bloody body count from the latest terrorist attack or the death toll from the latest natural or man made disaster. Often these stories depend to a large part on their location and if they are near a highly populated city or a mountainous wasteland far from civilization. It is only when you visit the epicenter of some of these disasters that you get a real appreciation for the magnitude of the damage that is often glossed over or missed by news organizations.

Case is point being our recent trip down to the coast of Mexico between Puerto Vallarata and Manzanillo. We often holiday in this part of the world that can be quickly reached by commercial airliner and which allows for a relatively inexpensive vacation in some amazing eco resorts. We were planning on booking our holiday last fall when word came of a small tropical depression that had increased in size to a Category 1 hurricane on Oct. 21. Fueled by record warm surface waters, it exploded in strength and grew to a monster Category 5 hurricane in just 24 hours. By October 23 it had developed an eye, established sustained winds of 325 km/h and dropped to a record low pressure of 879 mbar, making it the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. It set a new record globally for the strongest storm in terms of maximum sustained winds, maintaining its Category 5 strength for a total of 24 hours. Patricia made landfall in the Jalisco State on Ot. 24, luckily threading the needle between the populated cities of Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo and barreling into the low jungle forest between them near Costa Careyes. Fortunately due to mass evacuations and low overall populations in this rural area, only eight people were reportedly killed during this intense storm.

Unfortunately the two resorts we had planned to visit, Playas Paraiso and Punta Serena were both located in the region where the eye came ashore and sustained severe damage. It took weeks to restore proper communications and both resorts reported that they would be closed for several months to rebuild and clean up the mess left in Patricia's wake. We considered making alternate travel plans but decided to wait for the repairs to be completed and then visit to show our support and also check out what the power of a Category 5 hurricane could do to the landscape. I must admit that that size and scale of the damage surprised even us, with the jungle being a twisted and bent over moonscape for at least a hundred kilometers as we drove down the coast. Besides the strong winds and storm surge, heavy rainfall inland measuring 50 cm in some areas washed out culverts and roadways in many areas. Fields of banana plants were shredded and bent with large coconut palms stripped of their long fronds except for tufts of new growth sprouting from their ravaged tops.

The small resort of Playas Paraiso (www.playasparaiso.com) had managed to make many repairs and had reopened for the Christmas holiday season. Their 3.5 km. driveway took several days to clear just to reach the smashed buildings and damaged landscape. Owner Juan Lobos took us on a tour of the estate that borders two small turquoise bays, explaining the damage that had happened to the property. Most of the windows in the two houses had been blown out, roof tiles ripped off and roof beams blown apart like match sticks. The many thatched palapas and roof structures made from palm fronds had disappeared back into the jungle. Though there were still plenty of them left, over 60 coconut palm trees had blown down in the storm and were being reclaimed to make beams to replace those destroyed in the winds. Juan told us that his king sized bed mattress had been found 400 metres away up the hill in the bush. He laughed when I mentioned the 320 km/h winds, telling us that a nearby meteorological station had recorded winds of 405 km/h (250 mph) before it tore apart in the gale. In only two months, with a small army of workers they had restored the buildings and grounds to their former glory with the palm trees still needing to grow a few more new leaves.

Traveling a further 25 minutes south down the coast still in areas of blasted jungle, we made it to the amazing Punta Serena resort (www.puntaserena.com)that we have previously stayed at several times. Because of their exposed position on a large rock outcropping high above the bay, their property was heavily damaged and did not open until the New Year when extensive repairs and remodeling had taken place. Still as beautiful as ever, you could tell from markings on the windows which ones had been recently replaced. All of the palapas at the beach and up at the pool including the huge one over the restaurant were brand new. The most obvious sign of the hurricane's passing was the lower concrete hot tube situated on a cliff ridge had fallen 75 feet into the surf below, taking a sizable chunk of the rock face with it. Workers were busy while we were there working on a new tub perched on top of the cliff that offers views of the sunrises and sunsets over the water of the bay. Next door at the sister Blue Bay resort, an Italian restaurant and disco building closest to the shore looked like a bomb had hit it but it was being cleared of debris and is planned to be rebuilt. Early estimates are that Patricia caused nearly half a billion dollars Cdn damage to buildings, infrastructure and crops throughout the central part of Mexico.

With 2015 being the hottest year on record following 2014 of course and ocean effects like El Nino and the dreaded "blob", you have to wonder how long it will be before we get a Pacific storm that fuels up on warm water and clobbers our coast. While this summer's freak wind storm that shredded drought stricken trees with gusts of 90 km/h is still fresh in our minds, it was Typhoon Freda in 1962 that blew the shingles and siding off houses across Vancouver with sustained winds of 75 km/h and gusts to 145 km/h. Also known as the "Columbus Day Storm" or "The Big Blow", it caused damage, created mudslides and killed 43 people up the coast from California to Vancouver with $2 billion in damages in today's US dollars. Known as a extratropical wind storm, Typhoon Freda had winds in Oregon clocked at 179 mph, the level of a Category 3 hurricane. While I realize that this was 53 years ago, it is worth considering that the Jalisco state in Mexico had not experienced a hurricane in over 50 years either and nothing ever like Patricia. While everyone here worries about "The Big One", you might want to consider the effects of "The Big Blow 2" when buying roofing materials or planting large evergreen trees near your house.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

January 18, 2016


Bus Drivers Forced Into Danger

I must admit I've had my fair share of media coverage over time but last year's Translink Referendum protest that I dreamed up was the gift that keeps on giving. It was Monday, March 16 when Translink mailed the ballots for the referendum to increase their funding. With the day off for good behaviour, I decided it was time to shame the fat-cat bureaucrats running our public transportation system and the greedy Mayor's who wanted even more tax-payer dollars to pay for their hair-brained schemes. Utilizing white coreplast signs left over from the previous Surrey civic election and some white tarps I had scrounged from a sheet metal company, I created a 40 foot tall "NO" sign in the middle of the unused portion of the south Surrey Park & Ride lot.

Of course this was after I'd sent out a news release to a large number of media contacts, ensuring that this little stunt received as much publicity as possible. After all, I did not have the $6 million that Translink would spend on their "Yes" campaign and the piece of modern art I created cost me zero dollars and zero cents since it was all recycled materials. I called it my "Translink Big Fat NO" protest and several reporters showed up to chronicle the event including a television crew from Global TV who took overhead drone shot. I posted a video of myself walking by dressed in a Surrey shirt, carrying a City of Surrey flag and telling people not to give the wasteful brass at Translink any more of their hard earned money. You can see it on YouTube where it has garnered a underwhelming 739 views and counting at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KN7d2-kMDEo While it made the news that night, the clip of the Big Fat No has been played over and over on Global all year every time the Translink referendum came up.

This much maligned Translink Park & Ride lot at the intersection of Hwy. 99 and the KGB has seen plenty of press, almost all of it negative and justly well deserved. I was the first one to point out how this $4.5 million white elephant built by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for Translink would never be used for parking in my Nov. 25, 2013 TNT titled "Taxpayers Getting Steamrolled". This was followed on Feb. 26, 2014 when the Canadian Taxpayer Federation gave Translink a Golden Teddy award (its a gold painted pig actually) for wasteful government spending. I followed this up with another column in the WR Sun about how the pavement at the lot had sprung multiple leaks that would take more public money to fix in my May 26, 2014 TNT titled "Translink's New Park & Pool Lot." Simply scroll down into the archives to check out the previous The Naked Truths for the history behind this debacle before I plow into the latest Translink boondoggle involving their now infamous South Surrey Park & Ride lot.

The newest portion of this parking lot has long sat empty except for the occasional driver training, remote control car driving and Translink All-Stars road hockey game (find them on Facebook). That changed a few months back when a line of cars suddenly began parking in this deserted wasteland of asphalt close to the Hwy. 99 off ramp. It made no sense why a group of people would pay to park 275 metres away from the bus stop when there were still many open stalls at the old lot east of the KGB and close to the bus loop. I had my suspicions about who might be responsible and one day saw someone parking their car with the others already lined up in this out-of-the-way location. Wheeling my Jeep through the busy side by the bus loop and following the "More Parking" sign to the empty asphalt jungle, I drove up to confront the person busy securing his vehicle. It came as no surprise when I saw that he was wearing a Coast Mountain Bus Company jacket.

The vehicles you now see utilizing the new portion of the south Surrey Park & Ride lot are not paying customers but transit bus drivers. From what the man told me, Translink has instructed Coast Mountain Bus Company drivers to no longer park in the old well-used portion of the lot and instead put the far away empty lot to good use. I imagine the executives at Translink like finally having cars park in this lot where 367 stalls were usually empty. The drivers park along the far fence where their vehicles are under lights and visible to the traffic exiting off Hwy 99. The problem is that there are no security cameras anywhere on site and their vehicles are still a target with one driver having his truck stolen from there several months ago. Even more dangerous is he told me that drivers getting off shift at night must walk under the dimly lit KGB overpass where they often encounter young men spray painting graffiti or drinking beer beneath the bridge in an easily accessed covered area. The driver I talked to called the area "sketchy" after dark and expressed serious safety concerns about the new policy change especially for female drivers working late. Being a nice guy, I gave the driver a ride to the bus loop, saving him a long walk to work that daily totals half a kilometer.

Instead of worrying about optics, Translink should be more concerned with the safety of Coast Mountain Bus Company employees, not to mention exposing their vehicles to damage and theft. The south Surrey Park & Ride is a notorious crime spot where one of my employees had his Malibu sedan stolen and subsequently destroyed from this location several years ago. White Rock Sun editor Dave Chesney also knows of two people living in the Semi-pen who also had their cars ripped off from this lot over the past few years. I've seen Goodbye Graffiticrews painting over street art in this location many times over. Mandating bus drivers to park in an unsafe out-of-the-way location and forcing them to walk long distances when unnecessary and is something that needs to be challenged. I'm surprised that the bus driver's union has not stepped up to put a stop to this new practice that only fills a few stalls in the white elephant parking lot with cars. After all, its not like Translink is losing revenue since the original side is never full after they instituted the $2 parking fee the day the new lot was officially opened.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

JANUARY 11, 2016

Rich Man, Poor Man

 

I was fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of several Scratch & Wins, a Lotto Max and even a Show Home lottery ticket this Christmas and while I am still holding out hope on winning the White Rock mansion, the lottery tickets were a bust as usual. Thankfully the winds of fortune were in my sails and my ship came in, when only days later we received our 2016 Property Assessment Notice in the mail. While it was not Set For Life or Mega-Millions, the windfall was there in black and white with a $135,000 increase in property value for our home compared to 2015, which was double the hefty increase in estimated value for 2014. I grabbed the calculator and quickly figured out this year's rise corresponded to an increase of 16.75% over last year's estimated value. Sure beats the hell out of what Canada Savings Bonds were paying the last time I checked (1.2% in case you were wondering).

The numbers left me asking why I waste my time going to work since I would do just as well sitting around the house in my underwear drinking beer and watching Jerry Springer reruns. The increase on our property value equates to the value rising $370 for every day of the year! Of course I don't work every single day in servitude to my Masters of bills, mortgage and taxation so with weekends off, long weekends, holidays, a four day work week (10 hour days though), I calculated that for every day at work, the house jumped a staggering $720 each time I laced up the work boots, grabbed the lunch pail and headed out the door. Then of course you must consider that the increase in home value is tax free, CA-CHING! To bring home $720 for every day worked, I'd have to make well over a thousand dollars before the dreaded payroll deductions. I run several home based businesses but it is the house that is really bringing home the bacon these days without lifting a finger or breaking a sweat.

I'm obviously not alone in this huge real estate value jump for single family homes. Showing that the rich get richer, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson's Point Grey mansion went up 10.9% to almost $65 million, still good enough to win the title for the most expensive home in BC yet again. We knew that Vancouver prices were shooting skyward but the final numbers were beyond startling with the west side rising 23% to $1.94 million and the east stepping out at a 28% increase to a bargain basement price of only $1.27 million. According to BC Assessments, much of the Lower Mainland saw increases in value in the range of 15% to 20%, the Fraser valley saw increases of 5% to 20%, with south Surrey rising a modest 10% on average. Showing that west is best an east still least, White Rock west rose 14% to $1.27 million with the east lagging at 12% or $841.000. Total property assessments for Greater Vancouver were $630 billion, with the entire province of BC's nearly two million homes valued at $1.34 trillion (yes, that's with 12 zeros), an increase from last year into the double digits at 11.1 percent.

The issue with this red-hot housing market is that homes are becoming affordable to the average person. The influx of foreign capital, much of it from Asia, is flooding the market and resulting in multiple offers far in excess of the listing price. People offshore buying houses, not to live in or rent, but simply as vacant holding properties are helping to drive up the cost while creating ghost neighbourhoods and a lack of rental accomodation. My parents recently downsized from their log house on top of Chilliwack Mountain and while the people who bought their place paid under assessed value, they got nine offers and got a cool quarter million above their asking price for their house in south Delta, selling to a man from China. Two more of my folks neighbours houses also recently sold, one to an Iranian businessman who plans on using it as a cabin when in Vancouver (its a 4,500 sq. ft. log house worth over a million bucks) and the other went to a man from Indonesia who bought the home online without ever stepping foot onto the property let alone this country. Add our tail-spinning dollar down to a twelve year low of 70 cents and you can expect more foreign currency to flood our local housing market as the feeding frenzy continues.

If prices keep rising, some people will be forced to sell their houses simply because they can no longer afford the corresponding property tax increases. The letter of the day in Saturday's Vancouver Sun told of people looking to move with their property rising 34% in one year. Deferring property taxes is possible but this also eats into money possibly needed at a later date for expensive long-term care. The price jumps also push many above the ceiling for the homeowners grant, pegged at $1.1 million in 2015. The biggest question is how Surrey and White Rock City Hall's will adjust the Mill rate for the large increase in prices or if they will simply keep it set at last year's number and reap the financial reward off the backs of the tax payers. Watch for your property tax notice which should land at the door with a thud some time in May. It seems that some politicians here are finally taking notice of how skewed the real estate market has become with BC Finance Minister Mike DeJong announcing last week he had raised the home owner grant ceiling to $1.2 million. Even Vancouver's Mayor Moonbeam Gregor Robertson was brought down to earth by the assessment numbers and is now calling for a speculation and luxury home tax to cool the market that he now admits is "divorced from local incomes."

On a personal level, the extra $135,000 in my jeans should make for a nice bulge but unfortunately it comes with a price. I'm beginning to fear that my children will never be able to afford to purchase their own single family home in the Lower Mainland, even if the prices don't continue to climb. I was lucky in that I actually managed to move to and afford the Crescent Park neighbourhood that I wanted to live in since I was still in school. As luck would have it, I signed my new Last Will & Testament at the lawyers office last week, realizing that receiving my estate is likely the only way my kids would be able to scrape up the small fortune they'd likely need for a down payment. I'm estimating that my property taxes will likely be in the $300 a month range this year, showing that you never really own the land, you just rent it from the local government. That cost is okay now while my business is thriving but as I grow older and make retirement plans, will living in the Semiahmoo peninsula be unrealistic by that time? It may not matter because by then I'll likely be surrounded by empty mansions with the few folks actually living here not being able to speak English or read the White Rock Sun.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 04, 2016

 

Shaken, Not Stirred

 

I said shake rattle and roll
I said shake rattle and roll
I said shake rattle and roll
I said shake rattle and roll
Well you'll never do nothin'
To save your doggone soul
Lyrics from "Shake, Rattle and Roll, made famous by Bill Haley & His Comets

So there I was laying in bed last Tuesday night, almost asleep knowing that the alarm clock would go off in just over six hours when both my wife and I heard a loud bang that shook the house. My first thought was that it was someone attempting to break in, a natural reaction since we live in Surrey. The second idea that flashed through my head was that someone had drove a stolen car into the front of our house, again a natural reaction since we live in Surrey. Then when we started to feel the bed moving like someone had plugged a quarter into the Magic Fingers Relaxation Service box at a cheap King George Blvd. hotel that I realized that we were experiencing an earthquake. Resisting the urge to jump naked out of bed, adopt the "Hang 10" position and scream "surf's up!', I instead sat there and listened to the house creak and rattle while wondering how bad it was going to get. It didn't take long for things to quiet down and I quickly gave my amateur Richter Scale estimation of a mere 3.9 before drifting off to la-la-land.

Unfortunately my diagnosis didn't consider the epicenter only 17 km from Victoria or the depth of the quake, later calculated to be 50 km below the crust. The final earthquake rating was measured at 4.7 here by Earthquakes Canada or 4.9 across the line by the USGC. Far from the dreaded "THE BIG ONE" this put our latest shaker in the "Light" category along with the 30,000 others that occur across the planet on a yearly basis. While we rarely feel earthquakes, they are occurring across our province on a constant basis with many not even raising an eyebrow at various news services, often because of their remote locations. On the Earthquakes Canada website, they have a colour coded map featuring all of the earthquakes that have happened across the country in the past thirty days including a map of Western Canada. Take a second to visit it at the following link (earthquakescanada.nrcan.gc.ca/) and you will be amazed at just how many quakes happen in our mountainous province, most in the 2 to 3 Richter range. What is hard to fathom is that last week's shaker off Victoria was the fifth earthquake in BC measuring 4 or more in December alone.

My very first experience with an earthquake here was when my family had first moved to Richmond back in the mid 1960's (damn, I just dated myself). I remember waking up from a jolt that shook the house so strongly I was certain that King Kong had picked it up and dropped it. These are the things that go through a young child's mind when woken from sleep with the house shaking. While it did not do any damage, the tremor was strong enough to leave crack marks in the soil of my dad's garden bed. The next dare I say big one (notice no capitals) that I experienced was the Ash Wednesday earthquake in Nisqually near Seattle measured at 6.8 which caused billions of dollars in damage across the Puget Sound region of Washington State. By chance I was once again in Richmond but have to admit I felt nothing since I was walking near the Fraser River at the time. What clued me into the event was an elderly lady coming up to me and asking "Can you please tell me why my car won't stop moving?" By the time I'd figured out her vehicle was turned off and an earthquake responsible for the rocking, people started appearing on the balconies of a nearby apartment all yelling "Did you feel that?"

Around here it is the threat of a megathrust earthquake on the Cascadia Subduction Zone that is the cause for most worry among geologists and emergency services personnel. It is the 800 mile long stretch of fault line running from Oregon to BC where the Juan De Fuca plate meets the North American plate in an oceanic trench, just west of Vancouver Island in these parts. The last time there was a major earthquake here was on Jan. 26, 1700 based on carbon dating and Japanese Tsunami records. At an estimated strength of 8.7 to 9.2 it rates as the seventh strongest known recorded earthquake. Scientific study of deposits in coastal mudflats along our coast has revealed that these megathrust quakes occur on intervals averaging every 500 to 600 years with some as few as 100 to 300 years apart. While living in the Lower Mainland has its rewards, unfortunately it comes with a danger that we have not seen since the mouth of the Fraser was first visited by Europeans. I don't want to fear-monger but when the inevitable day comes that there is a margin rupture in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, you can expect an earthquake similar to the Boxing Day quake at Indonesia in 2004 or the more recent Japanese quake on March 11, 2011 that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Besides five minutes or more of intense shaking, expect tidal waves 10-25 m. high across parts of the Pacific Ocean.

As usual, people get all excited about "THE BIG ONE" for a few days and then quickly forget about the threat and go about their everyday lives. Around these parts, having an earthquake preparedness kit should be as natural as having an umbrella to guard against the rain or sunscreen for down at White Rock beach. Earlier this week there was a great article in the WR Sun about a do it yourself emergency kit contained in a five gallon plastic bucket. It is still posted on the main page of the WR Sun or you can find it online at the following link (http://fivegallonideas.com/emergency-kit/). The Canadian Red Cross also has instructions on how to pack a disaster preparedness kit on their website at (http://www.redcross.ca/how-we-help/emergencies-and-disasters-in-canada/for-home-and-family/get-a-kit). Of course you can also purchase ready made kits for home, car or office online from a variety of emergency suppliers. A great resource about earthquakes here is the Cascadia Regional Earthquake Workgroup Crew (http://www.crew.org/earthquake-information/history-of-earthquakes-in-cascadia) that deals with the Cascadia Subduction Zone threat. Remember the lyrics from "Shake, Rattle & Roll" and take the time "to save your doggone soul" with last week's tremor hopefully shaking you out of your complacency.

THE BIG ONE may not happen in our lifetime or it may occur tomorrow but when it does it will be a major event in the history of the Pacific Northwest, one that may take decades to recover from. The only blessing living here in the Semiahmoo peninsula is that with Vancouver Island acting as a breakwater, it is expected that any Tsunami effects from the quake will only result in a wave 0.5-1 m. high here, meaning a low probability for flooding even in the low lying regions along Marine Drive in White Rock, Crescent Beach and the diked farming areas of Mud Bay. After all the doom and gloom, the sky is falling and the boy who cried wolf rhetoric, there's nothing like ending a TNT on a positive note.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 28, 2015


White Rock Craziness - It's The Water (Part 2)

Gee, and I thought I was the only person here who liked to give out Christmas presents (see my last TNT "Christmas Gift List 2015" below if you missed it). Not to be outdone, White Rock Mayor Baldwin announces that city staffers have decided to use chloramine to disinfect the city water supply. You don't have to jog very far down memory lane to the days when the artesian tap water of White Rock was a source of civic pride. I must admit that on several occasions I took empty carboys there to fill up with natural spring water to use for making home brew beer. Besides the high mineral content that was good for ales, the lack of chlorine made for better yeast growth shortening the brewing cycle. Then came the E. coli scare in 2010 with pigeon poop getting into the water system through the roof of the Merklin resevoir and Fraser Health mandating that chlorine be added to ensure proper disinfection even though not one person got sick. Now the decision has been made to use chloramine, a combination of chlorine and ammonia to ensure better water quality and less staining from manganese that is naturally present in the well water. I'm sure the owners of bottled water companies like Canadian Springs must be busy writing a thank you letter to City Hall for all the new customers they will soon be receiving. Look for their fleet of bright blue delivery vehicles to be joining the parade of private garbage trucks now roaming the streets of the Rock.

I have to chuckle as this topic takes me back to the second TNT that I ever wrote for the White Rock Sun way back on July 27, 2009 titled "White Rock Craziness - It's The Water." It questioned whether bizarre decisions made by power brokers at City Hall were being influenced by possible DMHO contamination of the water system. This tongue-in-cheek piece is still available online simply by scrolling down to the archived columns and heading way down into the basement to find it. Well worth the read, it brings to mind the famous quote "The more things change the more they stay the same." To be truthful, I considered simply copying the column from then and reprinting it here, adding a few notes updating it for the chloramine addition to the tap water. While this was rather appealing for its time savings in writing this column with a Christmas turkey hangover, it would have done a great disservice to the residents of White Rock considering that this is no laughing matter. Metro-Vancouver uses chlorine to disinfect their water system for a reason, because chloramine is much more dangerous to the environment and possibly to people.

The local Concerned Citizens Against Chloramine Committee group may have to be resurrected but 25 years ago the CCACC were busy appearing before Councils across the Lower Mainland. Their goal was to put pressure on local governments to stop the Greater Vancouver Water District (GVWD) plans of using chloramine to disinfect our drinking water. While both chlorine and chloramine are toxic to fish and aquatic life, chloramine degrades much more slowly, increasing the odds of a fish kill if this water is released into the environment. This can happen from water main breaks or leaks, watering lawns and vegetable gardens, washing cars and streets, accidental spills, fire fighting, storm sewer outfalls and commercial uses. Back in 1988 the GVWD operated a pilot project in South Surrey using chloramine to disinfect the water supply there for 70,000 residents. Two water main breaks in 1989 and 1990 flooded Fergus Creek with chloramine treated water resulting in large fish kills of fry in this salmon-bearing tributary. This resulted in the city of Surrey being fined for the damage and made to pay for river enhancement and salmonoid restocking. It was these sanitizings of Fergus Creek that led the GVWD to proceed with chlorine and not chloramine as the primary disinfectant of the surface water from the mountain watersheds that feed Lower Mainland pipes.

I could go into the long list of problems and health issues associated with the use of chloramine but instead would direct you to the Citizens Concerned About Chloramine (CCAC) from San Francisco, no relation to our CCACC except for their focus. Since you are already online, simply go to chloramine.org (click here) to read the eight pages of facts associated with chloramine and its use as a water disinfectant. If you live in White Rock I would strongly advise you to take the time to read this entire document and advise your neighbours to do the same. What all of this data shows is that there needs to be much more research into the health effects of chloramine as little study has been done to date. Because it is a known respiratory and skin irritant plus not easily removed from tap water, chloramine has been banned for use in public water systems in France, Germany and much of Europe. Unlike chlorine that evaporates from tap water or can be quickly boiled off, chloramine is difficult to remove requiring an activated charcoal filter followed by a reverse osmosis filtration system. You can forget about using your Brita to remove chloramine from your drinking water as it doesn't work plus there is no shower head chloramine filter available on the market, meaning you will have to wash with this chemical vaporizing in the confines of your shower stall.

At the end of the day, it will be up to White Rock residents whether they allow the rash decision to use chloramine for water disinfection in the City By The Sea to stand. The environmental risks are well known as showcased by the fish kills on nearby Fergus Creek in Surrey over 25 years ago. The health effects need to be investigated further with respiratory problems, skin disorders, digestive problems plus liver and kidney issues being well documented. For anyone on home kidney dialysis or utilizing the dialysis machines at the PAH, these life-saving machines cannot use chloraminated water because it will cause hemolytic anemia. For those people with fish ponds on their property or aquariums in their houses, now might be a good time to invest in a rainwater catch basin. The White Rock Beach Beer company will either have to install an expensive water filtration system or close its doors and move into Surrey as the chloramine in the water will work to kill the yeast in their beers. If the plan really is to revert back to chlorine once the manganese problem from the wells has been rectified, then maybe White Rockers should be willing to put up with some staining in their toilets until then instead of risking the health of the people and the environment.

One thing is for sure, as long as White Rock is the only city in the Lower Mainland using chloramine in their water ("A-butts-turd" relies on it in the Fraser Valley farm belt), there will be people who will not want to move here for that very reason. For me having chloraminated tap water is right up there with living next to high voltage power lines or under airport runway flight paths. While the artesian well water in White Rock used to be an attractive selling feature, the addition of chloramine to the water supply is a deterrent to investment and a headache for businesses where this chemical needs to be removed. For a tourist town that seemingly prides itself on its close association to the marine environment, adding chloramine to the water supply makes about as much sense as cutting down the forest on the Hump hillside. I know that I will not be drinking White Rock tap water and also avoiding restaurant businesses down on Marine Drive that serve it free of charge to unsuspecting diners. A decision of this magnitude needs to be made with the wishes of the citizens of White Rock in mind and if they don't want chloramine in their drinking water, it shouldn't be shoved or poured down their throats. After all folks we live in a democracy, not a dictatorship.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

Dec. 21, 2015

Christmas Gift List 2015

 


If there's one thing I love about Christmas it's the annual traditions and in the White Rock Sun this holiday spirited 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.

Cliff Annable/ Executive Director of the SS/WR Chamber of Commerce - A measuring tape and a copy of the Guinness book of World Records so he can show his good buddy Wayne Baldwin that White Rock's historic seaside dock is indeed the longest wooden pier in Canada.

Wayne Baldwin, Mayor of White Rock - A bright pink shirt and a copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for censuring Councillor Dave Chesney over a comment written by yours truly that was posted in the White Rock Sun. Freedom of thought and expression plus freedom of the press are important, even in a small town like White Rock.

Dario Bartoli & Hudson Brooks - In the first posthumous Christmas present in the TNT, justice for both of these young men. For 15 year-old Dario who was murdered in Bakerview Park just over a year ago, a call to Crimestoppers with info about the killers. For 20 year-old Hudson Brooks, the release of the Independent Investigations Office report on his fatal shooting at the South Surrey RCMP Detachment.

Randy Caine, entrepreneur - For the man who brought both Hempyz Gifts, Novelties and More to town followed by the ReLeaf Compassion Centre, the keys to storefront medicinal marijuana dispensaries in both White Rock and Surrey free from political posturing or police interference, just like in the trendy cappuccino sipping city of Vancouver.

Dave Chesney, White Rock Councilor - Just to prove that I don't play favourites this time of year, a package of Johnsonville Brats and a pair of men's Lululemon yoga pants size small that should fit perfectly with ill-advised comments made on the Goddard Report. For the other Dave Chesney who is the editor of the White Rock Sun, the keys to the city.

Joy Davies, ex-Liberal candidate - For the lady who was thrown under Justin Trudeau's Liberal election bus for pro-pot comments and removed from the ballot here prior to the Federal election, membership in a truly green party; the Green Party of Canada with leader Elizabeth May. Unfortunately getting elected might require a move to Vancouver Island.

Helen Fathers, WR Councillor - For the woman who is the moral compass of White Rock, a GPS unit to keep her on the straight and narrow during turbulent times. Can also be used to show White Rock Coalition Councillors the boundaries of the OCP that doesn't allow for 20+ story towers on former EPCOR lands along Oxford Street.

Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators goaltender - This NHLer from White Rock got his Christmas present 10 days early when he was recalled to the Sens almost a month after suffering a concussion during practice. As a stocking stuffer, another storybook Cup run like last year and a chance to drink champagne from Lord Stanley's mug.

Linda Hepner, Mayor of Surrey - A new shooting range in Surrey so firearm enthusiasts in her community can practice their marksmanship. I'd suggest the stretch of 128 St. from 64 Ave. to 80 avenue. in Newton where much of the lead from an ongoing gangland turf war is flying. As a stocking stuffer a new City of Surrey motto, "Give it Your Best Shot."

Russ Hiebert, former SS/WR MP - A "Gold Rush" scratch and win lottery ticket from the BC Lottery Corp. It doesn't matter if he wins or not as we got to watch Russ ride off into the sunset of his political career with a gold-plated pension from Ottawa jingling and jangling in his saddlebags. Hi-Ho Silver, Awayyy!

Judy Higginbotham, Liberal candidate - A two week holiday in Ottawa hanging with the Trudeau's so she can reminisce about what might have been if she was the SS/WR Liberal candidate from the onset of the Federal election campaign. Instead Judy was a late-comer to the Harper heave-ho that saw the Liberals sweep the rest of the Surrey ridings.

Pixie Hobby, NDP candidate - In the spirit of the season and with her political persuasion in mind, a box of Japanese Mandarin oranges to share with friends in Crescent Beach. If you didn't get it the first time, read this again slowly while waiting for the "ah-ha" moment.

Gordie Hogg, MLA SS/WR - Flood insurance and home renovations after a neighbour's above ground pool collapsed this summer filling the Hogg's basement with water. I would have suggested a Koi fish pond for the house but I heard he'd already turned his indoor basketball court into one.

Dennis Lypka, White Rock Council candidate - A truck load of packing boxes as he gives up on White Rock and moves from his ocean view penthouse in the Bel-Air tower to the Morgan Creek Golf course in south Surrey. As a going-away present a T-shirt printed with "Living in Surrey Means Never Having to Say You're White Rock."

Dennis Maskall, Railway Safety Inspector - For this Transport Canada employee that oversaw many forced safety improvements along the promenade in White Rock last year, a "Landslide Detector Fence" along the bottom of the Hump hillside after doing nothing to stop White Rock from clearing trees from the steep slide prone slope above the BNSF tracks.

Gus Melonas, BNSF Railway Spokesperson - With the Fraser Surrey Docks being given approval from Port Metro Vancouver to export four million tons of US coal to China, a smoking chunk of coal for his stocking. As a bonus, a railroad trip through Beijing without a surgical mask to enjoy the "Red Alert" smog from all the outdated coal-fired power stations.

Marty Vanderzalm, Way-To-Grow businessman - To this proud Surreyian who formed "Friends of Old Canada", a big Canadian Maple Leaf flag to fly next to the carved wooden beaver at the entrance to the "Mud Bay Village" Art Knapps store. If the last name sounds familiar, yes he is a relative of the former Mayor of Surrey and ex-Premier of BC.

Dianne Watts, MP for SS/WR - A deadbolt door lock so she can feel safe in her bedroom from the ever present threat of Jihadist terrorists and "Surreyian" immigrants. Also a sun lamp for the dark days that this star Conservative candidate, now brought down to earth, has to spend on the Official Opposition benches as a member of the shadow cabinet.

White Rock Coalition Councillors Megan Knight, Bill Lawrence, Grant Meyers & Lynn Sinclair - For the very first time a group gift is needed for members of the White Rock Coalition. Chainsaws for everyone and a wood chipper to share for those that allowed the Hump hillside forest to be chopped down all along the beach. Also a copy of the novel "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" to read when they can't sleep at night.

Merry Christmas everyone and have a happy New Year planning your safe ride home.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Editors Note:

Present for Don? Careful what you ask for!

 

 

December 14, 2015


$lope $tability $tupidity

photos courtesy John B Vye

It isn't easy to find but if you visit the City of White Rock website, hit the "Council & Committees" tab, scroll down the Council Meetings page and click on the 2015 Agendas and Minutes, it will take you to the Dec. 14 meeting notice. There are three downloads listed, the "Meeting Notice" detailing yet another behind doors in-camera meeting, the "Special" that adopts minutes from previous special meetings before going in-camera, and "Regular" that lists the whopping 156 pages of notes and reports being dealt with during Monday night's Council meeting. If I haven't already bored you asleep or you're just coming back with a Gravol pill and bottle of Pepto Bismol in hand, don't worry as I'm finally getting to the old nitty gritty. Scrolling down to page 31 you will come across a very interesting Corporate Report from Greg St. Louis, White Rock's Director of Engineering titled "Marine Drive Hump Slope Stability and Vegetation Removal Project Update." To make it easy, here is the direct link (Click Here) and look for page 31.

If you live in White Rock and thought that spiel was nauseating, you might want to pop that Gravol and wash it back with a good slug of that chaulky pink bubblegum medicine because once you read this Corporate Report detailing the clear-cutting of the Hump you'll probably want to blow a fuse, blow a gasket or maybe all of the above. It turns out that the work to flatten the hillside has now morphed into a three year plan that has been split into two sections, retaining wall work and vegetation removal. It details how the retaining wall work is now complete and how "a significant amount of vegetation was removed to gain access to the walls to inspect and perform the work." Really I didn't notice the new moonscape beside the promenade. Its interesting when you consider that the retaining wall work was completed at the top of the hillside and yet for reasons unknown they needed to cut down almost every tree and shrub between Marine Drive and the BNSF tracks across the entire Stump, I mean Hump.

The report goes on to state their geotechnical consultant found trees previously topped with significant decay, making one wonder why White Rock topped many trees near the pier several years ago during their first view improvement project? With concern over slope stability where the latest trees have been cut down, the slope was then hydroseeded this summer with a seed mixture, somehow thinking that grass and small plants would hold the steep slope better than the roots of mature stable trees. This explains why they were strangely watering the hill with sprinklers this summer during the drought. Even more disturbing was their admission that "there were a significant number of trees removed along the slope that were leaning downslope or had 'pistol butt' trunks indicating a possible slope creep." This should have come as no surprise since the sidewalk railings on Marine Drive that were replaced five years ago were leaning towards the beach at a 10-20 degree angle. Cutting down trees that indicate soil movement is sheer madness since their roots bind the soil and they remove moisture from the earth through evapotranspiration increasing slope stability.

A historical picture taken from the White Rock pier circa 1920 shows a large lateral slump slide 150 feet long and approximately 10 feet high where the entire hillside slumped closest to West beach soon after it was last clear cut. This photo also includes four other vertical slides on the Hump, several which are now plainly visible since the trees were cut down. The Mayor and his clear-cut councilors should know about it as it sits in a photo album on the front desk of city hall. The latest Hump report details a fresh lateral slide recently found measuring 100 feet long by 8 feet high close to the Totem poles on West Beach. Calling it a "potential slope failure zone", the city advised the BNSF Railway of their concern and immediately stopped work in the area. While this entire project has been sold on the merits of slope stability, it is worth noting that the report states "No additional trees will be removed in this area until BNSF determines their course of action." Funny how they leave trees near this new slide area for slope stability but yet everywhere else cutting the trees somehow reduces the slide risk to Marine Drive and the railway tracks below?

All of these troubling details aside, it is the accounting in this report that should cause the most consternation for the tax payers of White Rock who already pay a third more taxes than those living in south Surrey. The Marine Drive retaining wall replacement was budgeted in 2015 for $225,000, with city staff projecting a savings of $75,000 from lower than expected construction costs. The so-called "Marine Drive Hump Slope Stability and Vegetation Replacement" costs are $150,000 (less $29,000 in savings taken from the construction) for this year, with a further $80,000 in 2016 and $90,000 in 2017 for more consulting, vegetation removals and replanting. In total a whopping $320,000 is being spent to clear cut the Hump and replace the forest with scraggy shrubs that likely will not provide the slope stability afforded by the mature forest that originally stood there. The lonely "Eagle Tree" will remain, sticking out high above White Rock beach like a sore thumb.

The hilarious part about this fiasco is that this land is owned by the BNSF Railway and when the draft of the Vegetation Management Plan for the Hump is finally complete, the city will still need the BNSF's approval before they commence the work. Instead of blowing nearly a third of a million tax payers dollars on this project, maybe someone at City Hall could have have asked the BNSF to pay for improvements to the land that they own. After all, its not like Warren Buffet who owns the BNSF and is worth an estimated $45 billion couldn't afford a little landscaping bill. The $320,000 spent on Railway land is certainly less than the $400,000 that White Rock now pays to the Railway annually for their parking lot lease along Marine Drive. You should know that in 2008 the city negotiated a $50,000 reduction in their waterfront lease payment in exchange for various upgrades provided at that time on BNSF property. Was someone asleep at the switch for not asking for a discount this time around?

Until this absurd, bizarre and unnecessary project is completed and for many years afterwards while the replanting roots take hold, it is likely the Hump hillside will be under a significantly higher landslide threat especially during heavy rains like what we have recently experienced. Any forester, arborist, engineer or geologist worth his salt knows that bigger tree roots dramatically increase the shear strength of steep hillsides reducing the slide risk. The Hump hillside should not have been clear cut and large trees need to be part of any replanting plan even if I have to install them myself. If a landslide from the Hump happens in the future and a passing train is derailed or people hurt, I'd like to know who will be held accountable so the RCMP can file charges for this crime against Mother Nature that defies simple common sense.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 07, 2015


Tall Trees Make For Great Neighbours

Advice From a Tree

Stand tall and proud
Go out on a limb
Remember your roots
Drink plenty of water
Be content with your natural beauty
Enjoy the view!
(Shortened version of Ilan Shamir's poem "Advice From a Tree.")

 

Last week's TNT was supposed to feature arboristic issues from three different neighbourhoods but after seeing the deforestation devastation on the newly renamed "Stump" hillside in White Rock, that part of the story took centre stage. Looking to branch out and go out on a limb, here is the rest of that subject that hopefully won't leaf me barking up the wrong tree.

Growing up in North Delta long ago when it truly was "the sticks" I had plenty of time to explore the second growth forests that at the time was all around our neighbourhood. This included what is now the Watershed Park and the various gulleys that drained from the hillside into Burns bog. Besides the various animals roaming the bush and aquatic life swimming in the creeks and streams, it was the really big trees that I found fascinating and searched them out in long hikes through the deep woods. It was likely this connection with nature that led me into a career in the horticulture field, interest in landscaping, naturism and environmental conservation. My eco-conciousness tinges my politics with a shade of Green and helps to steer the selection of topics for this weekly column in the WR Sun.

When I purchased my first home in Brookswood, Langley, part of the draw was the property that had Western Red cedars with trunks that measured four feet across. Our lot backed onto the ravine with Anderson Creek that was host to a wide array of wild animals, bald eagles that flew through our yard and six foot wide cedars down close to the water's edge. A short walk upstream was a grove of Douglas Firs that the loggers had missed a century before with multiple trunks between six and eight feet across, sort of like a small Cathedral Forest on Vancouver Island. Here in Crescent Park, besides being walking distance to the ocean, the presence of large conifers creates a park-like atmosphere. Unfortunately the way things are going with the rapid pace of redevelopment and construction of monster houses on relatively small plots of land, the canopy is being cut down faster than an excavator can bulldoze its way through an old summer cottage.

Case in point is the property just around the corner from where I live that earlier had an old rancher moved off the lot by Nickel's Bros. Moving. It was ringed with large Douglas Firs, many with trunks two feet in diameter. As I drove by one day, there in the front yard was a logging truck loading up the lumber that had been felled from the lot. While there were seven trees of size still standing mostly on Surrey boulevard property, seven others weren't so lucky and in a few days their stumps had been dug out and piled near the road. Just like that half of the tree canopy in this yard that had been growing for decades was suddenly gone. This got me thinking that maybe on lots with mature trees that the size of the house should be related to the area that would not mean the mass removal of trees. While they say bigger is better and more is best, I have to wonder why we now need to build 5,000 square foot houses for only two people to live in?

I'm not the only one questioning the developer's practice of clear-cutting trees allowing for the biggest mansion possible. There are now people who will not live in White Rock because it is becoming devoid of trees and life with stucco houses jammed so close together that if you fart you have to say "excuse me" to your neighbour. I doubt that the recent razing of much of the "Stump" hillside above the White Rock boulder will impress those looking for a more natural lifestyle. In Brookswood and Fernridge in the Township of Langley, Council enacted a tree bylaw in 2014 prohibiting the clear-cutting of lots, limiting tree removal to eight trees or twenty percent of the trees on the parcel of land, whichever is less. Adding some teeth, those convicted of violating the bylaw by damaging or removing protected trees face a fine between $500 and $10,000 per tree. Needless to say, with these serious fines they are not having a problem with builders hacking and slashing from property line to property line to their heart's content.

A little closer to home in the Kwomais Point neighbourhood, residents there are looking to downsize homes, preserving the character of their neighbourhood and save stands of tall trees favoured by eagles. In September, the City of Surrey responding to a petition from 148 area residents passed a bylaw that switched zoning for a portion of Ocean Park between 128 and 126A streets, south from 16 Avenue from single-family residential (RF) to comprehensive-development (CD). This change reduced the maximum size of houses permitted on the 5,000-sq. ft. lots to 2,600 square feet and limited height to 26.5 feet for a house with a steeply-sloping roof with outbuildings more than 16.5 feet high.. This effectively "downzoned" the area in order to preserve trees and stop the construction of out-of-place "monster homes." Now another ten blocks near Kwomais Point Park with close to 200 lots located between 128 and 130 Streets from 14 Ave. south to the bluff received the support of seventy-five per cent of residents for downzoning and is expected to go to a public hearing next spring.

Integral to this change was the formation of two Facebook pages, the "Kwomais Point Neighbourhood" and the "Ocean Park Neighbors" that have drawn residents together to fight to keep this corner of the Semiahmoo peninsula heavily treed with big evergreens. If you regularly travel through Ocean Park you might have seen one of the many "Big Trees - Not Big Houses in Ocean Park" posters adorning bus shelters, hydro poles and letter boxes. Through regular postings and photos of clear-cut destruction, these FB pages have helped rally concerned citizens to try and preserve the environment that drew many to this little corner of south Surrey. On Wednesday Dec. 9 at 7 p.m., there is a community meeting at the historic Ocean Park Community Hall at 1577 128 St. with representatives from the City of Surrey coming out to answer questions and address concerns about the possible rezoning application for this other portion of Ocean Park. If you'd like to learn how you can "microzone" your neighbourhood and stop the clear-cutting of trees, put a hold on your Christmas shopping for one night and plan on attending.

 

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

November 30, 2015

White Rock, City By The C.C.


Sign of the times along the White Rock promenade

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 for Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi")

 

It is getting to the point that I'm afraid to drive into little old White Rock, which is saying something when you consider I live in the big city of Surrey. I tend to avoid Marine Drive with its stop and go traffic jams, over-priced pay parking lots and over-zealous by-law officers, preferring a more peaceful and relaxing experience at Crescent Beach or the nearby Crescent Rock naturist beach. While Crescent Rock unfortunately has the same BNSF Railway running along it with long coal trains, mixed freight and the Amtrak, what it does have is a heavily forested bluff complete with towering Douglas Fir evergreens that are a magnet for bald eagles. The mature trees are a natural nesting site and I have personally witnessed over 25 eagles soaring in the thermals over the hillside during the spring mating season and over 120 of these majestic birds sitting on the sand bars in the early summer. Living only minutes walk from the ocean, we often hear eagles cackling cries in the skies above and also get them soaring low through the neighbourhood. The Hancock Wildlife Foundation (hanockwildlife.org) may list the Semiahmoo eagle cam as being in White Rock but make no mistake, it is located at Ocean Park in big bad Surrey.

Log pile plus clear-cut devastation on the Hump

The assault on the forested slope of what used to be " the Hump" hillside by the White Rock Mayor and the merry band of clear-cut councilors is just about complete after the chain saws and wood chippers suddenly roared into action again last week. I have chronicled this continued destruction of trees there over the past six years that I have penned The Naked Truth for the White Rock Sun; read 'em and weep folks. In every column I write on this subject there are less and less trees and bigger and bigger piles of logs left at the side of the road or stacked beside the train tracks. The year 2015 will go down as the year of the clear-cut with almost a third of the Hump being hacked down in May and another third leveled last week. You can expect the merry band of lumberjacks to continue clearing their way to the East Beach totem poles in the near future, hopefully not mistaking them as tall stumps when they get there. While a few small token trees may be left standing so that I doesn't classify as a complete clear cut, the stately "Eagle Tree" will be left standing erect like a huge phallic symbol to Mayor "Bald-win" and his clear-cut cronies who seemingly have a raging hard-on for the Hump, Councilors Lynn Sinclair and Megan Knight included. I measured this big fir tree this weekend and can report that it is 40" in diameter and marked with a tree tag from Diamond Head Consulting (#788 for the record), the same firm that White Rock has rather laughingly contracted to prepare its Urban Forest Management Plan for the next 20 years.

The Eagle Tree trunk, measuring 40 inches across

Unfortunately all of the "Hawk Trees", "Owl Trees", "Stellar Jay Trees", "Songbird Trees" and even the lowly "Crow Trees" on the Hump did not have the same yellow plastic numbered tokens and they were methodically and efficiently chopped down by loggers masquerading as arborists. The smaller ones, mainly alder, wild cherry and maple averaged around a foot in diameter with many two foot wide stumps found across the steep hillside. I noted three stumps Big Leaf Maple not far from the "Eagle Tree" that measured an average of three feet across and even found the largest remains of any tree on the slope, a giant Western Red Alder that measured a whopping four feet across. I should also note that many of these stumps were from healthy trees showing no sign of central rot or decay in them, only solid healthy wood from side to side. White Rock's staff report indicating that the tree and vegetation removal on the Hump was "required to repair the retaining walls that support slope stability and rail safety" should be stuffed into a shredder as an offensive lie. The creosoted ties adjacent to the metal walls have been covered over with wire and shot-creted with concrete, something that was apparently done from Marine Drive above and judging from the footprints on the ground around them likely needed only minimal clearance for crews to perform.

Three foot wide Big Leaf Maple stump on Hump

 

Taken from White Rock's Environmental Advisory Committee's meeting from this summer, here is their new Community Urban Forest Vision Statement 2015:
"Defined by its health and functioning habitat, White Rock's urban forest provides an interconnected network of greenspaces, treed corridors and natural areas. Creating a strong connection to nature, the urban forest strengthens the ecology of the urban environment and helps to reduce and clean storm water run off, improve air quality, capture carbon and cool the city. With its urban forest, White Rock is a resilient coastal oasis that provides sanctuary for people, plants and wildlife."
What an absolute crock of steaming crap! You can hope that by telling a lie over and over, people will one day start to believe it but in the end actions speak louder than words. The clearing of the Hump hillside shows the total disconnect that Mayor Baldwin and his "condolition" slate have towards nature, the environment and most importantly, the beach. The Hump is now a scar, a blight, a disaster, a mess, a disgrace, an abomination and a prime example of the cancer that is eating away at the city's image. While the "creme de la phlegm" on Marine Drive may be tickled pink with their now unobstructed views of the pier, the view back from the pier seen by millions of people now shows an ugly clear-cut as a backdrop to the famed white boulder. They may as well put in their previously planned concrete parking lot there at the Hump so they can all join hands and sing that famous Big Yellow Taxi song by Joni Mitchell.

Four foot wide Red Alder tree stump on Hump

It is not like White Rock doesn't know that they already have a problem with a lack of urban tree canopy and deforestation as the following is their "Problem Statement" released by the Environmental Committee.
"As compared with the North American average (27%), the City of White Rock's urban canopy cover stands at 19%. Aerial imagery measured between 1997 and 2014 shows that substantial canopy loss has occurred in White Rock's urban area declining from 25% to 19%. Approximately 1% of that loss has occurred on public right of way typically due to removal of front yard trees on public right of way at time of new development. The remaining drop of 5% has occurred on private land due to in large part to redevelopment requiring removal of existing trees and often not providing adequate permeable surface or soil volume for tree replacements. Currently tree assets, biodiversity and green infrastructure are not as well integrated into the City's planning and management processes as compared to other infrastructure assets and services."
Really, who would have guessed? The first part of solving a problem is to admit that you have one. The sad thing is that the clear cutting of the Hump over the past six years has only exacerbated this problem, likely dropping the urban cover stand count even lower. Yet even still, they just keep on cutting down more and more trees.

It remains to be seen if any Bald eagles will now bother perching on the one large tree left standing on the slope above the White Rock. If they do, it will probably be with a tear in their eye as they look down at the needless and unnecessary destruction caused by man. It may be that with all of the other trees cut down they avoid it like the plague not wanting to appear as a proverbial sitting duck. In that case, I believe the famed "Eagle Tree" might need a new name and with the prevalence of gulls in the area, "Seagull Tree" might be a little more appropriate. The "Hump", which of course is slang for fornication, also needs a name upgrade with all of the logging that has gone on and I can't think of a more endearing title than the "Stump". Yes, the "Seagull tree" on the "Stump" hillside would certainly put the truth in advertising on any glossy brochure for the "City By The C-C" (think Clear-Cut). Remember folks that councilors Fathers and Chesney were not part of this debacle that was brought to you by Mayor Baldwin and councilors Knight, Lawrence, Meyers and Sinclair. The original presentation to council was listed as nothing more than "vegetation control."

Funny but I didn't see "clear-cutting the Hump" as one of their campaign promises during the last election. I guess that must have been quietly discussed at a private party with White Rock's elite instead of being announced to John Q. Public.

Naturally yours,
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 Grateful 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:
http://www.whiterockcity.ca/assets/City~Services/Documents/Water/2015-10-22%20Asset%20Purchase%20Agreement%20-%20Redacted.pdf


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 (https://killc51.ca/) 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 (sakebc.ca) 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 artisansakemaker.dreamhosters.com. The Alcohol Professor blog has a great in-depth article about Mr. Shiroi available at the link http://www.alcoholprofessor.com/blog/2014/05/13/masa-shiroki-knows-sake/. 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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhIf1K6YwlE 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

TODAY IS FEDERAL ELECTION DAY, POLLS ARE OPEN FROM 7 AM TO 7 PM.
EXERCISE YOUR DEMOCRATIC RIGHT AS A CITIZEN OF CANADA AND VOTE

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 change.org 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 change.org 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:
https://www.change.org/p/mayor-surrey-ca-mayor-hepner-city-of-surrey-b-c-canada-mayor-hepner-city-of-surrey-b-c-mayor-hepner-please-save-riverside-golf-redesign-city-s-plans-to-keep-our-golf-facility

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 ("http://www.peacearchnews.com/news/330952271.html) 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."

PITCAIRN & PIXIE

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: http://www.theprovince.com/news/endangered+species+Fewer+nudists+more+voyeurs+times+change+Wreck+Beach/11302474/story.html

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 friendsofoldcanada.ca 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 Stonemarks.com 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: http://www.gofundme.com/airplanecreek

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: http://www.thenownewspaper.com/concrete-barriers-for-deadly-stretch-of-highway-10-in-delta-1.2011875#sthash.U7ENv5XO.dpufSafety 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 www.DriveBC.ca 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.
Quotes:
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


"Grassholes"

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 iscmv.ca 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."
Anonymous

 

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

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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 worldoceansday.org. Locally the David Suzuki Foundation at davidsuzuki.org 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 (imperialpainting.ca) has secured the Canadian rights to Lawnlift (lawnlift.ca), 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 (whiterockcity.ca) 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

"Censureship"

 

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

Sausagefest

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 (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/05/01/krisit-gordon-pregnant-david-chesney_n_7190904.html). 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 (bcrodandgunshow.com) 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 (thunderbirdfastdrawclub.com) 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 cmedcentre.org. 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.


Movers

(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 (nickelbros.com) 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" (http://www.vancouversun.com/Shelley+Fralic+greenest+house+recycled/10926550/story.html). 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.

 

Shakers

 

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 urbansafari.ca 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 info@urbansafari.ca 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