Check Live Camera
November 20, 2018, 1:37 pm Advertisments

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

 

Monday Novmber 19, 2018


What The Firetruck?

Q. What word begins with "F" and ends with "UCK"?
A. Why "Firetruck" of course.

Now who doesn't like a firetruck? As a kid we all loved to play with ty versions of them, driving our parents crazy with loud siren noises. Getting older the guys all admired them as they brought the brave firemen to fight fires, and the girls all loved them because they brought the life-saving firemen featured in the "Hall of Flame" calendars. While driving on the road, everyone politely pulls over and stops to let the firetruck go past with its lights flashing and horn blaring. Now what if I told you there was something in south Surrey that was twice as much fun as a firetruck? You'd probably say, "What the firetruck is he talking about?"

Several weeks ago I drove up Crescent Road to King George Hwy (that's KG Blvd for the newbies) and at the City Wide Luxury Auto dealership (CWLauto.com) on that busy corner I spotted not one but two shiny firetrucks sitting next to each other, one bright red, the other flourescent yellow. I knew that CWL specialized in luxury pre-owned vehicles with their lot usually full of Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Range Rover, Cadillac and high-end sports cars. I originally thought these fire fighting vehicles had likely been purchased locally and were simply being stored there for shipment down into the States as is common with our low Canadian dollar. When these firetrucks were still on site a week later, my rampant curiosity got the better of me and I had to find out what the story was about their appearance at a luxury dealership.

Talking to "Brand Ambassador" Darcy Heisler and owner Blair Morrison, I found out that CWL Auto had indeed recently purchased these two vehicles as in the past they have had success in finding them a new lease on life. It turns out that firetrucks are retired from various Fire Departments based on the age of the vehicle and not their mechanical shape or even the mileage. Purchasing a new Fire Apparatus as they are known is an expensive proposition, with new units costing an average of $850,000 to $1 million. When older units are sold, they often have far less than 100,000 km on as they usually venture only short distances from the Fire Hall. They can be purchased by small communities or groups of homeowners who do not have reliable fire control services or often none at all. Some are bought to have the firefighting gear removed and repurposed as work trucks because of their strong engines and heavy frame. Folks who rent vehicles to movies are always in the hunt for them and some folks just want a firetruck to call their own.

The bright yellow firetruck is a 1980 International Pumper Truck with a Detroit 6V-71 diesel engine. It has 77,000 km on the odometer and only 2,092 hours on the time clock or the equivalent of 87 days of running time. Its hard to imagine that this firetruck that is described as in "mint condition" and "bullet proof" has a pre-owned price tag of only $21,995. It came from a Fire Hall on Vancouver Island where it was bought new and spent its entire time being carefully maintained and fully serviced. The big red fire truck beside it is a 1992 Volvo from the Coquitlam Fire/Rescue with a 6.6 CAT diesel that has only 34,000 km on it (21,000 miles). I was told that Fire Chief Jay Ogloff was not happy to see her put out to pasture, with it now sitting outside overnight in the rain for the first time since it was new. It has an internal 8,000 gallon water tank that pumps out 1,050 gallons per minute, It also has two foam tanks allowing it to put out Class A regular fires and Class B oil fires. As a bonus, the 35 foot long ladder with 10 foot extension is included in the $49,995 price tag. That's a lot of truck for not a lot of bucks.

Besides the conventional uses I have detailed above, a flashy fire truck is also a great promotional vehicle. I was told that someone paid a whopping $15,000 to have their son driven to Southridge School in a fire truck as a fundraiser there. A local craft brewery has expressed interest in having one of these emergency vehicles that they could turn into a rolling beer dispensing truck for festivals. I asked and was told that no, it was not Red Truck Brewing from Richmond which made perfect sense to me. These two fire trucks brought me into CWL for the story and last weekend I purchased a new SUV for myself that was sitting not far from the two firetrucks. I should have bought the red Volvo, it had half the mileage of my new-to-me pre-owned vehicle. Unfortunately my wife doesn't like red trucks and I doubt it would have fit in the garage anyways. Still, it would have been great for watering the lawn in the summer during Met-Van sprinkling restrictions.

To end this light-hearted piece I would like to leave you with a link to the hilarious "Firetruck" song by Smosh that is posted on YouTube with over 23 million views. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=tGpLHj-MVtk as it directly relates to the joke at the start of this TNT column. See if you catch the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reference: "Now I wanna take a moment just sit right there I’ll tell you how you can say the word firetruck everywhere." I must warn you, you will never say the word "firetruck" again without thinking about this zany music video.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 12, 2018

Path to Destruction

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I drove down Crescent Road near the Elgin Heritage Park in south Surrey and saw an arborist crew working on some trees near the tidal pond that is located at 35A Ave just west of 140 Street. I must admit I really didn't pay much attention as it looked as if they were simply clearing some fallen branches from the forest. This weekend I managed to drive by the same location during daylight hours and I could not believe what I was seeing. The first thing I noticed was the sudden expansive view of the tidal pond connecting to the Nicomekyl River, with the North shore mountains visible in the distance. I then realized why the view was suddenly there, the tall evergreen trees along the trail were gone!

I turned around a little further down Crescent Road, returning to the part of the Elgin Heritage Park that suddenly had the new water views. I was shocked by what I saw once I exited my vehicle and took a walk down the path that follows along the roadway. There was a long line of wide wooden stumps plus cut up logs that looked to be healthy evergreens consisting of mainly Western Red cedar and Douglas fir. The tree had been cut so they fell into the pond where the branches were then sawed off and removed from the shoreline. Some of the larger trees with massive trunks had been cut into several pieces and left scattered on the ground to decompose in the future. The largest of the fallen trees was a huge Douglas fir that was four feet in diameter. I quickly counted the rings and came up with approximately 150 years of growth. This means this gentle giant had been growing on the property for around 25 years when the Stewart Farmhouse was built in 1894. Unfortunately why the Stewart House is maintained and carefully preserved, the biggest Fir tree in the park that looked structurally sound has now been mowed down along with plenty of its neighbours.

It did not take long to discover the reason for such devastation. As I walked down the trail counting over 30 stumps, many of them large evergreens, I came across a posted sign that read as follows:


NOTICE- Elgin Heritage Park Hazard Tree Work
Please be advised that the City of Surrey will be removing hazard trees at Elgin Heritage Park October 29 - Dec 10, 2018.
The hazard tree work consists of the removal of dead, dying and diseased trees that pose a high risk to the public.
Please be aware of the work zone signage and barriers within the park. Expect trail closures while crews are working.
(A listing of four safety warnings for the public).
For any questions, please call the City of Surrey at: 604-501-5050
While this explained the work that was being done, I saw little sign that the line of evergreens that had been mowed seemingly to improve the view were "dead, dying and diseased." The trunks of most of these fallen trees were outwardly and inwardly healthy and solid with trucks supporting multiple healthy branches and little to no sign of interior decay. I did find an online notice for this tree work on the Elgin Heritage Park section of the City of Surrey website at https://www.surrey.ca/culture-recreation/2205.aspx but there was no arborist report listed.

All of the park-goers I saw on Remembrance Day while surveying the latest chainsaw massacre in the Semiahmoo peninsula were simply aghast at what had happened. They wondered why this had been necessary and questioned why so many seemingly healthy trees had been cut down all in the row along the pond. Someone had already laid greenery and flowers on the largest of the stumps as a memorial to its loss, similar to the flowers that sprouted from the stumps along Johnston Road in White Rock when they were all sawed down earlier this year. I walked west along the pathway and when I got past the historic Stewart Farmhouse, I found several other sections of the park that resembled logging shows with stacks of logs and seemingly healthy trees that had been turned into wildlife refugee stumps. In some spots it looked as if this was done more to clear space for existing trees and not to remove trees that were unhealthy. In defense of the city, there were trees that obviously were dead and or rotten that had been cut down, lying next to the healthy ones that I am concerned about.

With the Remembrance Day holiday falling on Monday, Surrey City Hall will not be open for business until Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. I suggest you take a drive down Crescent Road to check out the damage for yourself and then call the City of Surrey on Tuesday at their posted 604-501-5050 number to get an explanation as to why so many apparently healthy trees were cut down in this Surrey Park. New Mayor Doug MacCallum lives near Crescent Beach and drives by this scene every day on his way to work so hopefully he will also question why all of these majestic evergreens on city property were cut down. Too bad the Surrey Tree Protection Bylaw 2006 "does not apply to tree on City owned property that are cut or removed by the City or its authorized agents in accordance with approved City operations". At the very least these trees should have been marked before removal so that people would have had a chance to check their health and possibly question the removal order. It remains to be seen how many more trees will be chainsawed to the ground before the December 10th deadline, likely altering the Elgin Heritage Park forever.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 05, 2018

Monday Night Political Football

 

Monday, Monday, so good to me
Monday mornin´, it was all I hoped it would be
Oh Monday mornin´, Monday mornin´ couldn´t guarantee
That Monday evenin´ you would still be here with me

Monday, Monday, can´t trust that day
Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday mornin´ you gave me no warnin´ of what was to be
Oh Monday, Monday, how could you leave and not take me

 

Lyrics to the song Monday, Monday by The Mamas and the Papas, 1966

Armchair quarterbacks will be stuck in their Lazy-boy chairs watching the NFL Monday Night Football on Nov. 5th featuring the Tennessee Titans at the Dallas Cowboys. For armchair political quarterbacks, the real action will be at the inaugural Council meetings at both Surrey and White Rock. Unfortunately they are both scheduled for approximately the same time, making the decision on which historic meting to go to all the more difficult.

In White Rock the first meeting of the new look Council will take place at 7:00 p.m. Standard Time in Halls A/B/C of the White Rock Community Centre at 15154 Russell Avenue. It is a safe bet that they won't hold an In-Camera meeting beforehand as the former White Rock Coalition was so fond of calling. Councillors Helen Fathers and Dave Chesney will make their triumphant return with new Mayor Darryl Walker and fellow Democracy Direct members Scott Kristjanson, Erica Johanson, Anthony Manning and Christopher Trevelyan filling out the rest of Council. It does not appear that any constructive work will be done on the first night but and it will take some time to turn the good ship White Rock around. Lets hope the Question Period is quickly revived for at the beginning of Council meetings but replaced with a Question and Answer Period instead. It will be interesting to see if former Mayor Baldwin and the four horsemen of the apocalypse Grant Meyer, Bill Lawrence, Lynne Sinclair and Megan Knight bother to show their faces on Monday night. For a peek at the Agenda that features the singing of O´ Canada and a First Nations blessing by SFN Chief Harley Chappell, visit https://www.whiterockcity.ca/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_11052018-638 .

The focus of the night has to be up in Whalley where starting at 6:30 p.m. Doug MacCallum finally gets his old job as Mayor back, albeit with a bigger office and a nicer view than his old one. The real fireworks will be in two weeks when Cowboy Doug is planning on giving the Surrey RCMP their walking papers, replacing them with a Surrey Police Force in two years time. Not long after that MacCallum plans on axing the LRT for Skytrain regardless of the howls of displeasure from the Mayor´s Council. The Safe Surrey Coalition certainly put the boots to the Surrey First dynasty (die-nasty) who only elected one Councillor Linda Annis, with all of their incumbents getting shown the door by the people of Surrey. The Safe Surrey Councillors are Doug Elford, Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial, Laurie Guerra, Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Steven Pettigrew, who will forward their agenda. For political intrigue, you have to wonder if mayoralty nope-fuls (my new word) Tom Gill and Bruce Hayne will be there to take in the festivities or if Dianne Watts might be in attendance trying to figure out if she can beat MacCallum for a second time in four years from now. You can watch what should be a historic Surrey Council inauguration live on the Surrey.ca website at the following link and then clicking on the Watch Council Meeting Live tab: https://www.surrey.ca/city-government/6993.aspx

With so many new faces on the civic scene, you almost need a program to know all of the players. The Inaugural Council Meetings with their swearing in ceremonies are your opportunity to get to know the folks who will represent your community for the next four years. Hopefully they were the people you voted for and you are looking forward to them fulfilling their platform promises. Monday night is your chance to watch history in the making and to be part of what should be over-flow crowds of well-wishers. If you don´t think civic politics matter, simply look at how those in power in both White Rock and Surrey were swept from office after forgetting to serve the people who voted for them. I´m really glad to see the changing of the guard in these two cities and hope that the communities are now better represented instead of the interests of unscrupulous developers and foreign buyers. If you get a chance, plan on attending either of these two City Hall ceremonies for a glimpse into what the future holds for your home town.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 29, 2018

The Best Defence is a Landslide Detector Fence

I could not believe my ears last week when I got a call from a member of SmartRail, the local community rail safety group, who informed me about changes the BNSF Railway has recently made to the rail corridor near Crescent Beach. I went to the south end of Bayview Avenue on the weekend and there it was all shiny and new, the extension to the landslide detector fence (LDF) that I've been waiting ten years to be completed. While it has been said that the wheels of justice turn slowly, it would appear that steel railway wheels move at a pre-climate change glacial pace. What was so frustrating to me was that it took so long to have this important safety apparatus put in place after multiple mudslides onto the tracks in this area.

This story goes back more than a decade ago when a strong Pineapple Express in 2007 deluged this region with heavy rains, saturating the land and turning hillsides into mud. There were eleven slope failures from the Ocean Park bluffs onto the BNSF Railway tracks between White Rock and Crescent Beach at that time, bringing freight and passenger rail service to a standstill on frequent occasions. This was also the last time that a mudslide here actually hit a train, with slide debris impacting a BNSF freight near Crescent Beach that was stopped for an even larger slide just past the Christopherson Steps (formerly 101 Steps at 24 Ave.). The slide that hit the stopped train originated from a home being extensively renovated on Christopherson Drive and a long forgotten big-O pipe that drained water from this yard onto the bluff. The scary thing about this slide was that this steep hillside was not protected by the landslide detector fence that runs at the base of the hill next to the tracks from West Beach in White Rock to just south of Crescent Beach.

The LDF is a fairly simple system comprised of metal poles placed in the ground and strung with two pieces of wire. When there is ground movement, the soil, rocks, shrubs and trees snap the wire that has a low current and the system then activates stop signals all along the tracks. Before the LDF was first installed (I believe it was in 1957) there were nine train derailments along the Semiahmoo peninsula tracks. Since that time, there has not been one derailment on this shoreline tracks, something the BNSF will gladly tell you. Surprisingly, the LDF stopped well short of Crescent Beach, leaving a 500 foot section of the bluffs closest to Bayview Ave. unguarded. The BNSF, Transport Canada and even the City of Surrey were well aware of this fact as it was reported to them by many members of the community. Even though the risk was well known, the BNSF did nothing to remedy this known safety problem that had an easy and inexpensive fix. Ditto for Transport Canada who even though they toured the tracks in the spring of 2018 did nothing to change the status quo. Surrey issued a Corporate Report about the problem but again nothing was done.

Fast forward to this year and it was yet another slide onto the tracks just south of Crescent Beach in February from the same property on Christopherson Street that finally got some attention paid to the gap in the LDF system. Having a new MP in Gordie Hogg likely helped to get the BNSF and Transport Canada to fix this glaring safety problem with landslides that had repeated in the same spot, though this time without hitting a train. I was informed that members of the BNSF and Transport Canada were going to tour the slide area this spring plus examine the debris pile left on the shores of Crescent Beach by the railway excavation crew. No doubt my March 19 TNT titled "BNSF Burying Crescent Beach" plus signs with contact information for reporting illegal dumping likely had something to do with it. While the new LDF extension has been installed, the huge pile of muddy debris and logs from the slide onto the BNSF tracks that was dumped onto the beach remains, blocking pedestrians from walking down the shore. At high tide, people walk up onto this muddy mess and then along the tracks before returning to the beach at a nearby trail. Again, so much for rail safety.

It may have taken ten years but Crescent Beach is now safer with the LDF extension complete. Unfortunately there is another steep slope in White Rock that now needs its own LDF due to an increased slide threat. This is the Hump hillside between East and West Beaches that was clear-cut on orders of the outgoing White Rock Coalition, which enhanced views to properties along Marine Drive. The last time this steep slope was logged it resulted in multiple landslides plainly visible in a 1920 pictures taken from the pier that is available in the Archives building. Not only does the lack of a LDF in this affect rail safety, it also poses a serious risk to pedestrians on the promenade. You only have to watch the video of a derailment on BNSF tracks in Everett Washington several years ago to understand the danger (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeT0m-hpD_4). While there were promises to replant the razzed hillside, nothing has been done in over three years. A LDF needs to be installed along the base of the Hump, the hill should be planted with native trees capable of stabilizing the slope, then his steep hillside should be classified as ravine lands and left in a natural state. Now to see if this common sense idea takes another decade to actually happen.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 22, 2018

Time for Change


Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Several choice verses from Bob Dylan's 1964 song "The times they are a-changin'."

All Saturday I wondered how the civic election results would turn out in White Rock and Surrey. In the end my prayers were answered and my wildest dreams came true with nearly the exact results I was hoping for. In White Rock where former Mayor Wayne Baldwin had already jumped from the sinking ship, the rest of his merry Coalition members were made to walk the plank. In Surrey the result was similar with Surrey First headed by mayoral hopeful Tom Gill going down in flames with all of their incumbents kicked to the curb and only one council member elected. How did this happen and what does the future now hold after a dramatic change in local governance in both of these cities?

In The City By The Sea, public angst against Baldwin and the White Rock Coalition councillors had been increasing for years. Water quality concerns, OCP changes along with the rubber stamping of residential towers, garbage service cancellation without consultation, ending of question period, secretive in-camera meetings, the clear-cutting of the Hump and the devastation of Johnston Road all infuriated the masses. Long before the election writ was dropped, this anger and the belief that City Hall was tone deaf to complaints from residents led to the formation of the political group Democracy Direct (http://www.democracydirect.ca/). Refusing donations from developers and special interest groups this grass-roots organization was financed by the candidates and small donations from the electorate. Their platform of community orientated development, an approachable City Hall, environmental protection, support for local businesses and sound fiscal management obviously resonated with voters who had seen enough of the White Rock Coalition, even without Wayne Baldwin who decided not to seek a further term. Democracy Directs Darryl Walker was elected as Mayor with 30.2% of the vote, followed by independent candidate Mike Pierce and the Coalitions Grant Meyers far back in third place. The two independent incumbent councillors, Helen Fathers and Dave Chesney (the editor of this paper) retained their seats, finishing one and two in voting followed by four Democracy Direct candidates Chris Trevelyan, Erika Johanson, Scott Kristjanson and Anthony Manning. The WR Coalition was left in tatters with all of its candidates going down to defeat. Of note, White Rocks Laurae McNalley received nearly 80% of the vote for Surrey School Board Trustee.

In Surrey where they say The Future Lives Here, the electorate also made it clear that they were ready for a change. Surrey First who had dominated Surrey for years including taking every seat in Council and School Board in 2014 started to show cracks in their association. First is was Mayor Linda Hepner announcing she would not run for Mayor again after only one term, stepping aside before she was pushed from her throne in a coup. Of the many who wanted to lead Surrey First, it was Tom Gill that was selected as their choice for Mayor. Unhappy with this decision, Councillor Bruce Hayne then split from Surrey First, taking Barbara Steele and Dave Woods with him to form Integrity Now. With the electorate concerned over gun and gang violence, levels of policing, transportation issues, rampant development and housing affordability, the split up Surrey First oligarchy suddenly became vulnerable. Former Mayor Doug McCallum started Safe Surrey (safesurrey.ca) with a strong public safety platform including promises to dump the RCMP in favour of a local police force plus suspending the LRT for an extended Skytrain. When the ballots were counted it was obvious that his message resonated loudly with voters who wanted a new direction at City Hall. Doug McCallum took back his Mayors chair with 48,484 votes, followed by Surrey First Tom Gill at 28,475 with Bruce Haynes nipping his heels close by at 27,951. For the eight council positions, seven went to Safe Surrey candidates, Brenda Locke, Doug Elford, Laurie Guerra, Jack Hundial, Allison Patton, Steven Pettigrew and Mandeep Nagra. The only one stopping a complete sweep for Safe Surrey was Linda Annis from Surrey First who kept Bableen Rana from joining her Safe Surrey teammates at City Hall. I should note that for School Trustees, Surrey First Education took the top 6 spots, followed by two candidates from Surrey Students Now.

There is a famous quote often wrongly attributed to Mark Twain that goes “Politicians are like diapers: they should be changed often, and for the same reason.” In the case of both White Rock and Surrey, political dynasties that thought they could ignore problems in their communities and treat people with contempt found out the hard way that the winds of change were blowing. I for one am not a fan of political slates, especially those financed by large donations from developers or any other well-funded special interest group. Personally, I was glad to see the WR Coalition and Surrey First slates removed from power by the electorate as I felt both were out of touch with the needs of the community. It will be interesting to see if the new Mayors and Councils will be able to keep the concerns of their constituents in mind and make good on the promises they made during the election campaign. One thing is for sure, if they follow the same path as their predecessors, it will only be a matter of time before an upstart political David rises up to slay the proverbial Goliath as happened in this case.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

TNT The Naked Truth is the sole responsibility of the author Don Pitcairn

 

Got a topic that you think needs some, ahem..., exposure?
Submit your TNT story ideas to editor@whiterocksun.com

 

 

October 16, 2018

Speed Kills, Duh

 

I'm glad the B.C. (Beyond Corrupt) Liberals were kicked to the curb by the NDP/Green coalition for a large number of reasons. More than anything it was their out-of-the-blue decision to increase speeds on rural highways throughout much BC that was number one in my book. Back in the summer of 2014, then Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced they were increasing speed limits on 1,300 kilometers of rural highways throughout the province, most by 10 kmh. This was supposedly done to put the speed signs in line with the flow of traffic, which is often 10-15 km above the posted limit. Somehow Mr. Stone believed that raising the limit would not cause an actual increase in traffic flow stating "Experience from other speed changes undertaken by the ministry show that this will not mean everyone will automatically drive 10 km over the new speed limit." Sorry to say, but what a crock of bull from a blithering idiot. At that time I wondered what kind of delusional planet Mr. Stone was living on. You should know that these changes were done over the objections of the RCMP and the BC Association of Chiefs of Police who I guess know nothing about the link between speeding and crashes.

It did not take long before the raised highway speeds resulted in increased crashes, injuries and deaths. Two years later the BC Liberals ended up rolling back speed limits along two sections of highway where speed limits had been increased. Highway 1 from Hope to Cache Creek was returned to 90 km/h from 100 km/h and Highway 5A from Princeton to Merritt was lowered to to 80 km/h from 90. At that time is was revealed that government staffers had found that crash rates had increased in 14 of the 33 sections of highways with the new raised speed limits. The Transportation Minister ignored these findings, saying at the time that "increasing speed limits was not a mistake." At that same time UBC professor of engineering Tarek Sayed studied the data on highway crashes and found accidents were up 11 percent along sections of highway where the speed limits had been increased. The higher level of carnage on B.C. highways led to increasing costs to the public insurer ICBC that turned into a so-called "dumpster fire" during the LIberal's watch.

This story was back in the headlines last week when Doctors and Engineers at UBC revealed research suggesting the number of fatal crashes had doubled on highways in BC where the speed limit was increased. The study titled "Road Safety Impact of Increased Rural Highway Speed Limits in British Columbia, Canada" was published in the Journal Sustainability at this link:
https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/10/10/3555/htm
Researchers examined crash and insurance claim data taken from the sections of highways that had seen the 10 kmh speed limit increases back in 2014. Their findings showed that fatal crashes more than doubled to 118 percent (equaling 15 more deaths), injury claims rose by 30 percent and injury payout jumped by 43 percent. This was no surprise to me considering I was taught in defensive driving years ago that the force of a crash doubled for every increase in speed of 10 miles per hour. The video showing staged car collisions with crash test dummies at 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 mph reinforced this message. A quick physics lesson will tell you that the faster you drive, the more likely you are to be in an accident causing injury or death. No one gets killed in a 5 kmh bumper kiss but your chance of surviving a roll-over crash at 160 kmh are rather slim.

Amazingly the now ex-Transportation Minister Tod Stone has come out publicly against this report and its findings, reportedly stating to several news organizations that it "full of gaps and analysis challenges" along with calling the findings "irresponsible" since they didn't take weather conditions and the effect of distracted driving into consideration. Maybe instead of listing to the speed demons at SENSE BC (sense.bc.ca) and talking non-sense himself, Mr. Stone should instead try some common sense and admit that he made a mistake that apparently killed over a dozen motorists. Since he questions the validity of the results of his own highway speed increase experiment, I suggest we roll the speeds back to where they were and see if there is a corresponding decrease in the accident rate on these sections of highways. My money says it goes back to the crash levels seen before Mr. Stone's unnecessary and ill advised speed increase.

I just got back last night from four days down in the USA and paid attention to their road safety signs. It is interesting to note that they have two speed limits on their highways, one for passenger vehicles and one for trucks and buses. This might have helped stopped the multi-vehicle crash here last February on the Coquihalla involving two buses, two transport trucks and two passenger vehicles that injured 29 and shook up 135. Seeing the speeds that folks here drive in adverse weather conditions, I think we should have two signs, one in white with black lettering showing the higher maximum speed during the day and dry conditions, the other below in black with white lettering showing the lower maximum speed during the night and wet conditions. Along with improved speed signage, maybe its time to start looking at re-testing so-called good drivers every 5 years to ensure they actually know the rules of the road and safe driving techniques.

Years ago the BC Ministry of Highways and local municipalities installed light blue "Speed Kills" diamond shaped signs showing a crumpled car on them. These have gradually been replaced with the orange-yellow diamond signs featuring the same "Speed Kills" message and crashed

car. The picture at the top of this column is from 16 Ave. near 200 St. in Langley at a high collision intersection that has been the scene of several fatal collisions due to speed. I believe that a pair of these signs should be installed at either end of the road that Mr. Stone now lives on so he could see them every day when he leaves and arrives home. Maybe then he could understand that his decision to raise highway speeds across this province was not just irresponsible, it was dangerous and if the numbers are correct, downright deadly. Mr. Stone is still the MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson and his constituents should hold him accountable for the increased carnage and ICBC insurance rates his unwarranted decision has apparently caused, along with failing to accept his failings during his time as B.C.s Transportation Minister. Hopefully we will soon see our highway speeds put back where they belong by the new Transportation Minister Claire Trevena.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 09, 2018


Bananas About Basjoo

Having been born in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba and marrying a girl from Winnipeg makes you appreciate living in Canada's Banana Belt here on the West Coast. Even in the Semiahmoo peninsula there are areas lower in elevation than others and more protected from winter outflow winds, allowing some rather interesting plants to be grown here that you would not expect to normally see. With a passion for tropical plants, over the years I've grown a wide assortment of palms and bananas in our yard, most that did not survive our arctic blasts of weather, or didn't adjust from indoors to outdoors after a long winter inside. Many people are now quite used to seeing the Chinese Windmill Palm with its furry trunk that provides winter insulation used in Lower Mainland landscapes. What turns most people's heads is seeing a large banana grove taller than the roof of a two story house. Even more bizarre is finding out that they actually produce bananas here in south Surrey.

The banana in question is the Musa Basjoo, known commonly as the Japanese banana, the Japanese fibre banana, or the hardy banana. Originally believe to have originated in southern Japan, it has been traced back to subtropical southern China in the Sichuan province. This tall and beautiful plant is commercially grown for its fibre used to produce textiles known as banana cloth. It began to be grown as an ornamental plant in the late 19th century in western Europe where it then spread to the more temperate regions of the United States and Canada. The thick trunks or pseudostems and long leaves only cope with a light freezing but the underground rhizome or root zone is winter hardy as long as steps are taken to protect it. I have had neighbours do nothing to their bananas and seen them regrow even after cold winters here, even though they were rather small. With a few tricks anyone can have a large and lush banana grove simply by following a few easy steps.

You can purchase your own Musa Bajoo from almost any garden centre in the spring, heck even Costco sells them for only 20 bucks. They can also be picked up free of charge from anyone looking to reduce their grove size by dividing the roots. When planting, dig the largest and deepest hole possible planning for future growth and filling it with well drained compost rich topsoil These bananas like to be warm and protected so the south side of a building away from easterly winds is usually the best location. During the summer I keep mine well watered and supplied with fertilizer and high nitrogen manures to promote rapid and long leaf growth. These plants have a three year life cycle so after a few years the largest of the plants will form a large flower that grows into inedible small bananas with white pulp and lots of black seeds. Once that stalk has flowered it will die so it can be cut down to allow new shoots room to grow.

It is the care during the winter months that will affect the size of the banana plants in the next growing season. In October I start piling lawn clippings around the base so the heat from their decomposition will later warm the ground. Instead of raking up leaves for disposal, pile them all around the base of the bananas in a thick mulch layer at least a foot deep to keep the rhizomes warm. When frost finally arrives, usually in November, use shears or a machete to chop down the leaves and layer them on top of the mulch pile to hold it in place. By far the most important step is to protect the pseudostems or stalks from freezing as if kept healthy they will not have to restart growing from ground level the next spring. There are a lot of ways to do this, many that are easy with one or two stalks but bordering on impossible for large groves.

With small plants, it is easy to wrap the stalks with any kind of insulation. Cheapest and readily available is best, whether old fiberglass bats covered in plastic, old blankets and towels, chunks of cardboard or even sheets of bubble wrap. As the grove gets bigger and bigger you will need more and more insulation to the point that you'll have to build a shed just to store all of this stuff. For cheap and easy I like to use lumber wrap since it comes in long pieces and is free from any lumberyard. When the individual pseudostems are covered with several layers, the entire grove may then be wrapped up in these free tarps. Lastly, it is best to purchase a large green tarp to cover the entire grove since the regular orange or blue are tacky and detract from your yard and neighbourhood. Tie with rope to keep in place and anchor with metal spikes or heavy rocks for the winter.

To ensure that the stems don't freeze if we get outflow temperatures of -10 to -15 degrees for days on end, some gardeners introduce supplemental heating inside their banana tents. In the past I have used a small 150W outdoor halogen light that is waterproof and provides lots of heat. While this works, it also has the undesirable effect of causing the bananas to grow and start to lift the tarps off the ground. The safest and most effective heating tool is the plumber's friend, electrical heat tape that is usually used to thaw frozen pipes. Simply wind the tape through the grove before wrapping up for the winter and leave the plug exposed. When temperatures dip to below -4, which fortunately isn't very often in these parts, simply plug in with an outdoor rated extension cord to a GFI protected plug. As soon as the cold snap is over, ensure to turn off the heating tape to stop unwanted growth.

When the spring finally returns, simply unwrap all the grove and remove all of the old leaves and mulch pile that protected the roots during the winter. If you have properly protected the pseudostems from freezing, coils of yellow banana leaves will soon start emerging from the tops of them, turning green as they unfurl. Definitely an interesting and unusual plant for the garden, it is worth the extra work to ensure they are as tall as possible. Banana plants make the WR Sun's motto "Where you can vacation and be home the same day" certainly ring true. Sitting next to them in a lawn chair with sunglasses on and a margarita in hand makes you believe your home is a tropical paradise. In the United Kingdom with weather similar to ours, the hardy banana has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit signifying its new found home in the English garden.

By far the most rewarding part of growing bananas is waiting until the fall then sending pictures of them to friends back east in Canada who are digging out from the first dump of snow. I did this to a buddy in Calgary last week after 40 cm. of the white stuff fell there paralyzing the city. Worst part about it for him is that he's originally from south Surrey. It was way more fun than bugging him about the Flames hockey team.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

October 01, 2018

The Numbers Game

Something very strange is happening in the world. It seems after Donald Trump got himself voted in as President of the United States that suddenly everybody wants to run for office, likely thinking "Well if The Donald can get elected, I've got a chance." Having ran for the Green Party of BC twice myself and participated in other's election campaigns, I tip my hat to anyone with the gumption to run for public office. That being said, the sheer number of candidates seeking the Mayor's chair and Councillor seats locally this year is absolutely overwhelming. Just like going to a sporting event, it is now at the point that you need a program to know the players.

White Rock is a prime example of how civic elections are now becoming a gong show with slates, parties, independent coalitions, groups and individuals all vying for your vote. With Wayne Baldwin jumping ship, there are a total of 6 candidates who have thrown their hat in the ring for Mayor. Councillor Grant Meyer is now running for the top job with the White Rock Coalition slate, along with Darryl Walker for Democracy Direct, and four independents, Tom Bryant, Judy Higginbotham, Mike Pearce and Gary Wolgemuth. It will be interesting to see how well-known "Higgy" does considering that she is actually from Surrey (gasp!). For a town of 20,000 residents to have so many people running for Mayor shows that civic politics is becoming more of a participation sport than one for armchair quarterbacks.

The six Councillor seats up for grab have attracted an even larger throng of candidates with 22 people declaring their candidacy. The White Rock Coalition has a full slate that includes three incumbents, Democracy Direct has fielded four candidates, while independent incumbents Dave Chesney add Helen Fathers are back for another kick at the can. I'm not going to waste time and space writing all of the other independent candidates here except for Zachary Johnson who like Judy Higginbotham is an outsider looking in from Surrey. I hope for once that at the all-candidates meetings we don't hear the question, "Who here is from White Rock" with the obligatory show of hands. How tacky, elitist and small-town minded. Of note, there are even two people running for the position of Surrey School District #36 Trustee with one of these actually living in White Rock (double gasp!!). How about a show of hands there too while I slowly shake my head. For the full list of candidates, please refer to the following White Rock City website link: https://www.whiterockcity.ca/DocumentCenter/View/2249/3-10-Declaration-of-Candidates-at-Close-of-Nomination-Period---Signed

Since White Rock's population is 20,000 and Surrey's is 540,000, the same level of interest in Surrey's Mayor chair as that in the City By The Sea should yield a total of 162 candidates looking for the job. Fortunately that is not the case and with Linda Hepner ducking out after only one term in office there are 8 people running for the coveted penthouse office in downtown Whalley. Two of these, Tom Gill and Bruce Haynes, are former councillors but no longer slate running mates. Former Mayor Doug McCallum is back trying to reclaim his old job that he originally lost to Dianne Watts back in 2005 after 9 years at the helm of the good ship Surrey. Six of the mayoralty candidates are members of political slates, in alphabetical order they are Integrity Now, People First, Progressive Sustainable, Proudly Surrey, Safe Surrey Coalition and Surrey First. Should you prefer an independent mayor, you get to flip a coin between Francois Nantel and John Wolanski.

There are 48 candidates running for the position of Councillor in Surrey a total of 6 people for every one of the 8 seats available. This includes those aligned with the six slates listed above plus a couple of others, GreenVote and IVSA Adding to a ballot that will likely be as long as a roll of toilet paper, a further 27 are running for the position of school trustee with two more slates, Surrey Students Now and Act Now Surrey. To vote responsibly and know what each candidate stands for, it basically becomes a research project involving hours of tedious homework. I'm not going to try and alter the election results or tell people how to vote, but on Oct. 20th, make your mark at the ballot box for who you would like to see run (or possibly ruin) your city. For a full list of all candidates for all positions plus to view information about each of them, visit the following link at the Surrey.ca website: https://www.surrey.ca/election/candidates/candidate-list.aspx

It is not only in White Rock and Surrey that Civic elections are becoming political events involving a throng of candidates. In Vancouver there are 21 people running for the Mayor's job, including one candidate who appears topless in her bio picture (sorry but you're going to have to find the link yourself). There are a whopping 71 Councillor candidates, 33 for Park Board Commissioner, and an additional 33 for School Trustee. Now quickly folks, add the total number of candidates up in your head. I'll save you the brain ache and with the help of my trusty dusty Texas Instrument TI-503 calculator, that gives you 158 choices to vote for. For those of you who thought Lotus Land was already a bit crazy, the ballot selections for 2018 are going to be mind boggling, especially without the candidates being listed alphabetically as before.

Don't be disheartened by the surge in candidates we are seeing this year and wondering who to vote for. Up the coast in the village of Lions Bay the local Mayor and Council must be doing one hell of a job, for their Mayor Ron McLaughlin and four Councillors were the only ones nominated, and were acclaimed on Sept 24th for another four years at the jobs in City Hall. No need for an expensive election, plethora of lawn signs or a bunch of candidates on a mile long ballot. Of course, the population of Lions Bay is only 1,550 but to have a Mayor and Council be unopposed shows the constituents must be happy with the work they are doing. In White Rock and Surrey, this appears to not be the case and it is likely we will see the winds of change blowing as we get a little further into Fall.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 25, 2018


Tracking Our Politicians

I must admit I've become somewhat of a rail safety freak after living near the tracks in Crescent Heights and viewing first hand how the BNSF runs their railroad through the Semi-Pen. When I heard that there was yet another rail safety forum being held, I decided once again to skip out on work to go see if anyone would show up, especially on a Friday afternoon. Imagine my surprise when I entered the White Rock Community Centre to find a standing room only crowd of approximately 200 people in attendance. The whos-who of Surrey and White Rock politics was impressive with MP Gordie Hogg, MLA Tracey Redies, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and others in attendance including former Surrey Mayor Doug MacCallum. For all of the dignitaries at the head table, the many White Rock councillors in attendance, and all of the folks who came out, it was who was not there that spoke volumes.

I came to the meeting with several questions to ask to members of Transport Canada and the the BNSF Railway. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I found out that neither had sent a representative to take part in this meeting. It was not like they were not invited, I asked event organizers and was told that both had been officially invited and decided not to partake in the meeting. It is telling and disturbing that a railway that supposedly prides itself on its safety record fails to attend a public meeting concerning their railway and the well-known dangers it poses to this community. Even worse, can someone tell my why Transport Canada could not sent even one employee to observe and report back to their superiors? Either they need more tax money to hire more personnel, or they should be fired and their budget axed due to gross incompetence.

It was not like there was nothing to learn from this latest rail safety meeting. A week before, Surrey Council had unanimously passed a motion to contact both Transport Canada and the BNSF to ask for trains to reduce speed to 10 MPH from south of the Christopherson Steps at 24 Ave to the Crescent Beach Marina. This is due to 14 instances since 2014 where a train stopped on the track due to decoupling or mudslides blocking emergency personnel from reaching the beach. The latest blockade of the two Crescent Beach entrances was on July 21 where a BNSF coal train decoupled, blocking access for 2.5 hours, far beyond the mandated 5 minute maximum blockage.
This is not a new story, since it was back on Feb. 25 in 2015 when "Surrey City Council endorsed a resolution to call for freight speed restrictions from 30 miles per hour (mph) to 10 mph leading in and out of the Crescent Beach area, from the existing Nicomekl railways swing bridge to 24th Avenue." Unfortunately the BNSF and Transport Canada did nothing then and I expect they will continue to do the same, regardless of the lives they endanger every time a broken down train cuts off the island of Crescent Beach.

I did find it rather strange that the Mayors of both Surrey and White Rock, both who are not running in the next civic election in less than a month's time decided to be front and centre at this meeting. The odds of them being able to accomplish anything in their last month in power is negligible, especially with the BNSF and Transport Canada being tone-deaf to their demands. You would think that these lame-duck Mayors would have ducked out of this latest railway safety meeting since they have seemingly become somewhat of a dog and pony show with plenty of promises but very little action. Still, the idea of relocating the tracks and improving safety along the waterfront is obviously of high importance to many of the people who live here. I wanted to ask Transport Canada why they forced White Rock to fence off their waterfront yet cannot force the BNSF to allow Surrey to build a safety fence to keep pedestrians off their property at Crescent Beach without a $225,000 yearly lease payment? It looks like it might be time for me to pay their offices in New West a visit again to try and get some answers.

By far the most informative guest speaker was Mike Armstrong who is running for White Rock Council. He brought along information about how the BNSF is planning another round of creosoted sleeper tie replacement across the waterfront. Several years ago it was 22,000 ties, this time the number is believed to be 5,000-6,000 ties. Research from Switzerland in 2000 by Kohler reveals that a new wooden railway tie holds 15 Kg of creosote, with 5 Kg of this B1 human carcinogen leaching out into the environment over their 20+ year service life. According to the Alberta government "Creosote-treated wood should never occur indoors and should be avoided in outdoor areas frequented by people, specially children or animals." Hmm..., like maybe down at the beach or along the White Rock promenade? Creosoted ties have been banned in Europe where concrete and steel ties are used. The latest tie installation will mean the BNSF is effectively dumping a further 25,000 Kg of carcinogenic pollution into Semiahmoo Bay. Just one more reason why you can't eat shellfish harvested from its contaminated waters.

As always, talk of railway relocation and high-speed rail from Seattle to Vancouver dominated the conversation but talk is cheap and building new railways is expensive. It is rather telling that to date, Surrey and White Rock have not been able to secure funding from the Provincial or Federal governments to study rail relocation in this region. While I would love to see the BNSF tracks ripped up and turned into a shoreline walking path like Vancouver's famed Seawall, the reality is that the railway has been here for over a hundred years and will likely be here for quite a while to come. The longer that nothing is done, the more expensive the project will become and eventually it will become financially impossible if it is not at that point already. My bet is that you are going to see even more safety fencing and blocked access to the beach every time that someone else gets hit and killed on the BNSF rail corridor, usually by the killer Amtrak. The problem as always is that industrial freight trains, silent but deadly passenger trains and crowds of people down at the waterfront simply don't mix. Hold all the rail safety meetings you want, you're not going to change that.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 17, 2018

Wrecking The Rock

Christy Fox photo

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was break me
Yeah, you wreck me
Lyrics to "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus

I must admit it really did take my breath away when I drove down North Bluff Road and turned to look at what had become of Johnston Road. Barricades with road closed signs crossed the main roadway entrance to uptown White Rock with construction crews, excavators and dump trucks all working feverishly to rip up the roadway, traffic islands and sidewalks. Taken directly from the city website the following passage gave no notice of a complete closure of Johnston Road from North Bluff to Russel Avenue: "We are striving to minimize public impact over the long term and will take this opportunity to simultaneously upgrade the critical water, sewer and street infrastructure which will help increase capacity and improve the reliability of the existing older water-mains, sanitary sewers and storm sewers to better serve this growing neighbourhood." Of course the neighbourhood they are referring to is all of the concrete towers sprouting from the ground throughout the uptown with still plenty more to come.

On Sept. 4th, there was a Johnston Road Project Update posted on the White Rock website warning of a temporary road closure to vehicle traffic the following week.
To accelerate this stage of the construction, the City of White Rock is permitting CLCS (the project’s Prime Contractor) to close vehicular traffic access on Johnston Road between North Bluff Road and Russell Avenue (see map below).
The closure starts at 5:00AM on Monday, September 10, 2018 and ends at 7:00PM on Saturday, September 15, 2018.
CLCS will increase crew attendance and activity on site to accelerate project completion.
Vehicle access will be limited to only business delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles.
Traffic Management will be in place to lead out vehicles to alternative routes. There may be some traffic delays in this area.
Transit routes will be temporarily redirected. Please check with TransLink when planning your trip to learn about changes to the transit route you take.
There was only one problem with this plan. With the glacial pace of work on this project, crews did not get the required work done in the time frame allowed. I'm surprised they did not have crews working double shifts in order to get it finished with the least amount of disruption. After all, it was the City of White Rock that allowed arborists to beginning chainsawing down trees along Johnston under the cover of dark at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. It really should come as no surprise that late last week the City announced they would extend the closure of Johnston Road for a further six days. While they brag about significant progress, it is also taking significantly longer to get this work done than anticipated. "After the current temporary road closure of Johnston Road, CLCS (Canadian Landscape and Civil Services Ltd – the project’s Prime Contractor) has made significant progress to upgrade critical water and sewer infrastructure, installing soil-cell structures for the new trees, and addressing sidewalk safety matters on Johnston Road. In order to continue making significant strides, the City of White Rock will extend the Temporary Road closure from September 15, 2018 to September 21, 2018." Significant delays, significant disruption, significant obstruction, significant inconvenience, significant loss of business for local merchants, and significant reasons to stay the hell away from uptown.

It is best for residents and visitors alike to realize that this road closure is just phase one of a long term plan. Next up will be the stretch of Johnston Road from Russell Ave. to Thrift Ave., then Thrift to Roper Ave, and finally Roper to Buena Vista Ave. at Five Corners. Whether the City will block off all of Johnston and rip it from curb to curb as is presently being done or possibly do one side of the street and then the other allowing for some through traffic remains to be seen. My guess is if they can tear up the entire street where the proposed White Rock Gateway Feature was to have been built, it is highly likely they will allow CLCS to close off White Rock's main street to expedite the infrastructure improvements needed to service all the high-rises they have approved. What is interesting about this project is that a posting on the White Rock city website proclaimed it was scheduled to be completed "October 2018." Anyone care to place a bet on whether this work will be finished in time for the upcoming civic election on Oct. 20th? My money says Christmas time is much more likely.

The Johnston Road revitalization project is not the only White Rock beautification project experiencing significant delays that are a burden to residents and visitors alike. The Memorial Park and Pier Washroom Upgrade seems to be taking forever with this prime public area by the Pier being turned into a construction zone for the entire summer. Believe it or not, construction of Memorial Park was to begin in Fall of 2017 with the dream of having a Summer 2018 opening. Unfortunately the City decided to not include the Semiahmoo First Nation in plans for excavation along the waterfront, leading to a three month delay until a provincial archaeological permit was received weeks before Christmas 2017. Work began in January of 2018 but the construction company awarded the contract appears to be taking a very long time to get the work done, with very few people reportedly seen working on the site. To date, the widening of the lower Promenade was completed July 1st, the western portion of Memorial park was completed August 31 and the eastern portion is scheduled to be done in early 2019. An entire summer was lost on this vanity project with the bathrooms still needing their major upgrade. For a detailed look at the delays plaguing this project, visit the following link on the City website: http://www.whiterockcity.ca/477/Memorial-Park-Pier-Washroom-Upgrade

I don't believe that when White Rock Mayor Baldwin and his Coalition cohorts approved all of the major construction projects for their little City By The Sea, they paused one moment to reflect on the disruptions and inconveniences they were going to cause. You can expect the uptown area of White Rock to resemble one huge construction sight for years to come with noise, traffic disruptions, cement trucks, dump trucks and the like. Now might be a good time to proclaim the official bird of White Rock, similar to how the Nootka Rose was selected as the city flower.

I would think that the crane would be a perfect fit. No, not the robust Sandhill crane or majestic Whooping crane, the modern construction crane that can be seen towering above White Rock. Either that or the common loon.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 10, 2018

BNSF's Behaviour Simply Of-fence-sive

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
Gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
Can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in
Lyrics to "Don't Fence Me In" written by Cole Porter in 1934 and performed by Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Bing Crosby and others.

It was only four years ago that the City of White Rock installed black chain link fencing across the waterfront in an effort to improve pedestrian safety and reduce locomotive whistling in their seaside community. They put in 230 metres of new railing and 1.5 kilometers of chain link to try and keep people, children and pets off the BNSF tracks in East and West Beach. The city paid for this work in exchange for the BNSF Railway paying for the cost of the East Beach pedestrian crossings upgrades. All of this work was done to placate Transport Canada over pedestrian safety concerns after a female jogger, 42 year-old Anita Lewis, was hit and killed by the Amtrak passenger train while crossing the rails wearing ear buds in East Beach a year before.

White Rock is not the only community in the peninsula suffering with noise pollution from the 150 dB horns on the BNSF locomotives. Crescent beach has two vehicle crossings (McBride Ave. and Beecher St.) and people living a stone's throw away from the tracks who are subjected to blaring train horns both night and day with the frequency increasing in relation to rail traffic. Since 2017 the City of Surrey had committed to paying for the design, installation and maintenance of a pedestrian fence along the BNSF rail corridor from Beecher St. to the south end of Bayview St. as part of a whistle cessation project. Portions of the fence were proposed to be installed on BNSF property after gaining their permission to do so. Not a bad deal for the Railway if you ask me, you get a free fence paid for by taxpayers, free future maintenance and the added benefit of improved track safety that would decrease illegal trespassing onto the corridor.

Unfortunately the Railway is a business and they are obviously shrewd about bilking local governments out of tax-payer dollars, for example the half-million bucks White Rock shells out to the BNSF for lease payments on the parking lots at their beach. When approached by Surrey about the city putting a secure safety fence on their land along Crescent Beach, the BNSF proposed a yearly lease payment reportedly to be $250,000. From Crescent Beach Property Owners Association minutes it was revealed that in February of this year the BNSF Railway decided to stand firm with their lease requirement but would be willing to negotiate the amount of the lease. The lease price was then dropped by 10% to $225,000 per year, a still staggering figure considering the Railway would directly benefit from its construction and long-term pedestrian safety improvement.

Fortunately it seems those in Surrey City Hall were not wanting to follow White Rock's lead of perpetual payments to the BNSF and decided to instead install the fence on the City's side of the rail corridor property line parallel to Bayview Street. The issue with this concept was that while it would help towards their whistle cessation plan that has already been 10 years in the making, the construction of this 6 foot tall fence would mean a loss of the highly prized public parking spots along Bayview Street. Residents on the street voiced concerns about difficulties in exiting their steep driveways on this narrow road and the loss of turn about areas on a road that does not terminate in a cul-de-sac. I know that these public parking areas are also used frequently by naturists with mobility issues who cannot climb the 190 steps of the Christopherson staircase at the west end of 24 Ave. to access Crescent Rock Beach.

It now appears that with the BNSF's refusal to waive the annual lease payment from Surrey and local resident's opposition to the loss of parking areas on Bayview that the Crescent Beach rail corridor fencing plan has been shelved. A friend with his ear to the rails in Crescent Beach has informed me that it will soon be announced that this ambitious safety plan will not be moving forward as was hoped. We should find out more this week when the CBPOA holds its AGM on Wed. at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 at Beecher Place. What really pisses me off about this whole fence episode is that it was on a section of BNSF tracks in Crescent Beach where 39 year-old Henry Kools was hit and killed by the Amtrak in 2000. He was walking on the rails wearing ear buds in similar circumstances to the woman hit on the tracks in White Rock in 2013 that saw level pedestrian crossings and fences installed there.

Maybe Transport Canada needs to consider this information and force the BNSF Railway to pay for the fence along Bayview Street that the City of Surrey would have gladly built them for free if they were not so damn greedy. Billionaire Warren Buffet who owns Berkshire Hathaway which controls the BNSF, formed The Giving Pledge in 2010 as a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back. For the world's third richest man valued at $84 billion who turned 88 just over a week ago, how about doing something for the community of Crescent Beach, like making it safer and a whole lot quieter by paying for your own pedestrian fence and turning off the air horns on your locomotives.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

September 04, 2018


Gunning for Mayor

It was five years when I created t-shirt designs for Surrey Shirts focusing attention on gang violence here involving guns. One was directly aimed at the Surrey Six massacre, with the slogan "Better Safe Than Surrey" surrounded by six bullet holes. The other targeted the City of Surrey and the criminal lifestyle here involving illegal handguns used by gangsters where the new Surrey logo featuring Whalley high-rises was altered to look like a Glock 9 mm handgun and the city slogan "the future lives here" changed to "the future dies here." City Hall's response to these t-shirt designs that constituted freedom of expression was to file a "cease and desist" order against Surrey Shirts for using parody to focus attention on the gun violence in Surrey. I guess it was easier for them to try and shut down Surrey Shirts than deal with the gang problem plaguing BC's second largest city. In the end the city backed down, Surrey Shirts went viral, it continues to sell Surrey merchandise and apparel and unfortunately gun and gang violence is still alive and well with people continuing to be shot dead on our streets. For those keeping count, Surrey saw 59 shootings in Surrey during 2017, 61 in 2016 and 88 in 2015.

With civic elections happening this fall, it suddenly seems to be fashionable to call for a ban on all handguns within the city of Surrey in order to stop gang violence. Surrey First Councillor Tom Gill who is now running for mayor had this to say about how to stem gang violence. “We have a gang problem in Surrey that’s devastating families. We owe it to those families to make changes. A handgun ban is part of that. This is an opportunity to take away the tools of the trade.”
Surrey First councillor Dave Woods who is a former RCMP officer abruptly quit the Surrey First slate over the handgun ban proposed by Gill stating "Gangsters haven't registered their guns." Adding to the Surrey gun control hysteria over something that is actually Federal jurisdiction, former Mayor Doug McCallum who is running for his old seat back is suggesting that handgun owners move out of Surrey stating “People who want to have registered handguns should use them in rural areas, not in big cities.”

It is almost comical after years of gun violence and nothing being done to stop it that it suddenly becomes a political hot potato for those seeking to be elected to Surrey Council. Handguns have been restricted in Canada since 1937 and if you want to purchase and shoot one you have to take government firearms safety courses, clear extensive police background checks, belong to a gun club that is certified for their use plus follow safe transport and storage laws. Most pistol shooters I know have a locked secure room in their house with a heavy gun safe bolted to the wall and floor plus an alarm for their home. Guns and ammo are stored separately and when hand guns are taken to and from ranges they are locked securely with ammo in a separate locked container. Legally registered law-abiding firearms owners follow all of the rules in order to own and use handguns in a safe and controlled manner.

The criminal element in Surrey including entrenched gang members do not give a damn about our silly laws and carry illegal handguns with impunity, killing rivals and innocent civilians on an all too regular basis. Google search "shooting in Surrey" and you receive 12,500,000 results, many which are media accounts of gangland murders in Surrey going back for years. Gangs that make their money by smuggling and selling drugs can easily acquire hand guns from criminals in the USA. The four land crossings we have into the Lower Mainland from Washington State allow for a constant flow of weapons from America into Canada, with gang members arming themselves for protection. Border agents I have talked to admit that intercepting hand guns is a difficult job, especially with many pistols being dismantled and the parts then hidden in multiple vehicles. Gangsters also have friends and acquaintances who are not under police scrutiny legally purchase guns and then sell them into the black market. Lastly the theft of hand guns from legal owners is a third source of guns that too often end up in the hands of gangsters. You should note that all of this is criminal activity giving gang members access to illegal guns.

The only way to combat gun violence in Surrey is to focus police resources on those people involved with gangs. Seeing how neighboring Delta does not seem to have this problem makes me wonder if a more pro-active local police force would be better equipped to deal with this problem than the RCMP. Our judiciary needs to stop plea-bargaining away gun charges and I believe that identified gang members caught with illegal firearms should be given heavy prison sentences plus serve consecutive sentences for gun crimes. For all the years that Surrey First has done nothing to stop our gun crime epidemic, it is hypocritical for Tom Gill to target legitimate firearms owners as a way to combat Surrey's gang violence problem. Former mayor wanting to be mayor again Doug MacCallum should have gang members banished from living in Surrey, instead of wanting legitimate hand gun owners to move out of town. Better yet, maybe its time for "Cowboy Doug" to saddle up his horse and mosey on to greener pastures.

Targeting firearms enthusiasts may be politically expedient but it does nothing to control the growth of gangs, the spread of illegal guns on our streets and the violence we are enduring. It is actually political pandering and using a knee-jerk reaction to a complex problem to take the focus away from their own failings. Everyone also needs to realize that firearms legislation is Federal jurisdiction, not a local civic issue. I think that the 208 shootings in Surrey over the past three years show that Surrey First is actually "Surrey's Worst" when it comes to curbing gun violence in our town. If Tom Gill wants to put the cross-hairs on anyone, he should look a little closer to home as far too often it is young Indo-Canadian males who are the ones either getting shot or caught for pulling the trigger in Surrey. Instead of calling out legitimate shooters over their legal sport, politicians hoping to be the new mayor should target the gangs creating the violence on our streets.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

August 27, 2018

Skimboarding Getting Kayotics

Earlier this summer I was down on Semiahmoo Bay checking out some remote shoreline that I hadn't explored in years. I followed a narrow trail through the blackberries and undergrowth leading to the water. Only metres from where I emerged onto the beach, I found a stash of strange ramps and tubes hidden in the bush and cable locked to a thick tree. While most people would have wondered what this odd collection of plywood and polyethylene pipe was all about, I immediately realized that they were ramps and obstacles for skimboarding. With its long flat sand beach and abundant tidal pools, White Rock is a perfect place for skimboarding and obviously someone was taking this relatively old past time to a new level. Unfortunately there was no one there that day but with the tide out it was easy to imagine the spot being a skimboarding mecca.

Fast forward to this week when I dropped in on my buddy Lesen, a world famous artist I've known for years with a flair for street art, extreme graffiti and a love for anything that rides on rails. There in his carport was a ramp and rail system similar to what I had earlier seen tucked away down at the beach. The only difference was that instead of the regular combination of lumber, plywood and plastic pipes, he had painted the entire surface of the ramp in psychedelic colours in a pattern that only a mad artist could have imagined. Lesen told me they were being dressed for a local skimboarding group and that he was doing another piece the following day. I told him about seeing the various skimboarding aparatus tucked into the beach bush and he confirmed they were from the same people. Intrigued, I dropped by again a few days later and a second ramp was also expertly spray painted, this time with a setting sun theme complete with silhouettes of palm trees, a beach hut on stilts, and the website address Kayotics.com, home of Kayotics Skimboards & Lifestyles.

Kayotics Skimboards was the brainchild of founder John Minns back in 2001 on the shores of Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen. As with most kids back then, he fashioned his own skimboard from a piece of plywood with some varnish and sand sprinkled on top. The first run of 50 boards was made in a small shed and sold to friends in the flatland skimboarding community for use in local tidal pools. They changed sport forever one night when on the way home from a party found a 10 foot piece of PVC pipe at a construction site. The next day they drove it to the beach, stuck it in the sand and had Minns take the first test run. John ran at the rail straight on, hopped his board from the water into the air to hit the pipe and with arms waving rode the entire length of the rail, landing cleanly in the water on the other side. Since that time, pipes have led to rails, ramps, tables and other apparatus resulting in complex tricks similar to what goes on in a snowboarding park but at the beach instead. Videos of their tricks, exploits and travels spread through social media have allowed Team Kayotics to become well known to a growing world-wide audience and sell their boards and apparel internationally. Here is a link to one of their YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ch-yFmsTa-Y

While the original skimboards were glorified pieces of half inch thick plywood, Kayotics have taken skimboard construction to a whole new level. All are designed in Vancouver with modern construction methods being used and refined for over 10 years. They use pressure moulding systems with laminated cross-band plys of wood to create perfect shapes with lots of flex that still hold their form. Taking a page from skateboard and wakeboard manufacturing Kayotic boards have a blended 3-stage rocker making for a clean ride, maximum pop and smooth transition on and off rails. The top and bottom of their boards are dressed in high-pressure laminate sheets that resist dents and damage from apparatus. The sides are coated with marine grade polyeurathane to ensure that water stays out and the wood layers are protected from the elements. To stop heel bruising and improve traction, the top surface of their skimboards is covered with adhesive backed EVA foam for a great grip with soft cushion. You can check out these beautiful modern boards at http://www.kayotics.com/skimboards/ where half of this year's models have already sold out.

Spreading the upgraded sport of skimboarding to the masses, Kayotics runs skimboarding camps during the summer in White Rock, Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen and Spanish Banks in Vancouver. In the past decade they have taught thousands of Lower Mainland kids the art of flatland skimboarding. They teach ages 6-13 about board maintenance, safety riding with more involved lessons on riding rails and performing advanced tricks. When camps are not available, Kayotics has group lessons where you can learn flatland skimboarding with a small group of friends or associates. Kaytonics also offers private lessons with one-on-one instruction for those not comfortable with the group setting or who want personal teaching. Even better you can book a 3 hour skimboard party for groups of 10 or more with several Team Kaotics instructors which would make for a great birthday at the beach in the sunshine trying out this fun sport that is rapidly growing in popularity.

To learn more about Kayotics Skimboards & Lifestyles please visit their website at Kayotitcs.com and check out the following social media sights for a full appreciation of how far skimboarding has advanced and evolved from its humble beginnings.
https://www.facebook.com/kayoticsskimboarding/
https://www.instagram.com/kayoticsskimboards/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbuLU4HgMq0

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

August 20, 2018


Smogust

 

The weather forecast for White Rock on Sunday was sunny with highs of 26 C, a UV index of 6.0 or high and sunset at 8:21 PST. The rest of the week calls for sunny and hot with clear conditions overnight. Now I don't know what planet weathermen live on these days but I think its time that they get a dose of reality and possibly open the window for a first hand look at eye-witness weather. The smoke that never really left is back in force from forest fires near Harrison, across BC, down in Washington State and even Vancouver island adding to the pall. The thick haze of smoke has delayed dawn, made the weather appear cloudy, and dramatically dropped UV values and daytime temperatures, clearing the beaches of sun-worshippers. While the sun did not actually set on Sunday evening, I can tell you that the faint red orb in the sky finally disappeared at 5:55 P.M. when it vanished into the smoke nearly 2.5 hours before it was supposed to go down.

I can remember long ago when B.C. meant "Before Christ" before it became synonymous with the province of British Columbia. Over time and with over-taxation, it then was tied to the term "Bring Cash" that is a well known saying from anybody visiting from other parts of Canada. With the Provincial Liberals turning a blind eye to duffel bags of cash being carried into casinos and real estate being purchased with offshore money from dubious sources, BC then became equated to "Beyond Corrupt." Now that we are into the second record wildfire season with no end in sight, I think that the moniker BC now stands for "Burnt Crisp." Currently there are 546 forest fires burning in the Province with almost 600,000 hectares being charred so far with the cost of fighting these fires already over $250 million. It is no surprise that the fire danger rating has risen to high or extreme in nearly every corner of BC including here in the Semi-Pen, with the B.C. government recently declaring a province-wide state of emergency to help deal with the fire threat.

On the west coast of Vancouver Island around the surfing tourist mecca of Tofino, there is a persistent weather pattern in August known as "Fogust" when the marine fog rolls in and seems to linger most of the day. Here in the Lower Mainland, I think we now need to call the ever present wildfire smoke "Smogust" since the meteorologists seem to ignore this condition that blocks out the sun. When we flew back to Vancouver this summer, there was a noticeable brown line in the atmosphere when we descended about Whistler headed into Vancouver. Since that time, forest fires have doubled and greatly increased in intensity, with the Richmond bog fire and the scrap car barge that burned in the Fraser River near the Pattullo Bridge only adding to the air quality problem. It is not like this is new since last year 1,300 forest fires ravaged the province burning more than 12 million hectares, costing $564 million to control. With little rain in the forecast you can expect the present two week window for the state of emergency to be extended, realizing it lasted for a record 10 weeks in 2017.

It is not like hot summer weather is a phenomenon isolated only to the province of BC. When we visited England in July temperatures were in the high thirties with the newspaper headlines screaming "Friday Furnace" the day after I suffered heat stroke. We currently have family visiting from Winnipeg where the summer has been unusually hot again with temperatures of 37-39 Celcius with a humidex reading of 44-45 degrees. A friend of mine named Larry is currently in town from Prince George that currently resembles Hell with all the fire and smoke there that has turned his car a light grey from the ash that is stuck to it. I contacted my buddy Chris in Corona, California to ask him if the wildfires there were having an impact on where he lived and he quickly sent me pictures of the sun being blotted out by smoke and of a plume of red fire retardant being dropped from a plane onto a local hillside that was ablaze. When I texted back to ask where and when he had taken the pictures, he told me they were from his back yard only minutes before. With heavy smoke and ash falling from the sky, he told me that coming down to sit by the pool was out of the question with a layer of ash covering his house and yard. Hopefully the fires will be stopped before they roll into his neighbourhood that is tinder dry from years of continual drought.

Because of the smoke from all the fires there is an Air Quality Advisory in effect for much of BC including the Lower Mainland. Here is the warning issued on Sunday by the BC Ministry of the Environment for this region:
AIR QUALITY ADVISORY IN EFFECT
Metro Vancouver is continuing an Air Quality Advisory for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley because of high concentrations of fine particulate matter due to smoke from wildfires burning in British Columbia and the western United States. Elevated levels of fine particulate matter are expected to occur over the next few days. Smoke concentrations may vary widely across the region as winds and temperatures change, and as wildfire behaviour changes.
Fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, refers to airborne solid or liquid droplets with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres (µm) or less. PM2.5 can easily penetrate indoors because of its small size. Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease. If you are experiencing symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, follow the advice of your healthcare provider. As we are in the summer season with warm temperatures, it is also important to stay cool and hydrated. Indoor spaces with air conditioning may offer relief from both heat and air pollution. For more information on current air quality visit www.bcairquality.ca.

Don't expect much of a reprieve from the heat the next few days as yet another heatwave is expected to roll through with daytime temperatures of 32 expected. We may get a break from the smoke later this week with cooler temperatures forecast and actual rain expected next weekend but that is still a long ways off. With our parched forests and pine beetle killed trees still standing on laying on the ground in many areas, expect uncontrolled wildfires to burn until the weather finally cools and rain returns to to finally extinguish them in the fall. With what appears to be two record fire seasons in a row, it looks like this may be the new normal so expect more "Smogust" in the future with hazy conditions for your summer vacation. On the bright side, at least you can leave the sunblock at home and not be worried about getting a burn with the smoke blocking out the sun.

Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn

 

 

August 13, 2018


Red Light Runners Beware

You probably heard the news released last week from the BC NDP government that they are increasing the number of red light cameras that are operational in the province. In total there will be 140 of these devices installed in 26 communities across BC as part of the Intersection Safety Camera Program. Last year there were 350,000 crashes in BC, an all time high, with 60 percent of these occurring in intersections.
Site selection for red light camera installation is based on the frequency, severity and type of crash based on data compiled by ICBC. The majority of the cameras are at intersections in the Lower Mainland, with the others on Vancouver Island and in cities in the Interior. Signs are posted on roadways before each intersection, informing drivers that the red light cameras are in use. A ticket will be issued against the owner of a vehicle only if there is clear photographic evidence that their vehicle entered an intersection on a red light.

While red light cameras are nothing new, they will now run 24 hours a day instead of the 6 hours per day that they were previously operational. Quick math should tell you this will generate four times the tickets and resulting fine revenue. What most people do not realize is that many of these cameras in the most crash-prone intersections have been recording speeds of vehicles that get photographed with no speeding infraction ticket being issued. You can expect that to change in the near future with the number and location of the speed-activated cameras likely to be announced sometime this fall. Imagine the double whammy a driver will get when he runs a red light while speeding. There is no word yet on whether vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit by 40 Kmh will be tracked down and impounded for excessive speed as is currently the case if you are caught by the police.

You can find a map showing the locations for all of the intersection safety cameras on the ICBC website at https://www.icbc.com/road-safety/community/Pages/Red-light-cameras.aspx. There is not much to worry about here in the Semiahmoo peninsula as only one intersection, that at 152 St. and King George Blvd. was deemed dangerous enough to warrant a red light camera. I could think of a few more spots that could use one of these devices but this location likely has the highest traffic volume of any local intersection and I have already attended three horrible crashes at this corner just after they occurred. The next closest locations to home are Scott Rd. and #10 Hwy. plus 152 St. and #10 Hwy. There are no cameras at the gigantic KGB and #10 intersection but King George has the highest concentrations of red light cameras in Surrey at 10 in total. The Nordell Way/88 Ave. connector with its extreme rush hour traffic flow comes in second with 8 red light cameras from the Alex Fraser bridge to Fraser Hwy. In total there are 39 red light cameras in Surrey now taking pictures of red light runners 24/7/365. Make sure you smile and that the cameras get your best side!

There will be those people who complain that this is nothing but a cash grab and a different version of photo radar. Sorry to say that I am not one of these people as the more tickets we hand out to people who flagrantly disregard the rules of the road the better. Hopefully this will slow people down and help put out the dumpster fire still smouldering away at the ICBC headquarters. What I witness driving on an almost non-stop basis is people speeding, not signalling turns or lane changes, running red lights, talking or texting on phones, blah, blah, blah. The biggest issue I see is that there is almost no traffic law enforcement (except for speeders at the bottom of hills) so people drive with impunity, getting away with their stupidity. Put me in an unmarked police car and I doubt if I could drive a block without pulling over someone who deserved a traffic ticket. I had to laugh this weekend when I came upon a car on the freeway with only one working brake light, so I changed lanes to avoid them, getting behind yet another vehicle that also had only one functional brake light. No wonder there are so many crashes in #1 Hwy. in the Fraser Valley these days with cars like this on the road.

Unfortunately with only one red light camera up and running in the Semi-pen, people here can continue to drive around here ignoring something as simple as when traffic lights turn red. I would suggest everyone be careful at the 152 St. and 16 Ave intersection (Johnston Rd. and North Bluff Rd. for those from White Rock) as I was a witness for a young woman who was t-boned there by somebody who ran a red light there last year. If you decide to drive into the heart of Surrey, Burnaby or Vancouver that have many of these cameras, you had best keep in mind that running red lights will cost you a $167 ticket plus have future affects on your insurance rates. Somebody has to pay for the mess that the previous Liberal government left us with and I hope it is the bad drivers and not just tax-payers who get stuck with the bill.

Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn

 

 

August 06, 2018

Shooting Stops in Surrey

As promised this TNT is being written aboard a Westjet 767 high above the Atlantic somewhere between Iceland and Greenland as we make our way home to Surrey, BC from Surrey, England. The 149th NRA UK matches at Bisley are now over and while they always end with a bang, this year was one for the record books with the weather taking center stage in the fullbore rifle competition. For the week when most of the main matches were fired, England and much of Europe were stuck in the middle of a major heat wave with temperature records being broken and health warnings issued to the masses to stay indoors and out of the sun. Unfortunately the only weather that stops competition at the Bisley ranges is lightning so the marksmen still had to shoot their .308 rifles laying in the full sun while wearing thick leather jackets. This led to yours truly suffering from the effects of heat stroke on Thursday that lingered for several days.

When I wrote my last TNT, I mentioned that someone from South Surrey was currently leading the Grand Aggregate that contains the scores of most of the matches fired. I have to admit that it was not me jockeying for top shot but another well known Canadian rifleman. White Rock's loss is Surrey's gain as Jim Paton and his wife Anna recently pulled up roots in the Rock and moved into Country Woods subdivision in the Semi-Pen. Attending his 36th Bisley Prize meeting in a row, Jim dropped very few points "going clean" as they say, shooting many "possibles" or perfect scores. He even won the dreaded 1,000 yard Corporation match outright with an amazng 50-8v, meaning that all of his shots hit the 24 inch bullseye with 8 of the 10 rounds being in the middle of that. When the gunsmoke had cleared after a week of competition, Jim tied with Britain's Jim Corbett having the identical score of 742 points but finishing in second place only two centre v-bulls behind (102
to 100). For this efforts Jim Paton was awarded the Silver Cross and won a total of 9 different matches and aggregates, taking home a large haul of trophies to the Canadian Pavilion where we were staying.

While the Grand Aggregate at Bisley is highly prized, the Queen's Prize match is possible more coveted with the winner being chaired from the firing point on the shoulders of their teammates. It is fired in three stages, Q1 being 7 rounds shot at 300, 500 and 600 yards. The top 300 competitors then make the second stage and Q2 is shot the next day, this time with 10 rounds at 3, 5 & 6. The top 100 make the Q3 or Queen's Final, the Q1 scores are dropped and they go "over the hill" to the Stickledown long range where 15 rounds are then fired on the final day of competition at both 900 and 1,000 yards. Stickledown is well known for treacherous and difficult winds but this year with the extreme heat and a large cold front moving in, the winds reached speeds of 15-25 miles per hour with frequent strength and direction changes. In the middle of a raging sandstorm, Britain's David Luckman, a former Queens and Grand Aggregate winner, prevailed taking Her Majesty's Prize by somehow firing a 68 out of 75 at the last 1,000 yard range. In all 5 Canadians made the Queen's Final including myself, with 24 year-old Catherine Choquette from Ottawa finishing as the top Canuck in 10th place.

With all target rifle shooting complete, it was time for the party to begin with the Queen's Prize winner David Luckman being put in a chair with rails under it and carried from the 1,000 yard firing point with a military brass band leading the way. At the NRA offices, prize presentations were held with amazing silverware, some almost 150 years old awarded to the match and aggregate winners. From there Mr. Luckman was carried from clubhouse to clubhouse around the Bisley Camp all evening long as is tradition there. At the Canadian Pavillion he was taken inside chair and all where he grabbed a white Calgary Stetson cowboy hat off the Buffalo head mounted high above the fireplace plus a cigarette dangling from its mouth. After a few drinks it was outside to fire the 4 foot naval cannon five times plus a smaller cannon made from used brass ammo cartridges. The final stop was the Surrey Rifle Association clubhouse for a raucous sing-along party that included six previous Queen's Prize winners including our Jim Paton hitting the stage to belt out a song together. We left at 3 a.m. and heard the bar finally closed long after dawn.

 

I hope it does not take another 38 years for me to return to Bisley as my wife Sheryl and I really enjoyed our time, the experiences and friendships we found there. Not to mention, I would think by that time my shooting days would likely be over if I'm lucky enough to actually live that long. I should mention that Team Canada came within a point of beating Britain for the historic Kolapore short range team match with many countries cheering on the upstart Canadians against the always strong English team. I would like to thank the many members of Team Canada for their support and comradery, with a special tip of my hat to the three other BC shooters plus team Commandant Dave Adams from Mission plus team Adjutant Peter Dobell from Chilliwack who unfortunately could not make the trip to Bisley due to a last minute medical concern.

I leave you with a picture I took from the cabin of our plane high above the coast of Greenland with its massive ice sheet flowing to the coast and calving off icebergs into the North Atlantic Ocean. It was quite the sight to see but I must admit that the sheer number and size of lakes and rivers plainly visible on the top of the giant glacier was of grave concern, especially with the extreme heat we endured during our stay in England. This should give you something to think about when you're spending time along our beaches during high tide.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 23, 2018

This Surrey Shooting Scores a Bulls-eye

 

Perish the thought that I have anything to do with the constant shootings and gangland murders that have plagued Surrey for years. I'm in the other mother Surrey..., Surrey, England that is, near the town of Woking at the NRA UK Fullbore Rifle Championships being held at the historic Bisley Range. I am a member of the 22 person strong Canadian Rifle Team sent here by the Domininon of Canada Rifle Association (dcra.org) that is now competing against some of the best marksmen on the planet. To give you an idea of the size of the estate, the 300-600 yd Century range features 108 target bays, while the famed 900-1,000 yard Stickledown range features 50 long-range firing positions.

This is not the first time I have had the pleasure of shooting for Canada at Bisley. Way back in 1979 when I was a BC Regiment army cadet, I made the Canadian Cadet Rifle Team and came here with a very strong shooting team. Half of the 18 boys and girls who qualified were from BC and had taken part in the rifle course held in Vernon. Of particular pride for me, the entire BC Regiment shooting team that I was a part of all made the rifle team, ensuring I had plenty of good friends along for the trip. We shot very well, winning the Alexander Graham Bell junior shooter team match for the first time in years and I made the top 100 in the Queens Prize and top 50 in the St. George's Match, both coming with highly coveted prizes.

Since that time life really got in the way of myself competing at international fullbore rifle matches where 0.308 single shot centrefire rifles are fired from the prone position at targets 300-1,000 yards away. I finally returned 38 years later, this time with the senior team for the 149th prize meeting held at Bisley. This August will be the 150th DCRA rifle championships in Ottawa, Ontario, showing the history and longevity of rifle shooting competition world wide. We are staying in Bisley at the McDonald Stewart Canadian Pavillion, a large two storey colonial design featuring a broad veranda that was constructed of wood imported from Canada in 1897. For 120 years it has been Canadian shooting team's home away from home when competing in England.

The social aspect of international target rifle shooting is an important part of any meet with chances to renew old friendships with people from any of the 18 countries participating. Many of the English shooting teams have clubhouse on the NRA property including the Surrey Rifle Association that we naturally gravitate to. On Sunday night we opened our home to many of the overseas team's with over 300 people attending the largest party of the meeting. It is also a chance to say goodbye and pay respects to old friends with former DCRA Governor Jim Thompson who passed away earlier this year having his memorial service and ashes scattered at the top of the 1,000 yard Stickledown range. This included the field cannon that normally resides next to the Maple Leaf flag at the Pavillion being fired as a final salute.

Since shooting began at Bisley, Canadian marksmen have fared very well for the size of our population. Ìn the Grand Aggregate that consists of scores from the bulk of the matches, we have scored Gold Crosses a dozen times and Siver Crosses nine times. Of special note is Alain Marion from Quebec who won silver in 1973 & 1980 before winning the gold in 1990 and BC native Bob Pitcairn who won gold in 1965 and silver in 1981. In the hotly contested King's/Queen's prize,
Canadian have won gold a total of 15 times, shooting for silver a further 8 times. The last Canadian Queen's prize winner was Jim Paton from White Rock in 2005. Amazingly, the only person who has ever won both of these major aggregates in a single year was Canadian D.T. Blair in 1929 and he had to shoot off against fellow Canadians to win gold in both.

That's all the news about shooting in Surrey except to tell you that currently a Canadian who lives in South Surrey is currently leading the Grand Aggregate by a whopping 6 points. More on that in next week's TNT that will likely be written on a Boeing 767 at 35,000 feet somewhere over Greenland and the Great White North.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 17, 2018


TNT Time in Britain

It's been a long while since I made my way across the pond to jolly old England, the last time being when I was 18 years old as an army cadet with the Canadian Rifle Team. I would have thought with flying into Britain from North America with a name like Donald that people would have been at the airport in droves to protest my arrival. Fortunately this was not the case and we landed safely with no fanfare and breezed through customs. This was not the case a day later later when a very different Donald sporting a rather unique hairstyle came into town on Air Force One.

US President Trump left a NATO meeting in Brussels and then flew to the UK, landing at the Stansted Airport before flying by helicopter to Winfield House that is the home to the US Ambassador in London. By chance we were on the flight path and had our sporting event cancelled for an hour and a half due to airspace concerns with The Donald flying over. I must admit it was rather interesting to see several V-22 Ospreys accompanied by rather menacing looķing Blackhawk helicopters going past. What made this fly-by even more eventful was that not long before Mr. Trump flew by, a Russian MIG-29 fighter jet blasted directly overhead, leaving many wondering if WW3 was starting or if Putin was making sure that POTUS arrived safely before their summit. My buddy Tom Walters from Saxon Aerospace in Surrey (BC, not England) who identified the fighter jet correctly assumed it was heading to Farnsworth for Europe's biggest air show.

Leftists and Liberals from across the country took to the streets in mass to protest the arrival of USA President Trump and his policies that many on that side of the political spectrum strongly oppose. There were literally hundreds of separate protests across the UK but none was larger than the one that took place in Trafalgar Square not far from the Parliament buildings which attracted an estimated 200,000 people. Besides all of the political banners and protest signs bashing Trump, the most visible had to be a huge ballon in the shape of baby resembling a crying Donald Trump including a hock of blonde hair and diaper. We visited Trafalgar Square the next day when the crowds had thinned out but evidence of the protesters remained with anti-Trump posters littering the ground around the Canadian Embassy located next door to the famous fountains with its four large bronze lions.

When we came out of the National Art Gallery, our plan was to visit the Parliament buildings and Big Ben before crossing back over the Thames River on the London Bridge to visit the gigantic Eye of London ferris wheel. Instead we saw a large crowd of 2,500 people gathered around the middle of Trafalgar Square singing loudly and waving flags including many of the old red and white English cross. With the FIFA World Cup still ongoing we thought it was a soccer match warm-up and decided to check out the throng that by this time were lighting red smoke bombs that filled much of the air. When a half-dozen police officers on horseback arrived along with large continent of bobbies on foot, we realized that we had inadvertently joined in some kind of a pro-Trump right-wing street protest that had nothing to do with what they call football.

The singing from the crowd resembled what you might hear at a soccer match, with everyone chanting "Tooommmm-y, Tommy-Tommy-Tommy-Tommy Rob-in-son." Not wanting to get involved, we left and headed towards the Big Ben tower that was covered in scaffolding and costruction mesh for a major renovation. The crowd left Trafalgar and poured in our direction shouting "Who's streets? Our streets. Free speech! Our Streets." Talking to many protesters and several cops, we learned that a right wing activist named Tommy Robinson had been secretly jailed for 13 months for violating a court order exposing three immigrants charged in a gang rape of an English national. Reading into the story on our smart phone, it did seem that this heavy handed decision was politically motivated, which incited the march we once again found ourselves caught in.

Nearing the English parliament buildings, we found the streets barricaded off and ringed with riot police. A half block away, counter protesters stood behind another barricade with another line of cops dressed in black with yellow high -viz vests. The police were quite friendly with us, likely because they easily identified us as tourists with our Canada shirts and no alt-right tattoos. Amazingly they even answered questions after I gave them my White Rock Sun card, not like our RCMP at home who robotically refer you to a media officer that then ignores you. With two more trailers full of riot team horses showing up and scuffles breaking out, we decided to go check out more historical sites instead of staying for the fights. In the end, the police helicopter hung over the battle zone for three hours, five police were wounded, several people got arrested, and Tommy Robinson was not freed.

I'm sorry that this TNT was a little late but my activity and social calendar the past week left little time to pen this column. For those wondering, we did stand proudly outside the gates of Buckingham palace, but didn't receive an invite from the Queen to join her for tea. This was probably for the best as I would have referred to her Majesty as Liz or simply Queeny for shits and giggles. While I'm away on vacation, there is no holiday from the White Rock Sun and I will do my best to keep you informed of our journeys and exploits in the Mother country. Until then ta-ta and cheeri-o. Oh blimey, I'm already sounding like a Limey!

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 09. 2018

Railing On About Track Safety

I was organizing a few things for the net work day just after 10 o'clock on Wednesday night when I heard the firetruck from Hall 12 in Crescent Beach roar towards the end of 24 Ave in Crescent heights with sirens wailing. Moments after that a paramedic vehicle also headed towards the Christopherson Steps at the end of the road. Following this was an almost non-stop parade of RCMP cruisers and ambulances speeding towards the area where the elevated pedestrian stairway goes across the BNSF tracks, giving people safe access to both Crescent Beach and Crescent Rock beach. With school just out for the summer I figured maybe it was an after-grad party gone sideways and with the large emergency services response, I thought it would be wise to check out what the heck was going on in my normally sedate neighbourhood.

Just around the corner from my house, I met a group of a half-dozen teenage males walking away from the kaleidoscope of red and blue lights at the end of the road. When I asked them if they knew what had happened, they told me in stammering voices that they'd been at a beach party beside the tracks with other students from Elgin Park. They admitted that it had been an alcohol and drug fueled binge with around 50 people taking part in the festivities. What they told me was that some of the boys had decided to sit on the tracks and play chicken with an oncoming train. It turns out this was not a slow moving BNSF freight train but the northbound Amtrak passenger train heading towards Vancouver. While most of the young men managed to get out of the way in time, one did not move fast enough and was struck by the AmTrak, sending him flying 20' through the air into the bushes and rocks below. They described in graphic details his serious injuries that included a large gaping head wound and refused to speculate on their school mate's condition.

Heading down into the tangle of police, ambulance and fire vehicles, it was almost surreal that no first responders were on scene next to what locals used to call the 101 Steps, with everyone being down at the beach. As small groups of crying teenagers made their way up the stairs out of the darkness, they were met by panicked parents who had drove to the site and were running down the roadway cell phones in hand to meet and console them. I came across several groups of teenage girls who told me the same story as the boys up the street, including gory details on what they had seen. They identified the young man who had been hit by the Amtrak as 14 year-old Jack Stroud who had recently completed grade 9 at Elgin Park Secondary School. When I asked about his condition they admitted they didn't think his chances for survival were good, with emergency CPR being performed on him at the beach. Two young ladies near the entrance to the stairs told me the same kid was carrying a large bottle of open liquor just before the accident described him as being very drunk. A young man was then basically carried up the stairs by several friends and he collapsed in the middle of the road sobbing repeatedly about losing his friend. By that time I had seen enough and with a Global TV cameraman showing up to roll tape, I decided to make my way back home. In the morning the Surrey RCMP released that 15 year-old Grade 9 Elgin Park student Jack Stroud had been hit and killed by the late night Amtrak train.

By Thursday night a waterfront memorial just south of the Christopherson Steps had been erected by Jack's friends and classmates, complete with a white cross, numerous bouquets of flowers, pictures, momentos and rocks with tributes written on them in indelible ink. My wife and I went by while walking her dogs and joined the many teary-eyed teenagers gathered there exchanging hugs and giving each other support over the loss of their friend. Showing how this latest death apparently has changed nothing, when we were coming down the metal stairs three men in jeans with their shirts off came walking down the tracks as a BNSF freight train went past. The engineer horned the heck out of these morons and yelled at them to get off the tracks as he rolled by. Instead of leaving the corridor, these idiots decided it would be fun to grab at the ladders on the box cars and take a small ride down the tracks on the train. This was how a guy I went to school with years ago lost his leg mid-thigh to a BNSF frieght train in North Delta. All I could think from this show of idiocy was that you can't fix stupid. This idea was reinforced on Sunday night when my wife and I again went for a walk on the beach at sunset and found that the Crescent Rock boulder and many large rocks on the beach near the memorial had been spray painted with graffiti linked to Jack Stroud's passing. After the mess that grads left at Chehalis Lake two years ago, I'm surprised that Elgin Park students would apparently trash Crescent Rock beach in Jack's memory.

I spent time in the Surrey archives years ago researching the number of accidents on the rail corridor in the Semiahmoo peninsula and believe that the "BNSF Hit List" as I call it is now up to 22 people killed on the tracks here. Unfortunately the Amtrak train is involved in an disproportionate number of these fatal accidents. When passenger rail service was restarted in 1975, the Amtrak ran over five people in the first five years before speed limits were lowered here. The sleek looking locomotives, quiet engines, smaller lights and smooth running suspension means that people misjudge the Amtrak's speed or fail to respond quickly to the danger that it poses to people trespassing on the railway. The paint job also is basically camouflage with the engines either being white with brown and green, all natural colours, or blue and silver grey, the predominant colours found at the beach. The BNSF freight trains with their loud engines and Halloween paint job are big, slower and noisy, with most people taking notice and getting the heck off the tracks when they see one coming. At the end of the day, no amount of education, signage, pedestrian crossing, bells and whistles or even terrible deaths will keep people from using the tracks as a walkway to reach their favourite part of the waterfront. The only way to stop this slow-motion massacre will be to eventually move the tracks inland to a safer location away from what is the main marine recreational site to over a million Fraser Valley residents.

On a railway related note, I just learned that the CN Police recently cancelled their policing contract with the BNSF after 20 years of service. The BNSF Railway have now hired their own officer who patrols the tracks along with an RCMP member from the Peace Arch to New West. You can now expect to see much more trespassing enforcement with this change in policing that will focus on people on the tracks in the Semiahmoo peninsula. I talked to the new BNSF cop about the Semiahmoo First Nations parking lot behind the WAG that was the topic of an unflattering video recently shown on Facebook. He assured me that those simply crossing the tracks in this location to access the beach would not be ticketed but those walking on the tracks near the Reserve could expect a $115 fine. Don't be surprised to see a level pedestrian crossing like those in White Rock installed at this location in the near future to improve rail safety as I understand from a reliable railway source that negotiations between the SFN, BNSF and Transport Canada are already underway. Lastly, near Crescent Beach, the City of Surrey is looking to erect a six foot tall chain link fence along the rail corridor from the crossing at Beecher St. to the end of Bayview Street as part of a whistle cessation program. Plans are now to put it on city land as the BNSF bean counters wanted a whopping $225,000 a year lease payment for a free fence that would keep people off their train tracks. You'd like to think they would be more concerned about rail safety than trying to extort taxpayer money from Surrey. What a sickening display of corporate greed from an American based railroad owned by one of the world's richest men who appears morally bankrupt.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 03, 3018

 

Glimpsing a Petroglyph

Crescent Rock beach located at the base of the Ocean Park bluffs was forever altered in 1907 when work began on the Great Northern Railway track realignment that brought freight trains to the shores of Semiahmoo Bay. The tracks were built above the intertidal zone of the beach and the rail bed fortified with rip-rap to protect the corridor from winter storms and crashing waves. While these boulders have continuously washed into the surf for 110 years, many of the rocks on the beach are there from natural erosion processes that have occurred since the last ice age (the Pleistocene Epoch) ended an estimated 11,700 years ago. In fact, both the White Rock boulder and its smaller cousin in Surrey, the Crescent Rock boulder, are glacial erratics carried here on ice sheets from far away mountain ranges, with both being composed of identical white granite.

For centuries before Europeans arrived in these waters indigenous people used both the White Rock boulder and Crescent Beach boulders as navigational aids. The Crescent Rock boulder in Surrey near Crescent Beach can be seen with the naked eye from Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen and the White Rock boulder is visible from Lily Point in Point Roberts. If you look at the shore directly in front of the Crescent Rock boulder, you will notice two lines of big rocks running perpendicular to the beach and separated by roughly 100 feet in distance. It is believed that these rocks were moved into place to create a safe landing zone for First Nation canoes and to help trap sand, similar to the groins that have been placed at the Crescent Beach marine park. Further south from the Crescent Rock past Indian Fort Drive that was named after a First Nations defensive position on the bluff, there is another of these protected shoreline areas lined with heavy boulders. They can easily be viewed from the comfort of your home on Google Earth or Surrey's COSMOS mapping system.

While the presence of the Coast Salish people here is well documented with archelogical evidence easily found widespread across the coast of Boundary Bay including Crescent Beach, not many are aware that centuries old indigenous art work can easily be found if you know what you are looking for. This weekend a friend of mine who I know from the beach sent me photos of a petroglyph he had located 300 yards south of the Christopherson Steps staircase (formerly 101 Steps) just beyond the main beach area favoured by naturists. A buddy of his had told him about the existence of three of them in this area but he did not locate the other two. I must admit that I have walked this beach countless times and done shoreline cleanups from Crescent Beach to White Rock before without noticing anything unusual in the shore boulders. In the future I plan on spending less time admiring the view towards the San Juan islands and focus on looking for centuries old Indigenous art.

In case you are not familiar with the word, petroglyphs are ancient rock carvings made by aboriginal people by chipping and abrading rock surfaces with stone tools. This should not be confused with pictographs, which are paintings applied to rocks with sticks or fingers using pigments often made from powdered minerals. In British Columbia over 500 petroglyph sites have been located, more than in any other province in Canada. The locations for petroglyphs usually mark unusual natural features such as waterfalls or caves plus village sites or trails. For unknown reasons, many petrogyphs here were carved on intertidal beach boulders that are submerged by the tide, appearing only when the tide receeds. This was the case of the Crescent Rock beach petroglyph that features what appears to be the face of the man adorned with some kind of a headdress. Carbon 14 dating techniques are rarely helpful in determining the age of rock art sites but it is believed that due to erosional forces which eventually destroy them, most petroglyphs in BC range from 100 to 3,000 years old.

It is not like this is a new discovery here in the Semiahmoo Peninsula. In the 1920's a petroglyph was spotted on the beach near the south end of 136 Street, showing a series of circles and holes on a large granite boulder. The Surrey Historical Society was notified and took steps to rescue the boulder from erosion that was destroying the art work. After getting permission from the Parks Branch, they enlisted help from the Burlington Northern Railway who used a crane to pluck it from the water. The rock was them moved into Crescent Beach proper, finding a final place in Heron Park at the site of the old Crescent Beach Train Station, located next to the tracks on Beecher Street. It was officially unveiled in 1974 by them Surrey Mayor Bill Vanderzalm and is marked with a plaque that reads "PETROGLYPH - Symbols were carved into the rock by prehistoric inhabitants of the area." I'm thinking this could use updating to remove "prehistoric inhabitants" and instead read "the Coast Salish people."

 

Petroglyphs are protected in BC under the provisions of the Heritage Conservation Act. You can learn more about petroglyphs by visiting the archaeology section of the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Their direct website link is https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/archaeology/policies/recording_petroglyphs.htm If you find other petroglyphs in south Surrey or White Rock, please contact the Archaeology Branch directly by telephone at (250) 953-3334 to report their location and possibly provide a photo of the ancient indigenous rock art. When I find the other two rock carvings that are south of Crescent Beach, pictures of them will be added to this story in the future as a TNT extra.

Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn

 

 

June 25, 2018

A line in the Sand at Border Beach

The story broke last week about a 19 year-old French girl who inadvertently crossed the US/Canada border into Blaine and was arrested. Roman Cedella was in Canada visiting her mother in North Delta when she decided to go for a jog at the White Rock waterfront on May 21st. Heading south past the Peace Arch Park she ran only meters into the United States, turned to take a picture with her cell phone, then jogged back up the beach. She was apprehended by two US Customs and Border Security agents only steps from the crossing and when they found out she was a foreign national with no ID, she was promptly arrested. They then transferred her to the US Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE) Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington and held for two weeks while bureaucrats on both sides of the border sorted out her case before finally releasing her back to her mother in Canada on June 6th. Simply Google "French jogger US border White Rock" to read the many news reports about this border incident.

When you drive down Hwy. 99 towards the US, it is impossible to not realize that you are entering a border crossing area. There are plenty of signs along the way, the giant Peace Arch monument, crossing booths for both Canada and the US, not to mention long lineups of vehicles all crawling along or sitting stuck in traffic. I went down to the beach south of Peace Arch Park in an area that I now call "Border Beach" to check out for myself how someone could mistakenly jog across the 49th parallel at BC's largest land crossing. Beforehand, I made sure to call ahead to the US Customs and Border Protection offices in Blaine so I could let them know I would be in the vicinity taking pictures for this column. The supervisor was quite helpful, taking down my description to pass onto border guards and telling me to bring a business card plus passport, which I thought was very good advice. I like spending time in the United States, but prefer a nice comfy hotel room to a jail cell.

Parking at Peace Arch Park, my wife and I along with her two dogs walked south along until we paralleled the cars lining up for inspection heading into the US, finally stopping directly west of the Peace Arch monument. At this point is a four sided concrete marker about four feet high that reads "International Boundary" on two sides with "Canada" and "United States" on the other. Other than this weathered grey post, there is no signage to let you know you are crossing the actual border. About 50 feet away is an old metal sign in black and white, approximately 8' long by 1' tall, that reads USA CANADA BORDER which is streaked with rust. The "No Trespassing" sign below it that has been vandalized to now read "assing" lists the BN RR or Burlington Northern Rail Road as the owner. This railway became the BNSF when Burlington Northern and Sante Fe railways merged in 1995 so this sign is at least 23 years old and now partially obscured by scrubby trees and blackberries. If you have not noticed it before, its because it is not visible to traffic heading south.

Not far from this location we found a dirt trail leading through the undergrowth, out across the tracks and down onto the shoreline. I have to admit that in all of the years I have lived in this region, I have never set foot on Border Beach. It is rather spectacular in its rugged beauty with not a soul to be seen anywhere. Facing due West it looks out across the expanse of Semiahmoo Bay, making it a great place walk in tidal pools, skim-board, or take in a sunset. Heading back south to where I knew the border was, it became obvious why Roman Cedella had accidentally jogged into the United States. There is nothing on the beach to mark the 49th parallel boundary and the trees and vegetation between the beach and tracks, plus the tracks and Hwy 99 completely block the view of the crossing. Even the Peace Arch Monument that stands 20.5 metres tall is almost totally obscured by the bushes. There is no signage, no monument, no fence, no concrete curbing, no wall, not even a line drawn in the sand. In this day and age with paranoia rampant in the US and politicians so fixated on border security and protection, having no boundary markers at the beach is ludicrous.

In Tsawwassen and Point Roberts, at least there is something to alert you to the presence of the world's largest unsecured border of 5,525 miles. On both the Tsawwassen Beach and Centennial Beach sides of south Delta, the waterfront at the international boundary has the same concrete monument that sits next to Hwy. 99. When the tide is in and the beach is reduced to a small strip, there is a chance that you might actually notice them. Again, there is no signage, fencing, wall or anything else to alert you to crossing the border. Since Point Roberts is surrounded by water and with many Canadians owning property in this enclave, there seems to be less interest in enforcing the border along the beach and both Canadian and US residents meander back and forth with virtual impunity. That is not the case at the Peace Arch where US Border Customs and Border Protection agents watch the sand flats west of Hwy. 99 with spotting scopes looking for anyone taking a few wrong steps into the United States.

If we are to have a defended border with the US, it is time that we post some proper notification at the 49th parallel so that people know when they are running into trouble. There needs to be large visible signs down at the beach printed on both sides so that folks from the US and Canada know where the border actually is located. I would suggest a low concrete barrier or curbing at the beach so people actually have to step over it when the tide is in. Out in the sand flats, a piling with signage some distance from shore would also be useful to stop inadvertent crossings. Personally I would like the US and Canada to follow Europe's lead and get read of this relic, focusing instead on continental security and opening the border. Unfortunately with the other Donald running the White House and immigration being such a hot-button issue in the land of the free, it is doubtful that this would ever be considered. If you want to visit Border Beach to check it out for yourself, I'd suggest sunglasses, some tanning oil, your passport and the possibly the phone number for a good immigration lawyer.

Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn

 

 

June 18, 2018


Disposal Ban With No Disposal Plan

You have to love it when non-elected governmental officials make decisions that affect almost everyone they have been chosen to represent, which place ridiculous and onerous burdens on the people who pay their bloated salaries. Case in point is the decision by the Metro Vancouver GVS&DD Board to ban the disposal of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as styrofoam, from the garbage disposal stream in two weeks time starting July 1st, 2018. Never heard of the GVS&DD Board? Neither have I but it turns out it is the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District who have passed this edict. Here is the info on this ban taken from the Met-Van website:

Metro Vancouver will start levying a surcharge against customers who dump expanded polystyrene packaging, commonly known as Styrofoam, at regional disposal facilities effective July 1. The move is aimed at encouraging more styrofoam recycling by creating a financial deterrent to throwing the material in the garbage. A surcharge amounting to 100 percent of the tipping fee will be applied to garbage loads containing more than 20 percent expanded polystyrene packaging at Metro Vancouver and City of Vancouver transfer stations, the waste-to-energy facility or the Vancouver Landfill.
The ban applies to white expanded polystyrene that is used for protecting and distributing products but excludes food and beverage containers, packing peanuts and expanded polystyrene that is painted, soiled or treated. Disposal Ban Inspectors have been educating customers about the upcoming requirements since January.
Expanded polystyrene packaging can be reused in local styrofoam manufacturing processes, or it can be recycled into products such as picture frames, crown moulding and fencing. Residents can drop off expanded polystyrene free of charge at designated recycling depots, and businesses can send it for recycling at local facilities for a fee. A list of drop-off depots and recycling facilities is available at metrovancouverrecycles.org.

Now don't get me wrong, anything we can do to divert products out of our waste stream and away from landfills or incinerators is a good thing. According to Met-Van 10,500 of tonnes of EPS are disposed of every year in the Lower Mainland, representing one of the largest material categories in the waste stream without a disposal ban. Our household has already been recycling styrofoam for years, saving up clean packing styrofoam in large clear plastic bags and taking them to Mansonville Plastics on 56 Ave in Surrey just east of 192 St. in Surrey, where this product is ground up and turned into polystyrene building blocks and sheets of board insulation. We collect all of the various styrofoam food and beverage containers that enter our home, cleaning and storing them before taking it to the White Rock Encorp Return-It Centre on 24 Ave., the only place in the Semi-Pen that apparently accepts this product at this time. Fortunately we have lots of storage space at our house with the garage sometimes looking much like a Return-It centre, with bags of plastic film, glass jars, packing styrofoam, food packaging styrofoam, plus beverage containers with deposits on them. For people in apartments or townhouses where storage is at a premium, we wonder how often these products simply get tossed in the trash because they are not picked up with curbside recycling.

At issue here is Metro Vancouver banning styrofoam from the waste stream without having a collection system in place to properly deal with this rather bulky problem. If you go to the metrovancouverrecycles.org website it asks you "Are you a business or a resident" and "What are you recycling today." Picking resident and polystyrene, yields a surprising low return of only three facilities, Fleetwood Waste Systems in Vancouver, Brad's Junk Removal in Richmond and the Maple Ridge Transfer Station in you guessed it, Maple Ditch. I decided to try entering styrofoam into their system expecting the same result since it is the same product and the search results yielded eight locations with nothing in Sur-Del-Lang. Strangely two of the three locations in the first search did not show up in the second query. Now I know that residents of Surrey are often treated as second-class citizens but not having a listed drop-off location for half-a-million people seems beyond belief. The Encorp Return-it website at return-it.ca lists only a polystyrene beverage cup that is accepted for a 5 cent deposit with no information given in the "What they are recycled into" box. Surrey does not collect styrofoam in their recyclables and the surrey.ca website is little help, directing people to the Metrovancouver recycles website or to call the Recycling Council of British Columbia Hotline 604-732-9253.

If Metro Vancouver and the City of Surrey wants to get serious about recycling, they need to put in place an easy to use collection system or else styrofoam will continue to be thrown into the trash. Since glass jars that have no deposit fee were banned from the big grey recycling totes in Surrey, I know that many people simply toss these containers into the garbage, increasing landfills one jar at a time. The same fate awaits styrofoam if there is no easy way for this product to be collected and recycled. Metro Vancouver, City of Surrey and Encorp Return-it websites all need to be upgraded before July 1st to deal with this new change that the bureaucrats have implemented. They have two weeks left and I would suggest that they get this done immediately before the Recycling Council of BC hotline get overwhelmed with calls from bewildered or pissed-off residents looking for answers. All of those Return-it ads you see on TV with the angry looking beverage containers have the music soundtrack that goes "dumb-dumb-dumb", which perfectly describes how this styrofoam recycling program is being rolled out.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 11, 2018

Dying To Get In There

It was a pretty rough week in south-east Surrey with two teenage boys being gunned down last Monday night on 40 Ave between 184 and 200 Street, followed soon after by reports of two burning cars that are becoming common after gangland executions. In the early hours of Sunday morning, two men allegedly driving in a truck stolen from Langley apparently headed south on 192 St. and failed to realize that the road ended in a T intersection at 16 Ave. The F-350 crossed 16 Ave. at considerable speed just missing the road end marker, plowed through a cedar hedge, crashed into a thick stand of maple trees before rolling and coming to a stop in the Hazelmere Cemetary, narrowly missing several gravestones. There were no skid marks visible on the asphalt from either heavy braking or an attempt at a sharp turn. A neighbour told me the truck was folded in two with the roof ripped off and the men's bodies trapped inside.

Now I realize that there will be many in our community who are tired of criminals in our midst who might say that these two men, both known to the police, got what they deserved. I'm not going to be drawn into the argument of whether auto theft warrants a death sentence, but instead want people to know that regardless of their motives or method of transportation, the corner where these men lost their lives is dangerous and has killed before. On May 8, 2010, 26 year-old excavation operator Arron Breaks made the same mistake of driving straight through this very same intersection. His white Honda cut a 100 foot swath through the bush before crashing into the Little Campbell River ravine beside the cemetery. Aaron was found by his brother who went looking for him several days after he failed to return home from a friend's place. A welded metal cross featuring a yellow excavator now marks the spot where his car left the roadway, while Aaron Tyler Breaks was laid to rest in the Hazelmere Cemetery, something I learned from the website findagrave.com.

The corner of 192 St. and 16 Ave. is now a very busy intersection with plenty of truck traffic. For those heading south on 192 St., there is no signage warning that they are approaching a T intersection. There is a small road end marker across the street and a traffic light that simply goes green, instead of having two arrows facing both left and right. If a mistake is made or one's judgement is affected by alcohol, drugs or fatigue, or if a driver is distracted and a vehicle drives through this light, the waiting ravine and heavy trees pose a deadly threat. There needs to be a line of heavy concrete dividers painted bright yellow placed across from this intersection, with two road end markers lined up on the two lanes that approach them. This would be more visible and stop vehicles from zooming off into the trees or ravine. To lessen any impact, large yellow barrels filled with sand could be placed in front of the concrete, similar to what has been done at the T intersection of Knight Street and Westminster Hwy. in Richmond after several bad crashes there years ago.

Further up the street on 192 St. there are several other improvements that could reduce or eliminate the possibility of one of these off-road accidents happening again in the future. While there are arrows painted on the roadway, there needs to be signage indicating that the road terminates and drivers must turn either left or right. It might be worth considering having rumble strips installed to help bring attention to the road ending ahead. Also on the pole that holds the traffic light, black and white lane turning arrows should also be installed on either side of the light. All of these changes should greatly reduce the chance of a repeat accident but one other safety upgrade also needs to be made on 16 Ave. There is a long row of large concrete dividers on the south side of the road just east of the intersection protecting cars from going into the Campbell River ravine. For reasons unknown, there is a 100 foot section of these tall safety curbs missing, likely from being damaged by a heavy truck in the past and never replaced. The gaping hole in this important road safety system needs to be plugged.

When Aaron Breaks died in 2010, I visited the crash scene and saw the temporary roadside memorial his friends and family had left at that time. When the iron cross was later installed, I stopped by to check out the metalwork and pay my respects. While I knew of the dangers at this intersection, I never took the time to notify the City of Surrey as to how they could easily be eliminated. Now that two more people have died, bringing the death toll to 3 people in 8 years, I will ensure that the information you read here is forwarded to the Surrey Engineering Department this week for their perusal and consideration. As I have said in the past, bad engineering kills people and this busy corner needs to be upgraded before anyone else dies as a result of bad signage and lack of a protective barrier. The old joke about the cemetery being the most popular place since people are dying to get in there, quickly looses its humour when you have walked down the tire tracks in the dirt and seen the heavy impact marks on the thick trees where people have lost their lives.

Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn

 

 

June 04, 2018


Crime of the Week - the Murder of Dario Bartoli

BC Crime Stoppers has taken the step of listing the 2014 homicide of 15 year-old Surrey teen Dario Bartoli as its "Crime of the Week" that began on Sun., June 3rd. Let's hope that the extra publicity about this now historic homicide will loosen some lips as somebody in our community knows the details about this heinous crime and the murderer or murderers who are still walking our streets instead of being locked away in jail.

Just after 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 15, nearly three and a half years ago, Surrey RCMP were notified that two boys aged 14 and 15 had ran to a home in the 15600 18 Ave. after being swarmed by a group of four to five people at Bakerview Park, located at the NW corner of 154 St and 18 Ave. The 15 year-old who was later identified as Dario Bartolli was taken by ambulance to the Peace Arch Hospital in critical condition, bleeding profusely after reportedly being badly beaten with a weapon. His family were contacted and went to the hospital to be with their son with assistance from the Surrey RCMP Victims Services. Unfortunately the south Surrey teen who was a student at Earl Marriott Secondary succumbed to his injuries around 10 a.m. with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team then taking over what became a murder investigation. The 14 year-old was uninjured in the attack and was able to go home after giving a statement to the police.

The house where the two boys escaped to was located approximately three blocks from where the assault is believed to have occurred. At that time investigators put up crime scene tape around the south-west corner of the Bakerview Park with evidence markers placed at several beer bottles left on the grass in the park. While steps were taken to help identify who was responsible for this deadly crime, to date this case has not been solved and no one has been charged in Dario's death, which police have described as an “alcohol-fueled altercation that turned tragic”. It is believed that Dario was allegedly murdered by a group of men from outside the South Surrey area. It is hoped that the new publicity about this homicide may jog people's memories and possibly loosen lips on who was responsible for this senseless killing.

After Dario's death his friends and family organized an event in his memory named "Dario Jam" that was created by teens at the South Surrey Skate Park where Dario liked to spend time skateboarding and riding his BMX bike. On the first year of Dario jam, the Youth Engagement Team raised over $8,500 that was donated to Sources Community Resources Youth Programs and the Peace Portal Alliance Church Youth Programs. A website in Dario's memory is online with information about the Dario Bartoli Movement (dariobartoli.com) that is about "Cameras, Lights, Action" looking to put cameras and lights in parks, CCTV cameras at major intersections and key points of entry. In a recent website update, it was noted that Surrey has recently added 75 more traffic management cameras to the 250 already running, with 14 in south Surrey/White Rock including at the corner of Bakerview Park plus the key points of entry for south Surrey.City of Surrey has approved 75 more traffic management cameras adding to the 250 they have through out Surrey.

In November of 2016, Dario Bartoli’s mother, June Iida, filed suit against the Province and a 911 dispatcher, alleging that negligence on their part caused or contributed to the death of their son. According to the notice of claim, incorrect coding of the 911 call combined with delays in responding to police calls for an ambulance led to an 11 minute delay in paramedics arriving at the house the boys had taken refuge at. Allegedly calls from the RCMP dispatch centre for ambulance service were twice put on hold and the 911 dispatcher erroneously entered a Code 2 response, which is for a non-life threatening patient condition. It is claimed that the proper Code 3 response was requested multiple times by the Surrey RCMP dispatch before this was finally put into the EHS system, resulting in a 20 minute, 32 second delay in the ambulance arriving on scene. None of the allegations have been proven in court, with Iida seeking general and special damages as well as costs.

I think the time has come to consider renaming Bakerview Park to Dario Bartoli Park as a way to honour his memory and possibly bring closure to this case and for his grieving family. To understand the hurt his loss has caused I ask you to read the heartfelt explanation of what happened on the night of Dario's death as posted by his Mom at http://www.dariobartoli.com/dario-bartoli-movement.html. It begins with the following: " I never imagined in a million years that I would be planning my 15 year old son's funeral a week before Christmas. Dario my only son, the center of my universe, the reason why I woke up every morning, the reason why I did anything in life; He was my drive, my life....all that was taken from us in a matter of minutes and our lives have forever changed." Heavy stuff that comes with this warning "This does not happen in our Community...but it did."

Anyone with information on the case, no matter how small it may be, is encouraged by Crime Stoppers to contact the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) at 1-877-551-4448 , or to remain anonymous contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn

 

 

 

M ay 28, 2018


Musseling Into Our Territory

On the weekend I happened to be at a local gas station filling my truck and grabbing a much needed coffee when I noticed this rather official looking truck parked near me. I was rather surprised when I read the lettering on the door that said "Invasive Mussel Defence Program". Talking to the driver, Conservation Officer Jason Gayton, I learned that they were part of a special force dedicated to stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species into BC fresh waters. Not being a boat owner I knew nothing about this program that began in 2015 with stations across BC where boats are transported. While their primary focus is Zebra and Quagga mussels, they are also on the outlook for the following plants, Brazillian Eladea, Hydrilla, Parrot Feather Eurasian Watermilfoil, Knotweed, Yellow Flag Iris and Cordgrass/Spartina plus these other marine creatures, Northern Snakehead, Rusty Crayfish, Asian Clam, Northern Pike and European Green Crab.

The goal of the B.C. Invasive Mussel Defence Program is to prevent the introduction of Zebra and Quagga mussels into BC waters. This is done by inspecting watercraft at weigh scales and access points across the province to look for high-risk boats traveling from infected areas. Conservation officers involved with this program also monitor lakes to ensure that these invasive mussels have not made it to our province. Part of their mandate is to outreach and educate boaters to promote their message of clean, drain, dry that will kill the mussels and stop their spread. In 2015 when the program was launched there were six mobile decontamination units, 12 watercraft inspectors plus lake monitoring for what they call ZQM. The following year there were 32 auxiliary Conservation Officers at 8 watercraft inspection stations located along southern and eastern border locations. Last year the program was expanded to 65 inspectors and two new stations, with 9 of these operating dawn to dusk and the Golden station on Hwy 1 operating 24 hours a day. In 2017 There were 35,500 watercraft inspected with 2,071 high-risk inspections, 260 decontamination orders, 180 quarantine periods and 25 mussel fouled boats. Industry is very concerned about this problem with BC Hydro, Columbia Power Corporation, Fortis BC, and Columbia Basin Trust helping to expand this program that helps to protect their infrastructure.

Why are Zebra and Quagga muscles such a problem you ask? These tiny mollusks were introduced by ocean going freighters dumping ballast water from the Baltic Sea into the Great Lakes in 1988. Since that time they have been spreading throughout North America catching a ride on watercraft transported between fresh water lakes. The tiny juvenille stages can easily be overlooked when attached to a boat or its equipment. Microscopic larvae can survive for up to 30 days in standing water on boats or in coolers or even waders. What makes them so difficult to control is their reproduction rate of 30,000 to a million new muscles a year. These can reproduce at the age of one year and have a life span of four to eight years, meaning one zebra mussel can produce up to 8 million offspring in their short lifetime. Zebra muscles cling to every surface available to them, clogging hydro power stations, agricultural irrigation pipes, municipal water supplies and fouling recreational boats. They take over and exclude native mussel populations, filtering water to the point that all plankton is removed affecting the entire ecosystem. On the beach their sharp shells can cut people's feet plus cause an offensive odor when they die off in large numbers due to water or weather conditions.

For those heading out of town with their watercraft, be aware that there is a check point near Hope located and the truck weigh scale. It is mandatory for all watercraft including motorboats, sailboats, car toppers, canoes, kayaks and even paddleboards to be inspected. If you do not stop you can be heavily fined or be reported by other motorists to the Rapp (Report All Polluters Poachers) line at 1-877-952-7277. All watercraft launched in BC waters should follow the "Clean, Drain, Dry" protocol to avoid the spread of invasive species. This means cleaning off all plants parts, animals and mud from the boat, trailer, outdrive and equipment before leaving the boat launch. All water needs to be drained onto land from bait buckets, live-wells, pumps, motors, bilges plus drain plugs have to be pulled before leaving the body of water. All of these items must be dried completely before taking your watercraft into another body of water to avoid spreading these problematic pests With high-risk watercraft and equipment that has been in a ZQM contaminated area, they should be examined by trained provincial personnel who will decontaminate it or quarantine the vessel until the threat of spreading zebra mussels is over.

For more information on this problem, visit the BC Invasive Mussel Defence Program website at;

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/invasive-mussels/invasive-mussel-defence-program

,,,,, along with the Don't Move A Mussel website at http://www.dontmoveamussel.ca/home

 

 

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 21, 2018


Land of the Free

I often travel to the United States of America for sporting purposes but rarely do any shopping there except for a bottle of cheap duty-free booze when crossing back into Canada. I know there are deals to be had even with when using the Canadian Peso but I really can't be bothered spending the day traipsing around one of the many mega-malls or outlet store zones that dot the US retail landscape. On the long weekend I was down in Richland at the dreaded Rattlesnake 1,000 yard range, spending time there competing with some of Washington State's best marksman. My retired parents were also there living it up in their RV along with their two aging bengal cats. While the boys were getting blown away by 20 mile-an-hour winds up on the plateau, my Mom and the other shooters wives saddled up their ponies and moseyed off into the Ti-Cities region in search of bargains. When they returned, their glee over not paying a penny of sales tax beat out any deals they had found.

If you are confused by this, you are not alone as it was the first time I had heard about a non-resident exemption from Washington State's 6.5% sales tax that can sometimes hit 9.5% with local taxes. My mother and her friend stumbled across this great deal when exiting Costco and the sales clerk noticed from their card that they were BC residents and gave them the sales tax break that both of them had never even heard of. Armed with this knowledge and looking to try it on another retailer, they cleaned house at Macy's and when finalizing their bill asked for and received the same tax break, simply by producing their BC driver's license and having it registered in a book. Several smaller stores also granted the tax exemption on their purchases with little or no paperwork. At the end of their shopping day, the ladies got the same tax break on all their purchases excluding alcohol. If you are buying goods in Washington State to take home, make sure you ask for this 6.5% savings.

Now that I have your attention, here is the devil in the details straight out of the Washington State Department of Revenue.
A sales tax exemption exists for certain nonresidents of Washington State on purchases of tangible personal property, digital goods, and digital codes, that will be used only outside of this state. This exemption is only available to residents of states, United States possessions, or Canadian provinces where:
There is no retail sales tax, use tax, value added tax, or gross receipts tax on retailing activities, or similar generally applicable tax, or
The retail sales tax, use tax, value added tax, or gross receipts tax on retailing activities, or similar generally applicable tax is less than 3 percent.


Only residents of the following provinces of Canada qualify:
Alberta
Northwest Territories
Nunavut
Yukon Territory


The law provides an exemption for sales that meet all three of the following criteria:
The sale is of tangible personal property, digital products, or digital codes.
The purchased item(s) will be used only outside of Washington State.
The purchaser can establish resident status in a qualifying jurisdiction.
The exemption does not apply to charges for services that are included within the definition of the term "sale at retail" or sales of articles substantially used or consumed within Washington.

This includes, but is not limited to:
Lodging at hotels or motels.
Repair services (except vehicle repairs where the parts portion is not taxable to qualifying nonresidents).
Laundry or dry cleaning services.
Automobile towing or parking.
Amusement and recreational activities such as golf, bowling, and charter fishing.
Personal services such as tanning, tattooing, and dating services.
Meals or refreshments prepared for immediate consumption.
Abstract, title insurance, or escrow services.
Articles sold to:
Persons in the military stationed within Washington.
Nonresident students attending schools in this state.
Any other nonresident temporarily residing in Washington.
Being the Evergreen State, marijuana sales to nonresidents are subject to retail sales tax. Sales of marijuana, useable marijuana, and marijuana infused products, including marijuana concentrates, are excluded from the limited nonresident sales tax exemption. Beer, wine, spirits, tobacco products and gasoline/diesel also are excluded from this sales tax exemption.

Now those reading between the lines would have realized that BC is not on the exclusion list for Provinces plus we have a sales tax currently at 7% that is far above the 3% listed in the rules. Back in 2010 Washington State was going to add BC residents to the tax exemption list when the HST kicked in but on Canada Day it was shot down by an American judge after the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County mounted a last minute legal challenge. It would appear that over time the details of who should receive the tax break have been forgotten and BC residents have slid under the radar onto the favoured list. This was a six hour drive away from the border so businesses in Blaine and Bellingham might be a little more on the ball about this tax savings. One thing is for sure, if you don't ask for the break, the answer will always be no and you will have to pay the 6.5% tax. Simply tell them you're from out of state and want the sales tax exemption.

If you now plan to go on a Washington State shopping spree, remember the following rules from the Canadian Border Services Agency about personal exemptions or the duty you have to pay coming home might trump the sales tax you pay in Washington State. For full declaration details, please refer to the CBSA website at https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/declare-eng.html
Absence of less than 24 hours

Personal exemptions do not apply to same-day cross-border shoppers.
Absence of more than 24 hours

You can claim goods worth up to CAN$200.
Tobacco products and alcoholic beverages are not included in this exemption.
If the value of the goods you are bringing back exceeds CAN$200, you cannot claim this exemption. Instead, duty and taxes are applicable on the entire amount of the imported goods.
Goods must be in your possession and reported at time of entry to Canada.
A minimum absence of 24 hours from Canada is required.
Absence of more than 48 hours

You can claim goods worth up to CAN$800.
You may include alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, within the prescribed limits. Refer to sections Tobacco Products and Alcoholic Beverages.
Goods must be in your possession and reported at time of entry to Canada.
If the value of the goods you are bringing back exceeds CAN$800, duties and taxes are applicable only on amount of the imported goods that exceeds CAN$800.
A minimum absence of 48 hours from Canada is required.


So there you have it folks, affordable gas, cheap milk and cheese plus the possibility of not paying sales tax on purchases await you across the line in the land of the free. If you thought those cross-border lineups were bad before, they might get noticeably worse after this TNT gets printed in the electronic pages of the White Rock Sun.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

May 14, 2017

Mighty Fraser Might Flood Surrey

How high's the water, mama?
Five feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa?
Five feet high and risin'
Well, the rails are washed out north of town
We gotta head for higher ground
We can't come back till the water comes down,
Five feet high and risin'
Well, it's five feet high and risin'
Lyrics to "Five Feet High and Rising",

Johnny Cash, 1974


Watching the local TV news these days and the main story is always about the ongoing flooding in the interior where the winter snow-pack was at 260% above normal. Unseasonably warm temperatures coupled with heavy rainfall are releasing copious amounts of water there turning small creeks into raging torrents. Closer to home, we have a snow-pack at 150% above normal and a trip up to the Chilliwack River last weekend showed it flowing at a dangerously fast rate. What is interesting is that while folks in places like Grand Forks are saying the flooding was way worse than back in 1948, nobody in the news is talking about the possibility of widespread damaging flooding from the Fraser River in the Lower Mainland.

Here is a historical description of Fraser River flooding that happened on May 28, 1948. "Heavy snowpacks and a sudden hot spell caused the Fraser River to rise dramatically and the resulting flood killed 10, destroyed or damaged 2,300 homes and left 1,500 homeless. The disaster lasted a few weeks, forcing 16,000 evacuations. The Fraser peaked at 7.6 metres at Mission and ran at 15,200 cubic metres per second — more than 3,000 cubic metres per second faster than a typically big flow. The water broke through dikes and flooded more than 50,000 acres, about one third of the Fraser Valley floodplain area. The flood severed two railway lines, washed out the Trans-Canada Highway and flooded areas in Matsqui, Chilliwack, Agassiz, Rosedale and parts of Mission. Herds of dairy cattle left standing in soaked fields with their udders under water ended up dying from hypothermia. Damage was estimated at $20 million, or $210 million in today’s dollars."

The BC River Forecast Centre has issued a 10-day high streamflow advisory for the Fraser, warning that water levels could reach 6.5 metres by late next week at the Mission Gauge, and possibly higher after that. there warning is as follows:
Persistent warmer than normal temperatures across British Columbia for the past three weeks has led to a much earlier than normal runoff period for the Fraser River. Many of the gauge locations along the Fraser River are at or above their historic flows for this early in the freshet season. Warmer weather earlier this week has increased snowmelt runoff across the basin. Rises through the lower reaches of the Fraser River are expected to continue into the weekend. Flows at Hope are expected to reach up to 10,000 m3/s over the weekend (water levels at Mission up to 5.5 m). Over the weekend and into next week, high pressure is forecast to dominate the weather pattern across British Columbia, with warmer temperatures late-weekend, and hot temperatures forecast across the Interior early next week. Ongoing accelerated snow melt is expected to lead to ongoing rapid rises on the Fraser River throughout next week. Current modelling is indicating the potential for flows in the 12,000 m3/s range at Hope (gauge level at Mission of approximately 6.0 - 6.5 m) by late next week, and potentially higher over the May 19-22 period.

Surrey is certainly aware of the risks and their Drainage and Environment Manager Carrie Barron is likely to be a very busy lady over the next few weeks when the freshet begins to arrive. On Friday the City of Surrey sent letters out to residents and businesses in Bridgeview and South Westminster warning people to start making preparations for the likelihood of flooding there. While they are part of the Island Trust, both Douglas and Barnston Island will likely need to be evacuated including the livestock that lives there. Any low-lying property near the Fraser is at risk with some experts believing the existing dykes in Surrey may not be high enough or strong enough to control the volume of water heading our way. With above temperatures in the forecast for the next week plus high tides above 14 feet for May 16-23, the potential for a 200 year flood event is becoming all too real.

The dykes along the Fraser River in Surrey are set at 4.4 m., yet most houses in the lowlands are built at only 2 m. Obviously if the water crests the dyke, undermines it, or breaches it entirely, there could be catastrophic flooding. If Bridgeview floods, the Patullo Bridge would be closed when King George Blvd. gets covered with water. Not many people realize that the South Fraser Perimeter Road is quite low in some locations and there are plans to use lock blocks at 136 St. to control flooding, which will close this now vital roadway for trucks. Close to Barnston Island the CN Thurston Docks sits in the flood plain, with flooding there capable of cutting off the tracks and stopping commerce. Across the road from there the S&R Sawmills are also in harms way should the Fraser reach historic flood levels. A little further downstream, the Fraser Surrey docks could also be inundated by the mighty Fraser. Most of the auto wreckers on Scott road could be a washout if flood waters enter this lowland.

The saving grace in all of this is that there will be 24 hours notice before any flooding takes place because of river measurements further upstream. This will give residents of flood prone regions time to pack up their valuables, belongings and animals and head to higher ground. Considering the threat, people living in low-lands anywhere along the Fraser River from Chilliwack would be wise to start preparing now instead of waiting for the last minute once warnings and evacuation notices are given. Pre-arranging accommodation with friends should be done now as it is likely all local hotels will be booked with those leaving flooding neighbourhoods. If flooding does occur, it may take some time for the water to leave as the dykes then act as moats trapping the water behind them plus the Fraser River would have to go down so there is somewhere to drain all the water.

For updated water levels and flood warning reports, check out the BC River Forecast Centre website at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/water/drought-flooding-dikes-dams/river-forecast-centre


Naturally yours,
Don PItcairn

UPDATE May 16, 2018

The Province of BC has issued a potential flood warning for the lower Fraser River. Surrey is currently in Phase 1 of Flood Preparedness.

http://www.surrey.ca/city-services/703.aspx


Fraser River Freshet Prepardness Phases | City of Surrey
www.surrey.ca


Educate yourself on Surrey's 4 flood preparedness phases, to see how our emergency response teams will react in the event of a Fraser River Freshet flood.
http://bcrfc.env.gov.bc.ca/warnings/advisories/flood_034.htm

 

 

May 07, 2018

Habitat Schmabitat

 

Whenever possible I like to drop into the south Surrey Art Knapps and Way-to-Grow, not only to see whats new in this gardening centre on steroids but to catch up with Marty Vanderzalm to find out what his latest project is. Often you will find him in his workshop, where this self-professed gear head will usually be surrounded by sparks either from a grinding wheel or a welder. This time was a little different as it appeared the metal work had already been done and Marty was there with a paint brush in hand instead of the usual cutting torch. He was working deftly applying a bright green paint to a small wooden bird house that featured a corrugated metal roof. What caught my attention was not the birdhouse he was holding but the stacks of similar boxes, some painted, others still waiting for a coating of green, that were in piles around the shop.

I should let you know that when Marty decides to do something he generally goes big. This is the guy who has a military troop transport truck as one of his personal vehicles and who loves how overbuilt and rugged it is. If you scroll down to June 5, 2017, you can read a previous TNT titled Art Knapps Give a Hoot about the 12 barn owl boxes (actually oak barrels) that are on their property, many with breeding pairs. With all of the barn owl nesting sites they have provided, the Art Knapps has the distinction of being designated an Owl Hot Spot plus they have an owl cam with night vision where you can watch the newly hatched chicks and their proud parents at https://www.artknappsurrey.com/conservation-and-owlcam.

I asked Marty why he was making so many bird boxes, wondering if possibly they were meant for sale. He told me that he had constructed 150 of these green bird houses with the plan being to place all of them around the Art Knapps property as a way to provide habitat for all of the song birds that need nesting spaces. Think about that for a second and try to imagine the work involved with cutting and drilling all the boards, nailing them all together plus cutting and then attaching the metal roofing before sealing with paint. Then there is the extra job of actually going around the property and putting all of the boxes up in out of the way areas usually reached by a ladder. This latest project will not help the Garden Centre generate more sales, it is simply being done to help wildlife adjacent to the Serpentine Fen.

AWESOME! I had the Art Knapps Owl Cam on another window of my computer while writing this column when there was suddenly a terrible screeching noise. The adult male barn owl flew into the nesting box and handed the mother bird a dead rat and she shrieked very loudly in excitement. The four owlets immediately jumped out from underneath their Mom and started squawking to be fed. She held down their breakfast (owls you might have heard are nocturnal) and began ripping it into pieces and feeding it to her young. I loved seeing this but our dogs ran from the room with their tails between their legs and concerned looks on their faces from the racket the owls had made. Just as I finished this TNT, the male flew in with another rat for his growing family.

Anyways, back to Marty and the 150 bird boxes. What he told me about his latest project is that many people with otherwise good intentions talk about providing habitat for wildlife but to him much of this is what he called "habitat schmabitat." He told me the Art Knapps sells trees but most are non-native and don't function as a forest with understory and canopy. With the rampant development in Surrey and vast areas of green-space being cut down on a weekly basis (hello Grandview Heights) he believes the birds are running out of places to live. Just as people are now moving into condos and townhouses, Marty is hoping to provide housing for birds with lots of units on a smaller piece of land, looking to reverse the downward trend in many songbird species populations.

If Marty Vanderzalm can build and install 150 bird boxes at Art Knapps, you have to ask yourself what you can do in your own back yard. While we have 16 trees on our property not including rows of hedging cedars, there is little in the way of nesting sites. I have a bird box I found at a job site that has been on a storage room shelf for some time and with Marty as my mentor I now plan on putting it up high on one of our trees. I also have a bat box that was given to me years ago and will try to find a suitable sunny location (they like it warm) for that to be hung. I should mention that the south side of the Art Knapps building near their soil and gravel piles is covered in bat boxes as well. We can all make our property more wildlife friendly as a way to help restore the habitat that is being lost on a daily basis due to development.

Marty Vanderzalm - Birdman of South Surrey

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 30, 2018

Rock is Dead - Long Live Rock!

TROOPER'S Ra Mcguire joins Cooler Wailers on stage

We Were There For A Good Time

A very good friend of mine
Told me something the other day
I'd like to pass it in to you
'Cause I believe what he said to be true
He said
We're here for a good time
Not a long time (not a long time)
So have a good time
The sun can't shine every day
And the sun is shinin'
In this rainy city
And the sun is shinin'
Oh, isn't it a pity
And every year, has it's share of tears
And every now and then it's gotta rain
We're here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can't shine every day

Lyrics to Trooper's "Here For a Good Time" song from Knock Em' Dead Kid album, 1977, written by Brian Smith and Ra McGuire.

I first met Jason Buie when I was introduced to him by the WR Sun's editor Dave Chesney and often went to his shows at the Pink Palace, Blue Frog Studio or at White Rock beach to watch him play guitar. In 2007 he and Rod Dranfield co-founded the non-profit White Rock Blues Society (WRBS) as a way to actively promote blues artists from all over North Amercia. As Artistic Director of the WRBS Jason produced over 110 shows in the Lower Mainland, many in our own backyard. In January of this year he was the proud recipient of the Maple Blues Award for New Artist of the Year with his album Driftin' Heart. It was with much sadness and a heavy heart when I learned that he had passed away at his home in Esquimalt on March 22 at the age of 47, leaving behind three children. Jason Buie and I will now be forever linked in history as the day that I entered this world was the same one when he unfortunately left. I'll be thinking of him when I blow out the candles on my birthday cake from now on.

On Sunday the WRBS held a memorial fundraiser for Jason Buie's kids at the veritable Rumba Room at the Pacific Inn, better known by locals as the Pink Palace. It was almost a miracle that this event got booked for this venue as the hotel has been bought by the Hilton chain and they had plans to close it for renovations. With a delay in building permits, the Pacific Inn not only allowed the fundraiser to happen, they provided the Rumba Room free of charge as a tribute to the man who had booked so many shows there plus the Toy Jam and Yuletide Blues fundraisers over the years. There were eight bands with multiple cameo appearances who played in the six hours of music, with everyone providing their musical services and talents for free. The sound, staging and lighting crews also worked and donated their labour and expertise. There were two 50/50 draws during the show, the first for $850 that was won by Jim Widdifield, keyboardist for the Cooler Kings and the second totaling $500 that was won by Gail Underwood, with both of these men contributing their good luck and winnings back to Jason's children Sophie, Jackson and Etta. It was announced that preliminary figures showed approximately $10,000 was raised for Jason's family.

The musical show started at 3 p.m. with WR Councillor and WR Sun Editor Dave Chesney MCing the event fashionably attired in a Wailin' Walker t-shirt and black fedora hat. First up was the Chris Thornley Band. Next on stage was the Ocean Park Wailers with their eight members featuring James Badger on drums, Jon Gale on Guitar with special vocalist Ra McGuire from Trooper. Their somber beginning for "Here For a Good Time" sounded almost like a hymn before it broke into the rocking version everyone knows. The Jo Kamel band hit the stage with the amazing Sean "Blues Puppy" Riqueme, doing the best version I've ever heard of ZZ Top's La Grange and an epic take on Jimi Hendrick's Voodoo Chile. At that point former weatherman Wayne Cox took over the MC duties from Dave Chesney, introducing the Saints of Swing with Brandon Isaacs on slide guitar and David Boxcar Gates on vocals and guitar. This was followed by the Gen Pearson Band with Bob Voytcheff and John Hunter, the James Shepherd Band with Laura Bacon singing, Arsen Shomakov with Al Walker and Sean Riquelme featured again, with Blue Voodoo and Dan Hare plus Steve Sainas both on vocals closing down the show.

It wouldn't have happened without these peiople - musicians and volounteers powered the day

This fundraising gig brought out some rather noteworthy personalities from the peninsula beyond those already listed. Kelly and Juanita Breaks, owners of the Blue Frog Studios, attended proudly sporting their Palm Spring tans after taking a break from our dreary weather for a vitamin D fix. Dave Gertz from Legion of Sound who is now running three different venues at the Flamingo Hotel showed up early to pay his respects and check out some of the acts. The always dapper Alex Browne, journalist for the Peace Arch News and leader of the swing band Alex Browne and the Boulevardiers cruised on in to show his support. Doug LeChance who originally penned The Night Owl entertainment guide before moving to Vancouver was in attendance with his trademark cowboy hat proudly displayed (small world, he was my sister's neighbour in Langley, Ive known Dougie for years). White Rock Beach Beer's Bill Haddow was on hand, likely wishing that he could get a really good craft beer to drink. Mudbay Slim stopped by to play harp and plug his "Medicine Show" at the Clydesdale Inn on May 19 during the Cloverdale Rodeo. Jason Buie's brother Chris Buie was there and took the time to address the crowd thanking everyone for their support. The most notable person in attendance had to be Rod Dranfield, Jason Buie's partner in creating the White Rock Blues Society.

If you missed out on the Jason Buie memorial fundraiser, fear not for another event is being planned for White Rock. The last time Jason Buie playedlocally was back in February at Blue Frog Studios, the event was video recorded and they still have the master copies in the vault. The concert will be shown on the giant screen and played through the world class sound system on Wednesday May 09. Doors 7 p.m. Showtime 7:40. David "Boxcar" Gates will be on hand to start the evening off with a few songs. Plan on attending Jason's last show, buying Mr. Buie's three CD collection, some Jason Buie limited edition artwork plus White Rock Blues Society swag. As with the show at the Pink Palace, all proceeds will go to Jason's kids who now have a trust fund set up for them. You can also look for details about this event on the WRBS website (whiterockblues.com) and Blue Frog Studio website (bluefrogstudio.ca).

 

Jason's guitar & hat sat silent side stage

I leave you with the final lyrics from the last song of the night performed by the band Blue Voodoo who played Bad Company's Shooting Star ballad about a musician who dies at the height of their popularity. I'm not sure if the band members of Blue Voodoo planned it but I thought it was very appropriate given all the love shown to Jason during his memorial fundraiser. Simply substitute Jason for Johnny and try not to cry



Johnny's life passed him by like a warm summer day
If you listen to the wind, you can still hear him play
Don't you know that you are a shooting star
Don't you know, ahhh
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

Lyrics to Bad Company's "Shooting Star" song, Straight shooter album, 1975, written by Paul Rogers.

 

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

April 23, 2018

Weed Em And Reap

As someone who has studied forestry, plant science and horticulture, it always comes as a surprise when you learn about something new. Nurseries are always bringing in exotic plants from far-off locations and breeding new varieties of old favourites. Around ten years ago I started spotting this interesting waxy leafed shrub that somewhat resembled a rhododendron but with clumps of yellow-green flowers in the spring that ripened to form black seeds in the fall. In Tsawwassen it seemed to appear everywhere, with some people planting them as part of their landscape. I've seen plenty of them in south Surrey and White Rock too, which is where I first heard of them referred to as Daphne. Soon after that I heard the name Spurge Laurel used, which I found odd because it didn't resemble either a laurel or a spurge. What I did know about them was that they seemed to spread like crazy and rooted very firmly so that even young plants had to be dug out with a spade. It was not shocking when I found out they are considered an invasive species but I was alarmed to learn they are deadly poisonous.

You can familiarize yourself with spurge laurel (Daphne laureola) as it is listed on both the Invasive Species Council of BC website (https://bcinvasives.ca/news-events/media/articles/weed-of-the-week-daphne-spurge-laurel) The Washington State Noxious Weed Control Control Board website (https://www.nwcb.wa.gov/weeds/spurge-laurel). There is even a Toxic Plant Warning put out by WorksafeBC on this beautiful but deadly plant that is actually rather frightening. By far the best posting I found about the dangers of Spurge Laurel was from the Salt Spring Island Conservancy and I have included it below for your reading pleasure that I should warn you includes bloody diarrhea, weakness, coma and death. The CAUTION and FIRST AID sections should alert you to the toxicity of this plant.

There is even a Toxic Plant Warning put out by WorksafeBC on this beautiful but deadly plant that is actually rather frightening. By far the best posting I found about the dangers of Spurge Laurel was from the Salt Spring Island Conservancy and I have included it below for your reading pleasure that I should warn you includes bloody diarrhea, weakness, coma and death. The CAUTION and FIRST AID sections should alert you to the toxicity of this plant.

ALIEN PLANT INVADERS: The Scourge of Spurge Laurel
by Jean Wilkinson, Stewardship Committee, Salt Spring Island Conservancy
Spurge Laurel (aka Daphne) has become widespread throughout southwestern B.C. in recent years having originated from Britain. It is a rhododendron-like garden escapee with very toxic leaves and berries. It spreads rapidly through yards and nearby woods, creating dense stands and shading out all other plants. Spurge laurel is recognized as a serious threat to local ecosystems, particularly since it can grow in shady, undisturbed forest areas. It also poses a significant human health risk, especially to children, since eating just 7 to 10 berries can be fatal. Spurge laurel can be removed at any time of the year, but care must be taken to avoid spreading any berries that may be present.

SPURGE LAUREL – QUICK FACTS ABOUT THIS HAZARDOUS HORTICULTURAL BULLY:
Identification – (Daphne laureola) evergreen shrub 60-180 cm (24-72 inches) tall, living up to 40 years, looks similar to Rhododendron, with clusters of oblong, waxy leaves, light greenish-yellow flowers in early spring, green poisonous berries ripening to black by summer
Impacts – A serious public health risk due to toxicity of all plant parts. Spreads rapidly and grows densely in undisturbed as well as disturbed areas, shades native plants, thus displacing them and reducing biodiversity.
Found –in moist, partial to full shady areas and forest under-story, especially near urban and residential areas
Spreads – via seeds in the berries (distributed long distances by birds and rodents), and by underground lateral roots
Control – Remove plants before they form seeds if possible. Pull small plants out when soil is moist. Larger plants must be cut beneath the mineral soil surface, below where the brown stem changes to orange, or they will re-sprout. Often stems lie along the ground and need to be pulled up to find where they are rooted before cutting. Monitor sites yearly after treatment to remove seedlings and re-sprouts. Most seeds germinate within 2 years.
CAUTION: Wear gloves, long sleeves and goggles as many people experience skin irritation and blistering on contact with leaves or sap. Wash hands, clothes and gloves afterwards. Avoid transporting cut plants in enclosed vehicles as airborne sap droplets can cause eye and throat irritation. Symptoms of poisoning due to eating the berries or bark include burning in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and lips, thirst, difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weakness, coma and death.
FIRST AID: If any plant part is eaten, induce vomiting and consult a physician immediately. If sap contacts mouth or eyes, flush with large amounts of water and consult a physician. If sap contacts skin, flush with lots of water. If a rash develops, treat with anti-inflammatory cream and if it persists, consult a physician.
Disposal – Put cut plants in tarps or bags to avoid spreading seeds and reduce irritation from airborne sap droplets. Take to landfill. Do not compost. Do not burn or chip plant parts as noxious chemicals will be released into the air.

White Rock's Park Department is attempting to clear all invasive plants from within the city limits including Himalayan blackberry, English Ivy and Yellow Lamium. My contact at the works yard informed me that spurge laurel was recently removed from the landscaped beds at Bryant Park. Considering the toxicity of this plant and its ability to spread and take over the natural environment, it is essential that if you have it growing in your yard it should be removed. Please follow all of the safety precautions above and ensure that it is properly disposed of. I shudder to think of how many times I have pulled these plants out by hand or thrown them into the compost bin for recycling. Fortunately the heat from decomposition at most modern organic composting facilities kills any and all seeds but from now on I will ensure this plant goes directly into the garbage.

Naturally yours

Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 16, 2018

Mayor If You Dare

It leaves me shaking my head to hear that Surrey First's Linda Hepner announced last week that she will not be seeking re-election as Mayor of Surrey. Could it be that she felt the tips of the knives scratching her back that were being wielded by other Surrey First members? As a one-and-done Mayor who was anointed by former Mayor Dianne Watts, it would seem that were many councillors from her party who wanted Linda gone and were ready to revolt against the Surrey First oligarchy. I must admit I'm glad to see her go after she voted recently for Metro-Vancouver's retroactive retirement fund while likely knowing she was going to step down. It leaves me wondering if Mrs. Hepner will follow in Mrs. Watts' footsteps and decide in the near future that she has had enough time for family and run as a MLA or MP at a Surrey riding near you.

Hepner's decision to vacate the Mayor's chair might signal the beginning of cracks starting to form in the Surrey First slate that has been around since 2007 and which took every seat in council and school board in the last civic election. From my sources inside City Hall, it has been rumoured for quite some time that many Surrey First councillors were eyeing the Mayor's office. To date, no one has officially thrown their hat in the ring but there are plenty of contenders and likely even more pretenders. Tom Gill is probably the person most likely to run but it remains to be seen if it would be as the head of the Surrey First slate or as an independent. Bruce Hayne is another well known Surrey First Councillor who is mentioned with aspirations to Surrey's top job and he has not denied he is thinking about running. Mike Starchuck also refuses to deny he is interested in the Mayor's chair but does admit that he will stay with Surrey First if he does not receive their mayoral nomination. As if this were not enough, even Surrey First newcomers Vera LeFranc and Dave Woods are considering a run for Mayor. More than half of the Surrey First slate want the Mayor's job and it remains to be seen if those not picked to run as their leader will instead run as independents or join another political party.

Adding to the intrigue, Dianne Watt's' name is being bandied around as possibly making a comeback but she has thrown cold water on this idea. Still, she did resign as the South Surrey White Rock MP to run for the leadership of the Provincial Liberals, coming in a close second in the final ballot. The people who came in second and third place in the mayor's race in 2014 are also in the list of those who might throw their hat in the ring. Former Mayor Doug McCallum who was pushed out of the mayors office by Watts is likely still feeling the sting of his upset and might try to grab back the reins of power. Barinder Rasode was a former Surrey First councillor who ran unsuccessfully against Hepner the last election and who likely still has her flashy election signs in storage should she consider running again. Adding to the drama are two new slates, the Surrey Community Alliance (SCA) and People First Surrey, both who have yet to announce if they will even have a mayoral candidate. In an online community poll on who would make the best mayor, as of Sunday night Doug McCallum was first with 27% with Mike Starchuck second at 20% but the four Surrey First hopefuls together totaled a whopping 55%.

Then there are the dark horse candidates. The Surrey Creep Catcher's president Ryan Laforge has long fought on the streets of Surrey for law and order and legal reform to combat pedophilia and the sexual abuse of minors. His work catching creepers preying on children has given him a platform in the media and a large presence on social media. With all of the time he has spent being interviewed on TV cameras he is becoming a rather polished speaker who might be able to excite the young electorate base in Surrey to vote for him. I'm sure the thought would give the established developer financed Surrey First slate fits but it would bring plenty of positive attention to the SCC (surreycreepcatcher.com). In the past Mr. LaForge has mentioned his political aspirations as a way to help facilitate change in the Canadian legal system. Just like all the other rumoured candidates, he has not yet announced if he has decided to run for mayor of Surrey.

I had to save the best for last and use this TNT to announce that I am considering running for mayor of Surrey. Now before you laugh or blow milk through your nose, consider the following. I've already run twice in South Surrey - White Rock for the Green Party of BC. I have been writing this column for the WR Sun for eight years with plenty of editorials in local newspapers long before that. I'm politically astute, been involved in a number of election campaigns and am both articulate and opinionated. I have a wide array of friends across the political spectrum and lots of media contacts from my various environmental and public safety crusades plus plenty of news releases and news tips. I've been told I come across well in both radio and TV interviews and love a podium in front of a captive audience. With the notoriety from our edgy apparel company Surrey Shirts (surreyshirts.com), many people already call myself and wife Sheryl the King and Queen of Surrey.

One thing is for sure, if I was elected Mayor, I'd have plenty of cool shirts to wear at City Hall.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 9, 2018

The "Legend" Continues

The Legend Pops Pitcairn

The Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, South Korea received plenty of fanfare and tons of media coverage earlier this year with Canadian athletes Canada collecting 29 medals including 11 golds to rank third overall in the medal standings. I wonder how many people are even aware that the Commonwealth Games are being held at the Gold Coast in Australia with Canadian athletes already winning 32 medals and currently sitting 4th in the standings? You can check out all the action at www.gc.2018 or at the Commonwealth Games Canada website at www.commonwealthgames.ca. You are probably asking yourself why this is important to me and how it relates to my weekly column in the White Rock Sun that usually focuses on local events and stories. At the same time that I was writing this TNT, my father Robert Pitcairn (a.k.a "The Legend") from Chilliwack BC was on the other side of the world shooting his .308 target rifle for Canada, competing in the pairs events of the Queen's Prize full-bore rifle at the Belmont Shooting Complex in Brisbane Australia.

Already several Commonwealth Games records have been broken but my Dad set a new Commonwealth Games record of his own even before the opening ceremonies. At the age of 79 years old, he is the oldest Commonwealth Games competitor of all times as I previously revealed in my September 5, 2017 TNT titled "A Shooting Star Summer." For historical perspective, he was born in July of 1938, the same month when the very first Superman comic was released. This has now gone unnoticed by reporters from around the world who have made him somewhat of a celebrity in the Athletes Village. Here are links to stories about him in the BBC, Guardian and Sydney Morning Herald that also include him being a hijacking hero in 1974:
http://www.bbc.com/sport/commonwealth-games/43669450
https://www.smh.com.au/sport/commonwealth-games-2018/canadian-commonwealth-games-athlete-79-a-hijacking-hero-20180408-p4z8dn.html
When asked for his thoughts on being the oldest athlete to even compete in the Games, Bob had this to say, "I feel honoured to set this new record and am grateful that my health and athleticism have made it possible for me to compete in the Gold Coast Games." Bob Pitcairn will turn 80 this summer and many are looking forward to his birthday party that is likely to be held on a local rifle range.

What sets target shooting apart from many sports is the length of time that one can compete at an elite level. Bob started shooting Full-bore back in 1960 when he was still in the Canadian Air Force. 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 is his first Commonwealth Games, the closest he has gotten before was as spare in 2002 where he did not compete. He plans to stand alongside teammate Nicole Rossignol on the podium in the Fullbore Rifle Pairs fired on Monday and Tuesday, and then to climb back up there for the individual competition, which finishes on Saturday. Look for a TNT Extra added to this column next week to find out how he did and if he earned a medal for Canada.

While it is unlikely that I will never match the records of success that my father has compiled over the years, I'm continuing to follow in his footsteps. I will be competing as a member of the Canadian Rifle Team headed to the NRA UK Championships this summer at Bisley, England. A week after that competition is over I will be shooting at the BC Rifle Association's 134th annual provincial matches in Chilliwack. Next winter in 2019 I will be headed back down under to New Zealand to shoot in my third ICFRA World Long Range Championship and Palma Match as a member of Team Canada. While I have my sights set on plenty of personal goals over the next few years, I've decided to commit myself to qualify for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham England and attempt to win a medal of my own. One thing I know about sports, if you set high goals, work to be competitive and focus on winning, you will often succeed. By then I'll be 60 years old with over 45 years of competitive shooting behind me and with my Dad showing me the way, hopefully at least another 20 years still to go.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

 

April 01, 2018

 

April Fools For Fools

I usually write this column on Sunday night which was rather special this year with Easter Sunday and April Fool's Day both falling on the same day. You have to go all the way back to 1956 for the last time this happened and hopefully live until 2029 to see it again. While April 1st is the best day for playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes and funny false news stories (White Rock boulder crushed to make cement), it is also symbolic with the government picking your pocket. This is no joke and when you see the increases in taxes and billings here, it might be enough to make you say "Jesus!"

As if the price at the pumps wasn't enough to already send you racing down Hwy. 99 to Blaine to fill up, BC's new carbon tax kicked in on Sunday, the first increase in seven years. Gas prices are expected to increase by 1.2 cents per litre, likely pushing already record high fuel costs over $1.60 L. by the end of the week. It is nice to remember that the Lower Mainland already has the most expensive gasoline in North America and the second highest fuel taxes with the Carbon Tax now pegged almost 8 cents per litre. It is good to know that this new tax will also mean similar one penny jumps on April 1st for the next four years. Lost in the hub-bub about the carbon tax, Victoria’s motor fuel tax also went up by two cents a litre on Easter Sunday. Here is what Premier John Horgan had to say about the NDP's latest tax hike, “I don’t believe that British Columbians begrudge that penny a litre when they know it’s going towards making sure that future generations have an environment that’s sustainable and a world that we can all live in.” Translation: Buy a Tesla or get on the bus you fools.

The carbon tax and gas tax increases aren't the only way that government is sticking it to the taxpayer. Do you remember when the NDP campaigned on having no BC Hydro rate increases for 2018? Well you can kiss that election promise good-bye with the crown corporation raising their prices a further three percent on April 1st. You can't really pin this one on the NDP since it was the BC Utilities Commission that sided with BC Hydro in rejecting a request by the provincial government to freeze electricity rates for the coming year. It should only increase everyone's electrical bill by $4 a month, but death by a thousand cuts is still a slow agonizing death. No word out of Victoria on when they will be dropping the onerous "Legacy Meter" charge for those folks who opposed the Orwellian state enforced "Smart Meter" and kept their analog meters. This costs BC residents $32.40 per month, but in Quebec the charge is $5 and you can also choose to opt out of the digital radio equipped meters.

Now if reading this makes you want to pour yourself a drink or maybe have a dart, you should have stocked up before Sunday. Alcoholic beverages were hit with a 1.5 percent increase in federal excise tax that is part of the Liberal Party's new “escalator tax” on beer, wine and liquor that puts in yearly tax increases linked to inflation. Smokers also will be hacking up a lung when they realize that Justin Trudeau's 2018 budget included not only an increase in the tobacco tax but also the same inflation increase as booze. Effective April 1, 2018, the BC tobacco tax rate increased by 2.8 cents to 27.5 cents per cigarette and by 12.8 cents to 37.5 cents per gram for all tobacco other than cigars and cigarettes. This increases total provincial tax to $5.50 per pack after already being jacked up 16 cents per pack back on Jan 1st. I called our local gas station and they are now selling the most popular brands for $13-14 a pack. As cigs become more expensive, look for government to start taxing vap fluids containing nicotine to recover lost tax revenue from smokers switching to this less lethal and more affordable alternative.

While the BC Liberals did nothing to stop real estate speculation and the laundering of billions of dollars of offshore funds from sources unknown, the NDP have put a 36 percent increase on home inspector licensing fees as of April 1st. This will be followed by 25 percent increases in 2019 and 2020 with the cost of a license renewal by April 2020 almost doubling from $525 to $1,025. By contrast, Service Alberta charges home inspector businesses with three or less inspectors $500 for a two year license. Needless to say, the head of the Home Inspectors Association of B.C is calling the Consumer Protection B.C. fee increases a "cash grab" whose cost will be passed on to the public. Last on the tax increase list was the province doubling the tax on high-end cars worth more than $150,000 to 20%, plus an increase to the Property Transfer Tax on homes valued at $3 million from 3% to 5%. Amazingly, BC ferry rates remained frozen for main routes, reduced 15% for minor runs and free for seniors on Mon-Thurs.

By far the most sleazy tax increase recently foisted on an unsuspecting public had to be the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board voting itself a big pay raise plus a retroactive retirement plan just over a week ago. In case you missed it, members passed this stealthy motion late on a Friday afternoon with it not appearing in the agenda. No record was taken of the vote, with only a reported six mayors and councilors voting no to this retroactive retirement program going back to 2007. Of note is that Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin reportedly voted for this package giving them each $1,100 "retiring allowance" per year of service. Since Baldwin has announced he will not run again, this gives him $7,700 on top of all of the money received for attending Met-Van meetings during the past seven years. The total cost to taxpayers is almost $500,000 to back date this allowance and a further $62,500 per year going forward. Too bad The Met-Van board could not have put off the vote until April 1st but they are greedy morons, not incompetent fools. Lets hope and pray that those who voted for this undemocratic maneuver are shown the door on Oct 20, 2018 when the next civic elections are scheduled. Jesus, I sure hope so.

Happy Easter,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 26, 2018

Preaching from the Chappell

Chief Chappell/Christy Fox photo

 

I must admit that I really hate working on my birthday. Being self-employed you would think that I could easily book off and have employees take care of things. Unfortunately with the work schedule ramping up and new workers fresh on the job, I once again found myself putting in a ten hour day. Fortunately it was all worth while since after dinner last Thursday I had a rather unique gift getting to listen to Harley Chappell, the head of the Semiahmoo First Nation speak at a Democracy Direct function at the Centennial Park Leisure Centre Hall. For those of you that could not make it to this standing-room-only event, here are the Coles Notes of Chief Chappell's presentation as summarized by Pattie Petrala and edited by myself:

Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell addressed 100 people sitting in chairs plus about 6 Democracy Direct White Rock organizers and 8 community people standing/coming and going, some sitting on the floor for a while. I observed genuine caring and interest that warmly beamed from the smiling faces of neighbours. There were a few folks recording the event with cell phones. Councillor Helen Fathers attended along with some coalition potential candidates with Cliff Annable or supporters. Former Councillors Doug McLean and Matt Todd were also present at the gathering.

Chief Chappell provided an opening welcome drummed song in regalia sharing why it is tradition to do so as well as the respectful value of other songs and traditions. He acknowledged his 68 year old father in the audience and long standing relationships of Coast Salish nations and more in B.C.. Cultural respect of elders wisdom and some of the sad history of the US/Canada border and damage done to his people was softly spoken as he moved on. The light concise oral history of the nation was fascinating as he explained how there were long houses on the Spit ocean side and facing Drayton harbour. The bountiful Harvest of the Bay and San Juan Islands - Mother Earth lends us all to survive and to respect and to care for the next generations. The local streams, rivers, forest and sea life provided for generations. At one time here were 14 reef net sites, bountiful herring and salmon plus clams and oyster harvested by thousands. When the tide goes out, the table is set. Excavation of mass graves and other places on archeological sites he participated on has revealed so much.

He noted - Our nation’s integrity to uphold and heal all that the creator/mother earth provides and renews is linked with mutual actions and vision of many cousins in Lummi and the “mish” family tree networks like Snohomish, as well as Kwalamuth (muth - of the earth). The traditional tribal names like Sto:lo were listed and as re-labeled by settlers and governments. The history of Treaties, decimation by disease, Indian Act, residential schools and betrayal were mentioned. Story of the White Rock boulder tossed to a site for our nation to live and sacred lands was told.

His father has witnessed the Peninsula change significantly over the past decades. Semiahmoo people have not laid any claim to resident’s lands. Provincial and Federal Land is part of the discussions with most nations. There is none left in the developed peninsula. Chief Chappell told the story of Sto:Lo Nations history since times of the gold rush. Communication breakdown from time of contact happened with misinterpretations and misunderstandings which went on for decades.

He stated: We have endured a boil water advisory on the reserve for over 15 year and seek to ensure reliable safe water, stable roads and improved infrastructure. As with all neighbours we face housing and social issue challenges. We could rehash the pain and dwell on wounds of the past, yet Chief Harvey would rather find the healing and common ground and move forward.

His learning curve as a 42 year-old aboriginal leader and not as a politician has been quick; he recognized local media coverage, with his blunt candor perhaps upsetting a few. Semiahma peoples have been silent far too long. Moving forward together the Band Council and broader community of about 43 on site and about 90 members off reserve now have a new voice. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and other government departments and elected persons appear open to discussion and collaboration. Noted there are 18,000 urban First Nation people living in Surrey, the highest population in all of Canada.

Relationships are the key, learning from where we have come and respect for each of our world view lens and culture will shape a better future. His hopes and aspirations are large. A leadership gig is hard and often may be misunderstood by uninformed or unexplained situations and perspectives. The Chieftain regalia has a headdress with feathers to help draw from ancestors and bring the wise words to mind and the blanket may act as a buffer of the bad and help one retain the warmth of one’s heart in all discussions and situations. Harvey aspires to find ways to rekindle their traditional language with a university.

Harley noted appreciation for the positive support he has received in person, via social media and on our streets in the community. He has respect for all leaders and those that step up to toss in their hat in the ring. Being gentle and kind is your responsibility to others. Semiahmoo and First Nations open their hands up and face open body to people, showing an open mind and heart with respect and non-violent gestures for dialogue.

He welcomed questions and responded gently to each.

Q. Drayton Harbour has been cleaned up on the American side, how do we clean up our act on the Canadian side of the border?

A: The American districts and process is different to Canada. The collaboration and work they have done has made significant change.

In 1979 the Government arrested two band members for harvesting in Semiahmoo Bay. By 1999 it was permanently closed and thus appears government did not feel a need to test or address anything since then. BC has one officer for the full coast to conduct testing for fecal and other chemical matter from any source.

Since January Chief Chappell has been working with the Little Campbell River, A Rocha, Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club and other community groups and champions to try to re-kindle the Shared Waters Group. All of the streams, Nicolmeckle and Serpentine Rivers and more are part of our environmental system.

Q: Can you explain the situation about the water on your land?

A: Recognized hard work on many things for 50 years by Bernard Charles and Harley’s Cousin Joanne. She may have a had sharp tongue sometimes and is aware the relationship with the City of White Rock broke down.

Changes underway were triggered by the termination notice letter to the SFN after the 5 Corners Fire. We experienced real problems with a trickle of water. Working with Surrey and our plans through the Federal funds and partners are progressing to hopefully have things in place this year 2018.

Q How can we help and support Semiahmoo Nation?

A: Show up - being here is great. Look for the silver lining when situations arise and push for action. In June the Band will welcome the Haida to help raise a welcome pole. Our future starts here and we all welcome a better start.

Q: At many events we hear recognition given to unceeded Sto:lo Lands”. Why say it if it is only words?

A: In Harvey’s short time he does not know. Yes I witnessed tokenism yet see we do acknowledge each other. Diversity and multiculturalism with respect and decency for each other is an evolving cultural value we accept. We have evolved - like in prior times of the ax felling trees, saw blades and now we use chain saws to build canoes and more. The acknowledgment is huge.

Q: Pattie Petrala asked - I appreciate the presentation and use of term world lens - as an immigrant from Finland and lived all over Canada, the cultural shape of me was formed from many places and peoples. SFN may want to have a web site and share links to learning, ways people can participate, and also things like I learned at Kla-How-Eya events and programs. SFN used to have a website back when I worked on Sea festival 1999 - 2004. The Public Library has materials, books and a neat artist who shows a model of a traditional village he made.

A: On it Pat.

Chief Chappel then offered a closing drum song. He stayed to chat one-on-one with many people and have photos taken with them.

I would like to personally thank Pat Petrala for providing this summation of the Harley Chappell speech for public dissemination. If anyone has a video copy, please post it on YouTube and provide the listing and address to the White Rock Sun so that we may provide this information. Chief Chappell seems to have quickly grown into his role of leader of the SFN and it appears that the years of being "too quiet too long" are over. His stated goal of "All I want to do is catch my community up" appears attainable with new water and sewer upgrades for the reserve being built this year. Hopefully the Semiahmoo people can help the rest of us respect the land of the peninsula and water of the bay, ensuring that what they have long cherished is not diminished or destroyed.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

March 19, 2018

BNSF Burying Crescent Beach

It was widely reported that mudslides from the Ocean Park bluffs at the end of January and beginning of February blocked the BNSF train tracks, cancelling the Amtrak passenger train for 48 hours due to safety concerns. What most people don't know is how the BNSF Railway deals with the muddy debris containing rocks and full-sized trees that ends up on their rail corridor. Quite simply, they bring in a excavator and shovel the muck onto the beach below, covering the sand and anything living in it while burying stretches of environmentally sensitive shoreline that is also a prime area for public recreation.

While I understand there were five or six landslides all along the peninsula tracks from winter rains, this TNT will focus on two slides closest to Crescent Beach. The first on January 30th was just south of Crescent Beach, approximately 150 m from the end of Bayview Ave. BNSF crews with a rail wheel equipped excavator dug the slide debris out and deposited it onto the seaward area of the tracks where it them flowed down onto the beach, burying an area 25m long x 5m wide x 1.5m deep or the equivalent of a dozen dump truck loads of dirt. It should be noted that the waterfront in this area is part of the Crescent Beach Marine Park and not only does this dumped debris now cover a large portion of sandy beach, it also blocks safe pedestrian passage when the tide is high and up against the hardened mud flow.

Another slide around the same time covered the BNSF Railway tracks just south of Crescent Rock boulder, blocking rail operations. This mudslide was 200m. south of the Christopherson Steps pedestrian overpass at the west end of 24 Ave. in south Surrey. The slide debris that included 25m tall trees was excavated by BNSF crews down onto the waterfront, measuring 17m long x 3m wide x 1.5m. deep. This beach dumping site was only 10 m. away from a similar sized deposit that was excavated there in 2017 by the BNSF after another previous slide. The end result is that 35 metres or 100 feet of Crescent Rock Beach utilized by naturists and nudists for legal nude sunbathing and skinny-dipping is now buried and unusable. Just like the slide closer to Crescent Beach, when the tide is high, the debris flow blocks access, forcing people to either slog through the mud or illegally trespass on the tracks above.

It is the larger slide closest to Crescent Beach that should set off alarm bells as this is not the first time this has happened in exactly the same spot. In March of 2007 a BNSF freight train hit landslide debris on the rail corridor in this location in a stretch of track that does not have any landslide detection fence. Most of the bluff from near the 101 Steps at 24 Ave all the way to west beach in White Rock has this two wire safety system that when broken signals trains to stop. The slide in 2007 was investigated by Transport Canada and was found to have been caused by drain water from a house under reconstruction at the top of the hill discharging water onto the slope. Their report concluded the following: 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.

Seeing big-O drain pipe in the muck left dumped on Crescent beach, I climbed the slide zone to check where the slope had failed. To no surprise, I located a length of black drain pipe running down to the area where the slope collapsed.

What I could not believe is I followed it up to the top of the hill and it led to the very same house, now fully reconstructed, that had caused the original slide in 2007 that was hit by a BNSF freight train fortunately without it derailing. The house in question is at the very north end of Christopherson Street that currently sits vacant. A new drain line appears to have been put down, replacing the old one that ended up down on the beach 11 years ago. I will be reporting my findings to the BNSF Railway, the City of Surrey and Transport Canada. As far as the illegal dumping onto the Semiahmoo waterfront, this will be reported to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the provincial RAPP Line (Report All Poachers Polluters), plus Crimestoppers.

The BNSF Railway needs to be held accountable for the damage they have done and their continuing pattern of dumping mud, rocks and whole trees onto our beaches. I would like to see the BNSF Railway heavily fined for repeated dumping violations and be forced to clean up all of their debris piles that now sit on the shore of Crescent Beach, returning this waterfront to its former natural condition. Our new Liberal MP Gordie Hogg is aware of this issue and is addressing this problem in Ottawa that has jurisdiction over railways and oceans. While Transport Canada has in the past instructed the BNSF not to dump landslide debris onto the beach, their warnings are ignored. The DFO has only one person investigating environmental complaints in the province of BC and it is likely this dumping is low priority. With Crime Stoppers recently announcing they are looking for tips on environmental crimes in BC , hopefully the RCMP will be able to lay charges against railway executives for illegal dumping and damage to the marine environment along the shores of the Semiahmoo Bay.

If I were to dump twelve dump trucks of muddy fill and dead trees onto the waterfront at Crescent Beach, I could only imagine how harsh the fines and punishment would be, let alone the public outcry and vilification against such conduct. How is it then that an American railway with offices in New West is allowed to continue to bury our coastline with debris excavated off their property without any consequences? I have been harping on this issue for over a decade now and still the dumping of mudslide material and burying of our beaches continues since no one or any government organization ever holds them accountable. The owner of the BNSF, billionaire Warren Buffet who is the fourth richest man on the planet, can afford to have a rail dump car brought in to take away the mudslide debris for proper disposal. This is 2018 and it is time for the BNSF to stop using our beaches as their private landfill site.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

- March 12, 2018

Overpass Opens Before Passover

Imagine my surprise when I heard on Friday about the following news release from the BC Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry regarding the damaged 152 St. overpass in south Surrey:


The emergency repairs at the 152nd Street underpass are nearly complete, and the northbound lane on 152nd Street is expected to reopen in the coming days.
This will be followed by the reopening of both northbound Highway 99 lanes.
Remaining activities include finishing the reconstruction of the concrete deck, sidewalk and railings on the bridge, then reinstalling the cable median barrier on Highway 99.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure thanks motorists for their patience while lane closures were in place to ensure the safety of travellers and construction workers during this necessary repair work.

Back on December 4, 2017 when the bridge was damaged by an overheight vehicle driving below on Hwy. 99, I happened to drive by this area and took photos of the damage. I'm not an engineer but quickly ascertained that the damaged girders would need to be replaced because they were tensile concrete with cables instead of rebar. This was indeed the case and repairs were originally expected to last until April, seriously impacting traffic flow and businesses in the Southpoint area. The release from the BC government came as a welcomed notice, with repairs being completed weeks ahead of schedule. Since no time line for reopening was given other than in "the coming days", I logically thought we might see the northbound lanes reopened sometime this week as it would be doubtful that work would be ongoing during the weekend.

When my wife told me on Sunday that she had driven across the 152 St. bridge and that it was opened I was shocked and to be quite honest questioned her about what she had seen. When I drove there to investigate, the mobile traffic signs that had alerted motorists to the bridge closure announced "152 nd Overpass Now Open - Thank You For Your Patience". While Global TV and several A.M. traffic stations were aware of the upcoming reopening, none had been informed that the 152 St. bridge was now actually open in both directions. It is bizarre in this day and age that the media was not alerted to the opening considering the technically demanding repairs took 3.5 months. I would have thought that a major public announcement and possibly a photo-op would have been scheduled. As it is, the bridge will be open for commuter traffic on Monday, which is likely why it was quickly reopened without any fanfare.

This construction project is not completely over as there are still generators, lights, mobile offices and other equipment below on the side of Hwy 99. Northbound traffic is still only one lane at this time until traffic barriers are moved and the median cable safety system is reinstalled. Once all of the work at the 152 Street overpass is fully completed, the ministry has said it will begin work on replacing the Bailey Bridge on King George Boulevard crossing the Nicomekyl River. I wrote a TNT about this decrepit relic on Sept 25, 2017 titled "Bailey Bridge Blockade" that you can find posted below. Not long after this column was posted including pictures of the rotten timbers, the Ministry of Transportation issued the following release that included a tentative start date five months ago on Oct. 16th, 2017:

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

The White Rock Sun will keep you informed as to when the work on the old Bailey bridge actually starts. This is not the only bottleneck that needs to be fixed here in south Surrey. I would like to know why you cannot head north from south Surrey and turn onto Hwy 99 heading southbound? It would be easy to install lights and a left hand turn lane across from the Park & Ride allowing this to happen. Also on 152 St. at 24 Ave., why is there no access to Hwy. 99 southbound allowing those drivers heading north on 152 St. from zipping onto the freeway? There is plenty of room and even a large locked gate in the chain link fence at this location. Lastly, while the 152 St. overpass is now fixed, how long will it be until a four-lane bridge replaces the old two-lane bridge that still constricts traffic?

As a final note on this story, with the 152 St. overpass now open and vehicles flowing freely, please take time to visit and support the many merchants at the South Point Annex whose operations were disrupted by the road closure. This includes Cobbs Bread, Seven Seas Fresh Fish Market, Clancy's Meats, Southpoint Drycleaners, Kim's Farm Market, Tisol Pet Nutrition, Southpoint Liquor Store and more. If you have not visited the Show Shaa Modern Taproom directly beside the overpass (formerly Jimmy Flynns Celtic Snug), I would suggest putting this destination restaurant and bar with its amazing international cuisine on your to-do list. Check our their menu and story at showshaa.ca.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Editor's Note: If you liked Don's catchy TNT title and were left wondering, Passover 2018 will begin in the evening of Friday, March 30 and ends in the evening of Saturday, April 7.

 

March 05, 2018


"A Clear-Cut Job"

" Our man on the street" - Don Pitcairn

Since July 20, 2009 I have written a weekly The Naked Truth, never missing a single column in well over eight years. This included times when I was away on vacation, sometimes overseas representing Canada in Fullbore Rifle and Palma Team shooting. It has meant usually finding me sitting in front of my computer on Sunday nights, regardless of sickness, fatigue or family comm itments. I've even had the pleasure of typing them into my Smartphone when it was all that was available. It has now been exactly one month since the last TNT was published before the White Rock Sun was closed so that editor Dave Chesney could have a real holiday and take a much needed mental health break away from the lunacy at White Rock City Hall. No you would think that after such a long break that I would be chomping at the bit to sink my teeth into the latest TNT. Unfortunately, the latest round of clear-cutting in White Rock has left me with such a bad taste in my mouth I simply want to go and spit in disgust on the steps of City Hall.

With all of the construction as White Rock is transformed from a sleepy seaside town into an urban concrete jungle of towering high-rises, I usually avoid going uptown. On Monday Feb. 26 I had an appointment with Harley at Moody's Shoe Master and entered the City By The Sea off North Bluff, driving south down Johnston Road. Nothing could have prepared me for the chain-saw massacre that was visible on both sides of the road with not a tree left standing all the way to Russell Ave. Only the few trees planted several years back near the Bosa Towers and a few small median trees closer to Thrift Ave. remained. The flattened stumps had all been painted a hideous day-glo orange to make the carnage even more visible, plus to possibly hide the yearly growth rings. For the record, I counted a total of 50 trees removed across Johnston Rd. from North Bluff to Thrift on Sunday morning. Here are the numbers and the trunk diameters: 3 trees - 3 ft. across, 9 trees - 2.5 ft. across, 10 trees - 2 ft. across, 28 trees - 1.0-1.5 ft. across. The very next day small orange traffic cones were nailed to each stump to make them more visible for the serious tripping hazard they now pose to pedestrians and those with mobility challenges.

As has now been widely reported, city hired arborists moved in under the cover of darkness at 4:30 a.m. on the Sunday night prior, clearing all of these street trees for their Johnston Road Streetscape Revitalization plan. You can read the statement from the City about this latest tree slaughter debacle at the Latest News section of the whiterockcity.ca website. Do not be fooled by the spin of this document titled "Statement from the City on Tree Removal, Relocation and Replacement on Johnston Road." While they claimed "the current street trees on Johnston Road could pose a risk to the public" the tripping hazards from raised bricks were due to the lack of maintenance in fixing this long ignored problem. With all of the low stumps now left in place, these are the main tripping hazard facing pedestrians. Cutting trees at night is not a new tactic for White Rock City Hall as it was previously used to hack down the Ellerbeck's trees from their home on Royal Avenue back in March of 2011 to avoid public protests. As to their dubious claim "And, yes, trees will be replaced", you need to realize that they lied about the Hump clear-cutting several years ago and to date not a single tree, shrub or flower has been planted to replace the logging that was done mainly to improve ocean views for Marine Drive residents.

To make this debacle all the the more surreal, you have to realize that the uptown tree cutting was debated at City Hall only six days before the tree cutting when Councillor Dave Chesney was still away on vacation. You can watch it at the following link: https://www.whiterockcity.ca/EN/main/council/video-recording-of-council-meetings.html. Simply hit the video tab for the Februrary 19th Council meeting and fast forward to 1 hr 8 minutes where the Johnston Road Gateway Update is discussed. It turns out that the project was put out to tender but only one or two bids were received and they were double the $4.5 million budget. The new director of Engineering and Municipal Operations Department Jim Gordon explains how it will be remarketed looking to reduce costs and that "We will let council know before we remove any trees." Councillor Helen Fathers, the only non-Coalition slate councillor in attendance states "What I really wouldn't like to see is the whole street, all of the trees taken down and then we don't get it together enough to get the tender in because I think that would be devastating for the entire community. Those trees are dear to many people in White Rock including myself." Not a word was mentioned about plans to cut down all of the trees in less than a week and I have been informed that Council was only alerted by email on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. to the pending slaughter. When questioned by Councillor Lynne Sinclair about why it was important to do the tree work before the project had been tendered, Jim Gordon had this telling reply. "Anytime we can eliminate risks for a contractor and provide them with a clear-cut job, we will get better prices. A "clear-cut job", think about that for a minute.

As if this was not enough, a second statement then appeared on the White Rock city website with an apology for yet another hatchet job. For those of you that enjoyed the shade of the big Empress Tree beside the stairs at Memorial Park or its beautiful spring flowers, I am sad to report that it was reduced to a stump at 7:30 a.m. on March 1st. This story was big enough to be featured in the Province newspaper, bringing even more shame on the city with their apparent fascination with chainsawing. Here is the statement about one of the best known trees in White Rock:
March 1, 2018
We are sorry. We tried our best to save the Paulownia tomentosa (Empress Tree) in Memorial Park. We originally believed we could work around the tree, but unfortunately, the large shallow roots extended further to the downhill side of the tree than expected. What we learned from arborists once the roots were exposed, is that the tree did not have strong deep roots. Instead, the shallow roots extended downhill near the ground surface making relocation impossible and making the tree vulnerable to disturbance. Consideration was given to redesigning retaining walls around the tree; however, arborists expressed concern that this would still affect the long term viability of the tree.

Needless to say all of the recent logging has brought a rash of posts to local community Facebook sites such as No more HighRises in White Rock, White Rock Democratic Group, White Rock Voters Group and Save Our City By The Sea. Many are saying that White Rock should promote a "Tour of the Stumps" or an "Annual Tree Chopping Festival" followed by an "Orange Stump Festival" on April Fool's Day. As a political protest last weekend, flowers were placed in every one of the small orange traffic cones atop the boulevard stumps throughout uptown, either as a memorial to their destruction or as a much cheaper Johnston Road beautification project. I'm going to go out on a limb here and hopefully I'm not barking up the wrong tree when I say that the city's administrators are doing a great job in ensuring that possibly everyone on the current White Rock Council connected to these fiascos will be out voted out of office on October 20th. After that I would expect to see some of the city administrators be given their walking papers for their questionable decisions and abject failure to uphold the Vision, Mission and Corporate Values statement for the City of White Rock.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 05, 2018


Lights Out For Watts

 

It was quite the weekend to be huddled around the television watching an epic battle of wills as the combatants challenged each other for ultimate supremacy. In the nail-biting finish only one emerged victorious and they took to the podium to accept their prize for winning their hard fought struggle. No, I'm not talking about the 52nd NFL Superbowl where the Philadelphia Eagles prevailed over the New England Patriots by a score of 41-33. The real show was watching the BC Liberal Leadership contest where Andrew Wilkinson beat out Dianne Watts on the fifth and final vote to secure victory and take control of the party.

In what was a knockout election the six leadership hopefuls jockeyed for position after signing up new party members to help support their cause. Dianne Watts resignation as the Conservative MP for White Rock - South Surrey last year meant she came in as a party outsider even though poll after poll showed she was consistently a front-runner. It was a telling revelation to know that going into the vote, Wilkinson had the support of thirteen Liberal caucus MLAs (the most of any of the six candidates), while Watts had none. Still, Dianne was seen as a fresh face for the BC Liberals and with seven successful Surrey elections in a row dating back to 1996, a political force to be reckoned with.

In the first round of the election where there were 8,700 total points (4,351 needed for victory) Mrs. Watts took an early lead of nearly a quarter of all votes while former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan received a measly 1.8% of the vote eliminating him from further contention.
Dianne Watts: 2,135 points – 24.54%
Michael Lee: 1,917 points – 22.03%
Andrew Wilkinson: 1,591 points – 18.29%
Todd Stone: 1,483 points – 17.05%
Mike de Jong: 1,415 points – 16.27%
Sam Sullivan: 158 points – 1.82%

Round two of the voting saw little change in the percentage of vote with Diane still in the lead and Mike De Jong finishing last at 1,436 points of 16.52% of the vote, dropping him from further balloting. It was the third round of membership voting where the tide started to turn for Wilkinson who was still in third place at that time. While he had an agreement with De Jong to encourage their supporters to make the other candidate their second choice under the preferential ballot system, Mr. Wilkinson obviously did not get all of those members support but did see a 7% ballot improvement. With only 20% support after losing 1,400 new memberships only days before the vote due to issues with consultants AggregateIQ., Todd Stone was dropped from the ballot.
Dianne Watts: 2,469 points – 28.83%
Michael Lee: 2,264 points – 26.03%
Andrew Wilkinson: 2,201 points – 25.29%
Todd Stone: 1,766 points – 20.29%

The forth round of voting saw a near dead heat with the three remaining candidates each getting close to a third of the vote. Dianne Watts still in the lead with 3,006 points, followed 144 points behind by Wilkinson who beat out Michael Lee by only 49 points, setting the stage for the final showdown between newcomer Watts and the old-school Wilkinson who is a doctor, lawyer and Rhodes scholar.
Dianne Watts: 3,006 points – 34.55%
Andrew Wilkinson: 2,862 points – 32.89%
Michael Lee: 2,813 points – 32.56%

In the final fifth round of voting after Dianne Watts had lead the entire way, it was Andrew Wilkinson who came out on top. Mr. Wilkinson is a longtime Liberal organizer and past party president who promises to promises to carry on the historical heritage of the BC Liberal Party, carrying on the work of former Premiers Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark. The margin of victory was 542 points or 53.1% of the ballots.
Andrew Wilkinson: 4,621 points
Dianne Watts: 4,079 points

Gracious in defeat, Dianne Watts released the following statement on Twitter after coming in a close second: "I would like to congratulate Andrew Wilkinson on being elected as our new leader. I am committed to doing everything I can to make sure we elect a BC Liberal government in the next election." For his part Wilkinson announced to assembled media that he was hoping to seek out support from Michael Lee, Todd Stone and Dianne Watts as the BC Liberals regroup to try and take down the NDP/Green coalition government.

While Mrs. Watts won as MP for South Surrey - White Rock, the Conservative party lost the election and she was relegated to opposition status far from the cabinet posting many believe she had been promised. Now she has come in second best in the hunt for what she likely hoped would eventually lead to the Premier's job. It is unlikely she will now run against Linda Hepner for her old job as Mayor of Surrey and while the position is available, hard to fathom she would throw her bonnet in the ring to run for Mayor of White Rock. Ever the political opportunist, I expect Mrs. Watts to run for the BC Liberals in the next provincial election that may happen much sooner than the scheduled date of May 11, 2021.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 29, 2018

Super-Blue-Blood-Moon Rising

I see a bad moon a-rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin'
I see bad times today

Don't go 'round tonight
It's bound to take your life
There's a bad moon on the rise

Lyrics to Creedence Clearwater Revival's song "Bad Moon Rising", 1969.

Prepare yourself for an astrological event in these parts that has not been seen by anyone on the planet Earth for 152 years. On Wednesday, January 31st, plan on getting up early to view an extremely rare occurrence, a perfect trifecta of lunar oddities that include a super moon, blue moon and blood moon all happening at the very same time. Currently the weather forecast for this region is sunny with cloudy periods for Wednesday so hopefully the clouds will part and this celestial show will be visible from White Rock and south Surrey. If you miss it don't worry as the next one happens in only ten years, giving you something to live for.

For those who are not amateur astronomers, a supermoon is when the the moon is at its closest orbit to the earth. This causes it to appear 14% larger and 30% brighter than full moons that happen at the farthest point in the moon’s orbit. The effect is even more noticeable at moonrise when scattering of light through the atmosphere at the horizon make the moon look even larger. A blue moon has actually nothing to do with the colour of our closest neighbour, it is the second full moon that happens in one month, which will also happen in March of this year. The blood moon is actually a total lunar eclipse where the shadow of the earth blocks out the sun from the surface of the moon. Because of the diffraction of light through the atmosphere the moon will appear to be a reddish orange glowing orb, called a bloodmoon. The last bloodmoon here happened two years ago, with the full moon rising from the east in full lunar eclipse, making for quite the spectacle.

The best time to view a supermoon is at night right after moonrise when the moon rises from the eastern horizon. Those living in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand will get to watch the super blue bloodmoon actually rise. Unfortunately moonrise here is at 4:24 p.m. on Tuesday, January 30th, half an hour before sunset that day, which happens at 5:05 p.m. The maximum full moon is scheduled for 5:27 a.m. on January 31, but the real light show begins at 3:48 a.m. with the start of the lunar eclipse, reaching its maximum coverage at 5:30 a.m. The moon will then set that morning at 7:49 a.m., just after sunrise that happens at 7:42 a.m. Here in the Lower Mainland, we should be able to see a near total eclipse of the moon as long as the clouds don't interfere. Unlike the solar eclipse we witnessed last summer, the lunar eclipse can be watched without risk of eye damage. If you get up dark and early and find the sky obscured, you can watch the lunar eclipse courtesy of the rocket scientists at NASA on their live view website at the following link starting at 3:30 a.m. PST: https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

The last time there was a lunar eclipse here several years ago, I happened to be driving back into Canada on a Sunday evening after attending a sporting event in Washington State. As I crossed the border I saw the blood moon rising over Hazelmere and decided that the grassy hillside at King George Blvd and 8th Avenue next to Hwy. 99 would offer a prime vantage point. Unfortunately I was not the only person who figured this out and found the area lined with cars and packed with people, many with lawn chairs and blankets. This time with the moon already up for hours and the best eclipse from 5-6 a.m., expect the moon to be in the west/northwest portion of the sky. Any high point not blocked by tall evergreens should be okay but I prefer to watch these events over water meaning that Crescent Beach, Crescent Rock Beach, the White Rock Pier, plus stretches of the Nicomekyl and Serpentine rivers should be prime viewing spots. Please note that the 1,000 Steps staircase in Ocean Park and Christopherson Steps in Crescent Heights will still be locked during that time of the morning.

Make sure you dress warmly, wear bright or reflective clothes plus take along a flashlight for safety. A fold-up lawn chair and blanket along with a thermos full of tea or coffee will help to keep you warm in temperatures forecast to be 4 degrees. If you want to take pictures, try to have something in the background for size comparison, rather than just the bloodmoon alone in the night sky. For professional photographers, bring along your tripod, telephoto lens plus light meter and if you get an amazing shot of the super blue bloodmoon, please sent it along to the White Rock Sun for publishing.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 22, 2018

Taking Tax Relief For Granted

For the past 11 years I have celebrated New Year's Day by plunging into the icy waters of Boundary Bay in a Polar Bear Swim baptism. Nothing like near freezing water to wake you up, clear your head and shake off the cobwebs from any lingering hangover resulting from too much festivities the night before.

Unfortunately the hangover quickly comes back when you look at the property value numbers from BC Assessment that are posted online on January 1st of each year. With the continuing flood of foreign capital distorting our real estate prices far above what a working class family here could ever afford, assessments continue to go through the roof. For this year, the assessment for our house in south Surrey went up $186,000 or %16 in value. Combined with increases over the past four years, we have seen stratospheric gains of a combined 64%, for a property that was already high priced when we first purchased it.

We appealed our property assessment last year as being unrealistic and had $164,000 taken off of the assessed value. This was done originally to help get the estimated value under the $1.2 million Homeowner's Grant limit which was the number when we received our assessment. It turns out that we really didn't need to bother as the BC Liberal Government of the time raised the Home Owner's Grant limit to $1.5 million, ensuring we qualified to receive all of the grant. This year the NDP have followed suit, raising the level with ever increasing real estate prices to $1.65 million. It turns out that since 2003, the threshold has been raised eleven times. It is estimated that the Home Owner's Grant will result in almost $900 million in tax saving for BC homeowners this year.

Now here's the rub, when is the actual Home Owners Grant ever going to be increased? As long as I can remember that basic Home Owners Grant property tax deduction for homeowners living in the Lower Mainland or Capital Region has been pegged at $570 for the basic grant and $770 for those in rural or northern communities. Seniors are eligible to receive a further $275 additional grant deduction for a total of $845 with the elderly living in the sticks taking $1,045 off the property taxes for the homes they live in. With ever increasing property values and the Mill rate that cities use for property tax calculations allowing for ever increasing taxes, the Home Owners Grant is rapidly becoming insignificant as its less than $50 per month reduction becomes a joke.

Case in point, using our home as a reference we have seen our "Column B" basic grant rate in the City of Surrey rise from $2,840 in 2010 to $4,098 in 2017, or an increase of $1,258 in only seven years. This represents an increase in payable property taxes of 44% or 6.3% increase per year, well beyond the rate of inflation during this period. Of course, during this time the Home Owner's Grant has remained stagnant. When compared to the no grant tax rates, the $570 grant equates to a 16.7% reduction in property taxes for 2010, which slipped to only a 12% reduction in property taxes for us in 2017. If the Homeowner's Grant remains stationary, its effect when looked at a percentage tax savings will continue to further decrease over time. Couple this with the number of houses that are still above the new $1.65 million grant ceiling that get no deduction and Surrey is raking in lots of new tax revenue for their coffers.

It is time that the Provincial and Civic governments look at this issue and instead of only raising the Home Owner's Grant threshold, they also need to increase the actual grant itself to match the staggering increases in property tax that homeowners are being subjected to. I say we give bigger grants to those who actual live in their homes and stick it to wealthy foreign investors and those who purchase residential real estate property and simply leave them empty. If you want to get an idea of how many homes are vacant in your neighbourhood, simply watch who does not put out garbage cans every week or when it snows, which driveways are not shoveled and have no tire tracks. The number will likely surprise you once you start paying attention.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 15, 2018

Muddying The Waters

Headwaters of LIttle Campbell river @ Semiahmoo Bay

This was never supposed to be a two part series focusing attention on the Border Feed Lot in south Surrey (17256 8 Ave) but after last week's TNT titled "Clearing The Air" I received more information on the impact this agricultural business is having on the local environment. In last week's article I quoted from a decade old report on the Little Campbell Watershed that showed Coli-Form Units of 14,000 CFU/100 ml. H20 that were 70 times higher than allowable water quality guidelines in streams draining from this property. The paragraph on this topic ended with "It is interesting to note that this report was done well before large scale composting and topsoil processing began at this agricultural property. Whether steps have been taken to control manure run-off from the feed lot or the composting operations is not yet known." If you missed last week's TNT you might want to scroll down and read it for insight before carrying on here.

There are a variety of environmentally focused groups keeping an eye on the Little Campbell River that flows into Semiahmoo Bay/Boundary Bay at the Semiahmoo First Nation reserve property. One of these is the Little Campbell Watersheds Society (little campbellriver.org) whose mandate is to "focus on activities to preserve, enhance and restore fish, wildlife, water resources and green space within the Little Campbell River Watershed." Alarmed with the growing piles of manure and soil behind the Border Feed Lot barns, they were concerned that runoff from the soil and manure operations might be contaminating the Little Campbell River. Bacteriological contamination has been contributing to the shellfish harvesting closures in the waters around the Peninsula which have been off-limits since 1962. This includes the Semiahmoo First Nation peoples who traditionally have relied on this for both food and ceremonial purposes. Members of the Little Campbell Watersheds Society took it upon themselves to take samples from the tributaries south of the Border Feed Lot property on June 8, 2017 and submitted them to Exova Laboratories in sterile bottles placed in a cooler for analysis that day.

What test results revealed were two water quality parameter violations far beyond the 200 CFU/100 ml. limit for human health and livestock watering. Fecal coliform levels were measured at a staggering 360,000 CFU/100ml with escherichia coli even higher at 410,000 CFU/100 ml. This represents a violation approximately 2,000 times greater than the BC guideline limit for aquatic pollution and an exponential increase from the contaminated waters found back in 2005-2007 when the original Little Campbell River Watershed Water Quality Report was done. There were other major violations over the guideline limit including Organic Carbon at 9 times that background median, Nitrite at 5 times the long-term average to protect aquatic life, Phosphorus at 150 times the guidelines for lakes, Aluminum at 100 times the short-term max for freshwater aquatic life, plus high levels of Total Dissolved Solids. Further to these major violations, there were eight other parameters for everything from Arsenic to Cobalt that were above guideline recommended limits.

The test results were forwarded to the BC Environment Ministry through the R.A.P.P. (Report All Poachers and Polluters) along with a list of Agricultural Waste Control Regulations they believe were not being followed. These included the following:
3. Water quality results indicate that current agricultural waste storage practices do not prevent pollution.
4. Current operation collects waste from other farms which is not permissible.
8(2). Current operation has waste piles within 20m of the tributary that runs through their property.
9. From our observations, current operations do not cover field stored waste piles for any part of the year including Oct 1-April 1.
15(C) Water quality results indicate that current composting practices do not prevent pollution.
30. Water quality results indicate that current agricultural practices do not prevent pollution.
The Ministry of the Environment investigated the test results and allegations and sent an "Out of Compliance" letter to the operators of this agricultural operation in August informing them they were violating the Environmental Habitat Management Act in regards to waste discharge regulations. As to whether the Border Feed Lot and their soil operations are now in compliance, unless someone wants to pay for further testing it is not known if pollution from this property persists.

With the weakening of environmental protection laws by Harper's Conservatives when they were in power plus the gutting of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans budget and manpower, there is little enforcement against polluters plus little or no testing. In order to find strength in numbers, many local environmental stewardship groups are considering resurrecting the Shared Water Alliance that was originally formed in 1999 as an international working group focused on the water quality of the Canadian and US shared waters of Boundary Bay. You only have to look across the border at Drayton Harbour to see how concerted efforts to test water and identify sources of pollution can make an impact. With concerted efforts since 2001 our American neighbours were able to clean up the formerly polluted harbour to the point that the Drayton Harbor Oyster Company now operates and on Dec. 15th held their second annual "Shell-ebration" to mark the the one-year anniversary of lifted shellfish harvesting restrictions in Drayton Harbor. If they can clean up this Blaine shoreline, there is no reason to think we can't do the same here north of the border.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

January 08, 2018

Clearing The Air

 

The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote
"Stink, stank, stunk"!

Lyrics to the song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch", written by Dr. Suess, 1966

It comes as no surprise that the composing operations at the Border Feed Lot located at the SE corner of 172 St. and 8 Ave. are being singled out as the source of the rotten egg stench that permeated neighbourhoods in south Surrey last week. A Metro Vancouver manger revealed that piles of composting manure and mushroom manure piles were turned over with the wind direction matching where odour complaints were received from. Unfortunately this is not a new situation that is likely linked to compost piles and topsoil production occurring at this agricultural location. The satellite view of Surrey's COSMOS online mapping system shows massive soil piles to the east of the cattle barns located there along with several hi-hoe excavators, a front end loader and soil screener that deal with manure from this site and mushroom manure, which I've been told by area naturalists is being trucked in.

When we have outflow conditions in the winter with winds from the northeast, any odours emanating from the feed lot and compost piles will drift into the Douglas crossing neighbourhoods that have been heavily developed over the past decade. This has resulted in the Border Feedlot becoming the second highest source of smell complaints to Metro Vancouver in 2017. Here is the list of the five worst offenders as recently revealed by a CTV investigation into Metro Vancouver smell complaints:
Harvest Power, Richmond - 3,408
Border Feed Lot cattle operations, Surrey - 163
Enviro-Smart composting facility, Delta - 92
West Coast Reduction, East Vancouver - 91
Chevron Oil Refinery, Burnaby - 46

The Harvest Power waste to energy composting facility in East Richmond has been in the news on a constant basis for many years since food waste began to be collected in 1999. Due to their large compost piles that treat food waste including meat, residents there have described the stench as "putrid, stinky, noxious, malodorous and unacceptable". Metro Vancouver receives twenty times more smell complaints about Harvest Power than the Border Feedlot, likely because of the facility's size and relative closeness to large urban areas. The Enviro-Smart composting facility in Delta by the Boundary Bay Airport also gets smell complaints but they have been working to cover their piles to control water content, improved air systems that aerate the piles plus turning the organic waste using custom pile turning machines instead of excavators. In case you did not know, Surrey's Organic Biofuel Facility in Port Kells has a state-of-the-art smell mitigation system that uses negative air pressure to contain noxious odours.

Smelly businesses make for infuriated neighbours, which has been the case across Metro Vancouver for years. The West Coast Reduction rendering plant processes animal waste including fish, fat, blood and feathers at their facility at the north end of Commercial Drive in Vancouver that has been stinking up East Van since 1964. This is the same lovely place where Willy Pickton disposed of the dismembered victims of his serial murder spree. I previously lived in Brookswood in Langley downwind from the Money's Mushroom compost plant near 44 Ave. and 190 St. where the smell in summer would best be described as a dead dog rotting in a ditch. In 1994 he GVRD Assistant Air Quality Director finally ordered Moneys to take steps to change their operations and control the stench. After years of appeals and legal wrangling, Money's finally closed the doors on their old composting facility in Surrey with plans to move it out into the Fraser Valley. By chance, they picked a new location at the base of Chilliwack Mountain, upwind from all of the residents living on the hill that also included my mother who was then Chairperson of the Chilliwack Ratepayers Association. With the knowledge of what had transpired in Bookswood, Chilliwack Council voted to turn them down and they went elsewhere.

Most modern composting facilities are in enclosed shelters allowing operators to control the amount of water in the decomposing organics. They also have vented grates across the floor with industrial fans pumping fresh air into the piles to promote aerobic decomposition where the bacteria present feed off the oxygen as they break down the organics. If large piles of manure are placed outdoors where they are exposed to the rain and not turned over frequently, the piles become saturated with water and then the rotting process turns into anaerobic decomposition that occurs without the presence of oxygen. This can produce dangerous hydrogen sulfide gas, a colourless, poisonous gas that smells like rotten eggs. Fortis Gas received many emergency calls from Douglas crossing residents last week complaining of a suspected natural gas leak that smelled like rotten eggs. Natural gas has no smell but the chemical mercaptan, which smells like rotten eggs, is added to make it detectable. No gas leak was found in the area so it is highly likely the rotten egg smell reported was hydrogen sulphide being released from wet manure piles that Metro Vancouver reported being turned over.

Stink coming from the Border Feed Lot is not the only environmental concern linked to this agriculture business. There are two small tributaries that drain water away from this property towards the Little Campbell River. These were tested by the BC Ministry of Environment and detailed in the Little Campbell Watershed Water Quality Report 2005-2007 that is posted online as follows:
Site 146-2, a tributary that drains a feedlot operation containing a very high density of bovines was found to have the greatest fecal coli-form concentrations, with results up to 14,000 Coli-Form Units (CFU) per 100 ml of water and geometric means consistently exceeding the 200 CFU/100 ml water quality guidelines. Geometric means ranged from 1102 to 7972 CFU/100 ml throughout the study period. Dissolved oxygen levels at the site were also found to be very low and well below the BC water quality guidelines for aquatic life in both the instantaneous minimum and 30 day average. Fish are unlikely to be present in this tributary, however the impact of this contamination may reach the Little Campbell River main stream.
It is interesting to note that this report was done well before large scale composting and topsoil processing began at this agricultural property. Whether steps have been taken to control manure run-off from the feed lot or the composting operations is not yet known.

If you live down by the border and smell rotten eggs or something foul in the air far beyond regular livestock manure, I would suggest you report it to the following:
Call Metro Vancouver's odour complaint hotline at 604-436-6777
Email Metro Vancouver's Make An Air Quality Complaint webpage at the following link:
http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/Permits-regulations-enforcement/air-quality/air-quality-complaints/complaint/Pages/Air-Quality-Complaint-Form.aspx
Email the BC Government at environmentalcomplaints@gov.bc.ca
File an air pollution report with https://forms.gov.bc.ca/environment/rapp/
Contact Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and her Surrey First slate of Councillors whose email addresses are listed on the Surrey.ca website at the following link:
http://www.surrey.ca/city-government/2999.aspx

"Stop The Stink!" Facebook group in Vancouver was the community page created to bring awareness to the reek of death emanating from the West Coast Reduction Plant. "Stop the Stink in Richmond" Facebook group was formed to combat the vile stench from Harvest Power's vile compost piles. Something tells me it won't be long till we see "Stop the Stink in Surrey" Facebook page if rotten egg smells continue to waft over residential neighbourhoods in south Surrey.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 02, 2018

TNT Year in Review

 

With New Year's Day falling on a Monday, my wife Sheryl came up with the wonderful idea of looking back at last year's The Naked Truth columns. Without further adieu, here is the TNT year in review.

Dec. 26, Christmas Gift List: Gifts under the tree for those naughty and nice who made news headlines in 2017.
Dec. 18, Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures: A look at Conservative attack ads used in the final days of the Federal by-election.
Dec. 11, Injustice System: A look at failures in our so-called justice system and the "BC Judges Weakest Link" shaming campaign.
Dec. 4, Advance Warning: With advance polls open, this piece looked at how Elections Canada failed to open polling stations across the riding putting most in White Rock.

Nov. 27, Sign Of The Times: As someone who knows WAAYYYY too much about election signs, a preview of how the parties were staking their claim across the Semi-Pen.
Nov. 20, White Rock Star: PM Justin Trudeau comes to town, hangs out with SFN Chief Harley and WR Sun Editor Dave Chesney, getting the goat of Mayor Wayne Baldwin.
Nov. 13, A Time to Remember: Remembrance Day celebrations, Charlie's Tree memorial and the Friends of Old Canada are featured on this piece about Nov. 11th.
Nov. 6, Mark Your Calendars - Dec. 11 is Voting Day: Everything you needed to know about the upcoming by-election and the cast of characters who wanted to be your MP.

Oct. 30, My Gift to You - Beware of Pyramid Schemes: If you thought the Pyramids were only in Egypt, think again as the Gifting Circle scam shows up in S. Sry/WR.
Oct. 23, Speed Reading at Surrey Schools: The scoop on school roadway safety improvements across Surrey with the funky abbreviated name of ARS-ZAPP.
Oct. 16, Duck Feathers and Parrot Feathers: The draining of the Serpentine Fen is featured along with information about an invasive plant species that is not ducky.
Oct. 9, Right to Bare Arms: After the Mandalay Massacre in Vegas, a marksman's perspective on gun control in both the US and Canada.
Oct. 2, Beautiful, White & Deadly: Poisonous mushrooms found sprouting in my own front lawn were showcased with warnings about the Destroying Angel.

Sept. 25, Bailey Bridge Blockade: This triple TNT expose about the shape of the old Bailey Bridge across the Nicomekyl River that lead to emergency plans to finally rebuilt it, Dianne Watt's resignation and Seal Team actor AJ Buckley from White Rock.
Sept. 18, Fish On!: An insiders look at the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club and the Little Campbell Hatchery that volunteers run.
Sept. 11, Anchor's Away: Arghhh Matey, this TNT told the tale of the massive old anchor that now resides in Ocean Park.
Sept. 5, A Shooting Star Summer: I fired my own gun here with this piece on the Canadian Target Rifle Championships and time spent with father Bob "The Legend" Pitcairn.

Aug. 28, 21 & 14: A lengthy three part series about the history of Hall's Prairie in the Hazelmere Valley of south Surrey takes up most of the month of August.
Aug. 6, Semiahmoo Goes With The Flow: The boil water advisory at the Semiahmoo First Nation gets my blood boiling with White Rock threatening to turn off the taps.

July 31, Delta Mayor Pushes For Return of the Inter Urban: Lois Jackson leads the charge to have the inter-urban line rolling again on tracks that include the BNSF Railway here.
July 24, Doe..., A Deer..., A Female Deer: After a deer is seen on the shores of Crescent Rock Beach and this TNT looks at black-tailed deer living among us.
July 17, A Rough Walk in the Park: The Riverside Golf course and its return to nature is profiled with plenty of pictures.
July 10, Save Water, Save Money: In the heat of the summer, how to conserve water with help of Surrey's Water Conservation Education Team (WCET).
July 4, Break A Leg Dianne: Prior to stepping down as our MP, accident prone Dianne Watts takes a tumble down her stairs ending up in hospital yet again.

June 26, The Buzz About The Nude Beach: Drones are spotted over Crescent Rock Beach where filming people in the nude without their knowledge or consent is a sex crime.
June 19, Open House, Closed Mind, Empty Wallet: The costs for Rail Safety Improvements in White Rock and proposed Promenade extension are added up.
June 12, Raising a Black Flag in Surrey: The new black and white Surrey Heritage signs have me seeing red as they look too much like an ISIS flag.
June 5, Art Knapps Give a Hoot: Everything you need to know about the dozen barn owl boxes at the King George nursery next to the Serpentine Fen.

May 29, The Plane Truth: Commercial jets are still flying over the peninsula and I want to know why this is happening.
May 23, Cowboys, Carnies, Creep Catchers, Cops and Cloverdale: Surrey Shirts heads to the Cloverdale Rodeo for the Victoria Day long weekend.
May 15, Driving me Crazy: In this TNT I blow up about the many rude, dangerous or oblivious drivers out there and how we need more police enforcement on our roads.
May 8, Your Vote Is Your Voice: All you needed to know about the upcoming Provincial Election where Good ol' Gordie Hogg stepped down as MLA after 20 years.
May 1, Fit To Be Tied: The replacement of 22,000 creosoted railway ties across the waterfront and its ramifications is looked at in detail.

April 25, White Rock Craziness - Its The Water (Part 3): Secrets about the EPCOR water purchase by White Rock slowly leak out including the revelation there is now chloramine in the tap water.
April 18, Psst..., Hey Buddy..., Wanna Buy Some Farmland?: McMansions being built on farmland across Surrey are showcased in this real estate piece.
April 10, Creeping Me Out: The Surrey Creep Catchers and the work they do outing online sexual predators preying on children are spotlighted.
April 3, BNSF Buries Nude Beach: In a nude beach cover-up, the BNSF Railway dumps tonnes of landslide debris from the tracks onto Crescent Rock.

March 27, Bird in a Cage: The decrease in song birds attributed to glass strikes on buildings and railings is nothing to chirp about.
March 20, Spring Has Sprung, Boing!: The Spring Eqinox is looked at throughout history and from around the world.
March 13, Get The Funk Out: Live music in the Semi-Pen including the latest show at the Ocean Park Hall featuring the Big Easy Funk Ensemble are given centre stage.
March 7, Feeling House Rich & Cash Poor?: With real estate prices going through the roof, this TNT shows how to lower your assessments and property tax.

Feb. 27, Prop-ad-ganda: How much of today's advertising is not selling a product, it is corporate propaganda trying to sway public opinion.
Feb. 20, Mosquitos Suck: It's winter and yet we still can't escape from these blood sucking parasites in Canada's banana belt.
Feb. 13, The Alternative to "Alternative Facts": The "No Ban, No Wall - Vancouver" Donald Trump protest at the Peace Arch Monument draws a crowd.
Feb. 6, South of the 49th, North of the 49th: From Tom Brady's 5th Super Bowl win to Chilliwack's snowmageddon, this TNT touches down on both sides of the border.

Jan 30, Driving While Blind: he deplorable state of highway signs throughout our region is revealed, something that still has not been fixed.
Jan. 23, Dick-Heads: There was no way that I could ignore White Rock's Moby Dicks court battle with a Vancouver strata over their whale of a name.
Jan. 16, Walk -Don't Run: In the dark days of winter, dangers to pedestrians crossing the road are highlighted.
Jan. 9, When We're Silent..., We're All Victims: Massive electronic billboards on the streets of Surrey and the visual distraction they pose are looked at.
Jan.2, Alot For a Lot: Rapidly increasing real estate prices and increases in property assessments are revealed.

There it is folks, a full year of 52 TNTs condensed down into one column. If you see anything here that catches your eye, simply scroll down to read what you missed. If you hit the archives, every The Naked Truth every written going back to June 20, 2009 is still posted online in the electronic pages of the White Rock Sun. Happy New Year, I'm now off to the Polar Bare Plunge for the 12th time.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 26, 2017


Christmas Gift List 2017

Don Pitcairn getting ready to distribut his Christmas Wish Letters

 

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, White Rock Mayor - A 45 rpm record of Aretha Franklin's smash hit "Respect" after the Mayor of White Rock had his politicized letter to Prime Minister Trudeau regarding proper protocol leaked to the media during the by-election.
What you want, baby I got it
What you need, do you know I got it
All I'm askin', is for a little respect when you get home (just a little bit)

Kelly & Juanita Breaks, Blue Frog Studio owners - Carrying on with our musical theme, a copy of the Rolling Stone's album Steel Wheels from 1989 containing the song "Rock and a Hard Place" after White Rock Coalition members voted to allow high-rises to be built on either side of their famed recording studio.

Jennifer Brooks and family - After an agonizing wait of 29 months, the Brooks finally received some justice a week before Christmas with charges being filed against an RCMP officer who shot their unarmed son Hudson outside the south Surrey detachment. As a stocking stuffer, maybe the B.C. Prosecution Service can explain to them why charges of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon were filed instead of manslaughter in their teen's death?

Dave Chesney, WR Councillor - A public apology from the White Rock BIA director Susy Tucker for alleging that Mr. Chesney was the source of the leaked Baldwin letter, which the Peace Arch News should reveal was not the case. Could it be that someone was playing politics and trying to smear everyone at once? Only Santa knows who was being naughty or nice.

Ryan LaForge, President of Surrey Creep Catchers - His gift is proposed changes to toughen up federal child sex laws including a new offense making the grooming of youngsters by adults for sexual purposes a crime in Canada. As a stocking stuffer, a one-of-a-kind SCC Stealth carbon fiber hoody compliments of Sheryl & Don.

Laura Cornale plus Kathy Honeywell & Barb Howe - For the owner of Laura's Coffee Corner and the owners of the 5 Corners Cafe, picture frames for the selfies with Justin Trudeau that brought both of these White Rock restaurants national recognition.

Helen Fathers, WR Councillor - A "Vote Helen For Mayor" t-shirt courtesy of Surrey Shirts that she can wear around White Rock when not managing the Farmer's Market that keeps on being turned into a political minefield. For her family, a box of tissues to dry their eyes and hopefully a new puppy in the near future.

Kerri-Lynne Findlay, Conservative member - A parachute and a soft mattress for the former federal Revenue Minister who came a surprisingly close second to Gordie Hogg in the recent federal by-election. As a stocking stuffer, some Stim-Root rooting hormone powder that is famous for helping to grow deep roots.

Linda Hepner, Surrey Mayor - Same as last year, a model Light Rail Transit (LRT) train set for under the old Christmas tree. Unfortunately Santa's reindeer seem to still be having trouble getting this $2.6 billion gift off the ground. As a stocking stuffer, a bottle of "Watts-Away" bug spray should Dianne try to reclaim her throne at City Hall.

Gordon Hogg, MP for SS/WR - I was going to get "Good Ol Gordie" a gold retirement watch to mark his 40 years of public service but then he goes and gets himself elected as the new Liberal MP for South Surrey - White Rock. His gift will be a new office as I doubt Gord will want to stay in the sterile storefront that Dianne Watts has now vacated.

Semiahmoo First Nation Council - For Chief Harley Chappel and Councillors Joanne and Roxanne Charles, a clean Metro Vancouver water connection that ends their boil water advisory in place since 2005. Once again, some gifts are a long, long time coming. Better relations with White Rock would also be good but might have to stay on the wish list.

Andrew Sheer, Conservative Party Leader- For the Conservative's front man who visited this riding twice during the by-election, the last time visiting a potato chip plant near Cloverdale, some dip.

Tim Shields, Former RCMP Spokesperson - This former inspector got his Christmas gift early on Dec. 20 when he was found not guilty of sexual misconduct charges involving a civilian employee in the workplace. For this well known but maligned cop, a shiny new shield to pin to his chest when he rejoins the law enforcement community.

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada - A vacation to White Rock for J.T. and his family so he can do fun things like touring the new water filtration plant. He might want to actually pay their own travel bill after getting his knuckles rapped by the Ethics Commissioner for visiting the billionaire Aga Kahn's private Island in the Bahamas.

Dianne Watts, former MP for SS/WR - A tropical fish aquarium for the lady who bailed on this riding after realizing she was a small fish in a big pond back in Ottawa. Sorry but Santa can't promise that her leadership bid for the BC Liberal Party will be successful.

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December December 18, 2017

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures

(screen shot of actual attack ad by Conservatives)

It was just over two years ago on October 5, 2015 during the last Canadian federal election campaign that I wrote a TNT column titled "Politics Make Strange Bedfellows". It was published with a picture apparently showing Jihadi John in bed with a cowering Dianne Watts. You can scroll down into the archives to read about how a Conservative party/Dianne Watts election flyer was delivered throughout the South Surrey - White Rock riding threatening "ISIS URGES JIHADISTS TO ATTACK CANADIANS. YOU WILL NOT FEEL SECURE IN YOUR BEDROOMS. WE WILL FIGHT JIHADIST TERRORISTS AT HOME AND ABROAD." I took umbrage with this blatant fear-mongering that was thinly disguised as election propaganda believing it was an attempt to Americanize our politics here in Canada.

With Dianne Watts stepping down as our MP not even halfway through her elected term we were forced into the recent federal by-election that ended with Gordon Hogg and the Liberals taking the seat that had eluded them for decades. It is interesting to note that the last time a Liberal was elected here, we were part of the New Westminster riding and Gordie was only 2 years old. During the very short campaign period leading up to Dec. 11th the mud-slinging was kept to a minimum and I believed that the parties were going to run positive campaigns focusing on the quality of their candidates and the strength of their policies. That was the case until the very final days when a blatant attack ad began to show up on social media that targeted residents of this riding starting on Friday, Dec. 8th and continuing through that weekend, stopping on Monday which was the election day. Unfortunately they are now gone and I cannot find a link to this video but I did manage to grab a few screen shots before they disappeared.

In case you missed it, the Facebook ad featured a slightly off-coloured backdrop of the Liberal government MP's in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill with music sounding like a funeral dirge and the following six frames of bold text:
The Ottawa Liberals voted UNANIMOUSLY against prosecuting ISIS fighters returning to Canada.
They voted UNANIMOUSLY against making the protection and security of Canadians their priority, rather than the reintegration of ISIS fighters.
They voted UNANIMOUSLY against condemning the horrific acts committed by ISIS.
As your MP, Gordie Hogg would be forced to vote the SAME WAY.
In Ottawa, HE'LL HAVE TO FOLLOW ORDERS.
South Surrey-White Rock DESERVES BETTER.
The video ended with the Conservative Logo and "Authorized by the official agent of the Conservative Party of Canada".

Personally I see these types of negative attack ads as being un-Canadian. I have friends across the political spectrum and find parts of each party's platforms intriguing and worthy of discussion and consideration. I also believe that these attack ads do nothing to promote democratic values or to encourage citizens to become involved in the political process or to bother to vote. While I realize that by-elections do not usually attract the same number of voters as a General election, only 30,383 people out of a total of 79,359 eligible voters here cast their ballot, or a dismal 38.3%. In the end the Liberal Hogg beat our the Conservative Kerry Lynne Findlay by 1,545 votes or 5.1% in what really was a two horse race. You can view the entire results on the Elections Canada website at the following link: http://enr.elections.ca/ElectoralDistricts.aspx?ed=1703&lang=e

This is the second time in only two years that negative attack ads have been used by the Conservatives to help scare up some votes. I was hoping that with Stephan Harper gone and Andrew Sheer at the helm, the Cons would stop stooping to such low brow tactics and instead focus on the positive attributes of their party and its platform. In the end the Liberals got their candidate elected because of his name recognition and deep community roots, the Conservatives decision to use a parachuted candidate, plus the riding being under-represented by years of lame-duck Conservative MPs. Having the Liberal party leader Prime Minister Justin Trudeau twice roll into town during the campaign with his rock-star persona certainly did not hurt their campaign. Depending on how the federal Liberals and our new MP Gordie Hogg conduct their affairs during the next 22 months, we will find out on October 21, 2019 which is the next fixed election date if this formerly Conservative riding continues its new love affair with the Liberals.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 11, 2017


TODAY, Monday, Dec. 11th is the FEDERAL BY-ELECTION for South Surrey - White Rock.
This is your opportunity to select our Member of Parliament to represent us in Ottawa.
GET OUT AND VOTE for the best candidate - Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. PST

 

Injustice System

 

I felt like a big weight came off my shoulders on Friday afternoon when the Crown Council from New Westminster phoned to let me know that my appointment with them on Monday had been cancelled and the court case I was to be involved with on Dec. 17 had been settled. This case revolved around a drunk driver who narrowly missed me speeding through a traffic circle, crashed his car and then sped off through Delta, New West and finally Burnaby before New West Police converged on us and arrested the driver of the Volkswagon TDI that was obviously impaired. As to what kind of sentence he receives for driving drunk and endangering my life, this remains to be seen but I dont expect much of a sentence or deterrent.

Elsewhere in BC, the impact of a Judicial system in turmoil became clear over the past few weeks with verdict after verdict punishing families and survivors while those charged with a variety or violent offenses got a slap on the wrist or charges dropped. By far the worst case had to be notorious gangster Jamie Bacon having his first degree murder and conspiracy charges dropped in the Surrey Six Massacre case on Dec. 2nd. It really was not a surprise 10 years after the murders and 8 years after charges were filed that this case was dropped like a proverbial hot potato. When you have RCMP having sex with a gangster's girlfriend, evidence being suppressed and years going by, eventually charges are going to be dropped, in this case with the real reasons hidden from the public by Justice Kathleen Ker. Nauseating, disgusting, abhorrent but not unexpected and still a shock to the Mohan and Shellenberg families whose loved-ones were unintended targets of the gang violence. You can read all about it on the following Vancouver Sun link which I would ask you to do. http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/murder-conspiracy-charges-against-jamie-bacon-in-surrey-six-case Of interest is the second comment from Jordan Guy who claims the following explanation is from a credible source:

What happened was the police used an investigative tactic known as PARALLEL CONSTRUCTION. Basically the cops got a tip that the Bacon's might be involved. Police then illegally wiretapped everyone that the Bacon's spoke to in the last 2 years. Every single number they dialed in the last 2 years was tapped. Friends, Family, Lawyers, GF's. EVERYONE!

They used section 184 of the criminal code, which is to be used for cases involving imminent bodily harm, without the need of a judges approval. That's why they were able to wiretap everyone they spoke to in the past 2 years. This is also known as an emergency wiretap and is only allowed to be used to prevent imminent threat of bodily harm. Such as when someone has been kidnapped and there isn't enough time to get a proper warrant for a wiretap and the police need to get the phone's location information to track down the phone to prevent harm. It can not be used to investigate a murder, after the fact, because there is no active imminent threat of bodily harm.

The law is clear under this section that all recordings must be destroyed if no imminent danger is identified. It can be used in terrorist cases as well. It also states that the recordings, transcripts and all police notes must be destroyed if there is no cause to show that imminent bodily harm is present. There is also no reporting requirement under the emergency wiretap laws to report the use of this type of wiretap to the public. Basically no one will ever know it even happened.

The police used this provision, then used the information they obtained illegally to rebuild the investigative trail so that they could present it to the court to obtain a conviction. They basically hid the fact of how their investigation started and evolved then lied to the court using confidential informants as the source of the information. The problem was that there was some information that the confidential informants could not have possibly known. That's when the whole case fell apart.

The reason they want to keep it all a secret is to prevent the public from finding out that the police acted illegally, wiretapped without warrants, used Stingray devices near the suspects homes and recorded all calls/sms from all cellphones within a 5km radius of their homes. They needed the Stingrays because the Bacon's had many prepaid cellphones (burners) not registered to their name.

Use of Stingrays on the general public along with wiretapping random numbers without warrants is the main reasons for the Stay of Proceedings. Police violated not only the suspects Charter of Rights to Privacy but the whole general public that lived near the Bacons or had ever been called by one of them. Lawyers, Doctors, car dealerships, everyone they ever dialed all had their phones tapped.

Expect the other 2 convicted to be winning their appeals real soon...

The way to avoid police wiretaps and Stingray devices is to install and ONLY use the Signal app by Open Whisper Systems. It lets you send text messages fully encrypted and make VOIP calls fully encrypted. Bacons and other crews have switched, so should everyone else!

I would also like to point out that Jamie Bacon's long-time girlfriend Madison Zoe Finn reportedly died of an accidental drug overdose in a Richmond hotel room a day before the court proceedings that quashed charges against Mr Bacon. You can read the rather sensational details at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/jamie-bacon-girlfriend-death-madison-zoe-fine-1.4440074 It should be noted that she was a convicted drug trafficker who had been charged in 2012/2013 and sentenced to a year in jail. In 2014 she was arrested and charged with trafficking heroin and was still involved in ongoing charges relating to resisting arrest and impaired driving.

Only days before that on Nov. 30, Kelly Ellard who killed 14 year old Reena Virk in a savage swarming incident two decades ago where she was beaten and drowned by a bridge in Victoria, was granted conditional approval for day parole. You can read the details about this case at https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/11/30/kelly-ellard-who-killed-bc-teen-reena-virk-in-1997-to-ask-for-day-parole.html Having a baby conceived during conjugal visits with her boyfriend who is also is prison likely helped in her receive six months of day parole with a requirement to complete a residential treatment program for substance abuse during that time. Yet another killer allowed to walk free among us while the victim's family still mourns the death of their teenage daughter at the hands of a bunch of monster.

In Smithers Supreme Court on Nov 27th, Burns lake resident Albert Giesbrecht was who was charged with 1st degree murder of Raymond George Bishop in May, was granted bail with his release likely today on Dec. 11th. Besides adhering to 22 conditions, he had two people put up $75,000 for his release. Details on yet another sordid travesty of justice that can be found at https://www.columbiavalleypioneer.com/news/b-c-man-charged-with-first-degree-murder-to-be-released-on-bail/ You have to ask yourself if the community would have been better served by keeping this man in jail until his first degree murder trial began. Once again, the words shock and outraged are used by the public to describe yet another questionable judicial decision in our province.

It really goes on and on ad naseam. In Vancouver last week the long-suffering family of Luka Gordic heard that their sons killer Arvin Golic was sentenced to only seven years in jail for stabbing their son during a swarming in Whistler in 2015. His Mom fingered the accused before being ushered from the courthouse by bailiffs. Around the same time, the family of Amandeep Bath of Surrey who was fatally shot in 2004, were outraged that the man convicted of killing him was applying for supervised leave from prison just six months into his six-year prison sentence. Two days later the family of Bradley Dean, a cyclist who was killed in a crash involving a car in Richmond in 2016 were upset to learn the accused was only being charged with a motor vehicle offense, not criminal charges for driving involving his death.

All of these decisions are only more ammunition to the group behind the Facebook page BC Judges....stop The Revolving Door at https://www.facebook.com/groups/711380482361202/ You may have seen one of the thousands of vehicles proudly sporting their stickers with slogans such as BC Judges, Our Strongest and Weakest Link, Your Silence Lets It Happen, along with If Youre Not Outraged, Youre Not Paying Attention. This ad-hoc group that has a semi-trailer westbound on Hwy 1 just before the 264 St. exit adorned with their slogans is bringing attention to light sentencing and attempts to have judges elected in this province. If light sentences, early parole or dropped charges are eroding your faith in our legal system then join them to add your voice to those who believe there is no justice here in BC.

Naturally yours
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 04, 2017

Advance Warning

 

Today marks the last day to take advantage of advance voting should you not be in town on Monday Dec. 11th or want to avoid long lines at your local polling station on the day of the General Election. If this sounds like an appealing idea, you may want to consider how far of a drive or transit trip it might be to make your mark in advance.

The South Surrey - White Rock federal election riding basically encompasses all of the area south of #10 Hwy, west of 192 St. and north of the 49th parallel. There are approximately 20,000 folks living in the City By The Sea and close to 70,000 living in south Surrey. With the shear size of the riding you would expect the advance polling stations to be spread far and wide to make it easier for people to vote early should they decide to do so. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Elections Canada does not even list the four advance polling locations on their website, you have to find yours by inputting a postal code. I'll save you the fun of searching out various postal codes from this riding an tell you that the locations are as follows:
White Rock Community Centre, 15154 Russel Ave., White Rock
Elks Hall, 1469 George St., White Rock
Star of the Sea Centre, 15262 Pacific Ave., White Rock
Seaview Assembly, 14633 16 Ave., South Surrey
Now I realize that many folks living in White Rock don't get around as easily as they used to but a 0.9 km walk or a three minute drive from the Star of the Sea to the Elks Hall doesn't really make much sense. Even worse, from the Elks Hall to the WR Community Centre is only 0.3 km, or 0.16 km as the crow flies, which even for a crow is a very short flight. Its not even far enough to even work up a thirst, which is a shame with the White Rock Beach Beer across the street from the poll. The only location in Surrey is on the Surrey border across from White Rock's Centennial Park. Once again, not exactly long distance at a mere 1.4 km or a leisurely 4 minute drive from the closest advance polling station in White Rock.

On election day, our local Legion that is stumbling distance away (trust me on this distance calculation) will be where we go to vote but the Seaview Assembly is our advance polling location at 6.2 km or a 9 minute drive. The only advance poll for this huge swath of south Surrey is not centrally located but instead on the very southern edge of town. It is amazing that Elections Canada did not secure a location west of Hwy 99 in the rapidly growing Grandview Heights area where rows of townhouses are being built as fast as Surrey First can rubber stamp these projects. I would imagine that Southridge School if it was available would have made a great location for people now living in this area. Hopefully for the General Election in a couple of year's time, this central location in suburbia can be booked in advance.

If you happen to reside in the Panorama Ridge region, you are basically out of luck when it comes to advance polls. It is approximately 16 km and an 18 minute drive by car, likely an hour each way if you wanted to hop on a bus. Even worse is the area of south Cloverdale that is part of our riding which is also 16 km away but a 24 minute drive. You would have to have an awfully good reason to spend this much time driving in order to attempt to visit an advance poll from either of these regions. At least the country folks in the eastern end of south Surrey have it easy as the Elections Canada office happens to be located at 19028 27 Ave. and they are open from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m., 7 days a week. I will warn you that the advance polls at the office location have a deadline of 6 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, Dec. 5 but that does give you an extra day to vote early.

The returning officer for Elections Canada, Mrs. Mary Wright had this say about the advance polls are being located in and around a small portion of White Rock: "We are certainly aware of how many of our electors live in the northern part of the riding. We tried to find a site in this area that was available for all four days of advanced voting. Unfortunately, none of them was available for all the days. Many of the sites we considered were already booked for Christmas activities on the weekend." Hopefully in the future they will be able to book areas that are more accessible to the bulk of the constituents and not crowd them into a small geographical area. Having all of the advance polls located in White Rock is a disservice to the constituents of this riding and does not help with encouraging everyone to vote. This is critically important in a by-election where voter compliance rates tend to be lower than a Canada wide election.

I should note that if you are travelling outside of the riding or don't want to visit a polling station, you can vote by mail as long as you apply before the Tuesday, Dec. 5th deadline by either calling direct or applying online. For those who cannot get to a polling station due to illness or disability, you can request to vote by special ballot which allows voting at home in the presence of an election officer and a witness. For more information about these alternative voting methods, consult the Elections Canada website at the following link:
http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=ele&dir=2017/59030/vote&document=index&lang=e#advance

Make sure you exercise your democratic right and vote for the candidate of your choice that you believe would best represent us in Ottawa. Keep in mind that regardless of the outcome of the by-election on Dec. 11th, we will be doing this all again in less than two years time no later than Oct. 21, 2019 when the next Federal election is scheduled.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

Movember 27, 2017

 

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


Lyrics to "Signs", Five Man Electrical Band, 1970
.

Well It is starting to suddenly look like a Federal by-election in the riding of South Surrey - White Rock with election signs sprouting like mushrooms in the fall rains. While they have been fairly similar over the years, if you look closely you can now see big differences on how the various political parties try to get their message across and candidate's names out into the public domain.

The Conservatives were the first out of the gate for Kerry-Anne Findlay, putting up their monsterous 4'x8' coreplast signs on heavily staked 2"x 4" frames that have now become a regular sight in elections in Surrey. There are no controls over the size of election signs or how many can be put onto public land so "bigger is better" and "the more the merrier" appear to have become campaign slogans. The issue I have with these signs is that they are basically a large sail ready to take flight and with wind storms common this time of year, they can easily get blown out of the saturated ground leaving the frames twisted and broken with screws and nails sticking out like quills on a porcupine. To make matters worse, one big sign is now no longer enough with several now being erected together, forming a sign 4'x16' or even 4'x24' billboard. There is three-sided Conservative party sign at the corner of 148 St. and 20 Ave. in south Surrey that if a roof was installed might make for a good homeless shelter. Kudos must be given to the Conservatives who have obviously stored many of their sign frames from the last election as if you look under multiple layers of coreplast still attached to the frames you will find older election signs for Dianne Watts and Russ Hiebert.

The NDP with their candidate Jonathan Silveira are trying to keep up with the Joneses, posting some of the bulky 4x8s themselves, using plenty of lumber to try and keep them from getting destroyed by wind or from idiot vandals. Their 4'x4" signs are similarly framed as they were in the past but now instead of using 2x4s everywhere, much lighter materials including boards cut into two, plus 1x2s and small stakes to hold it down. My guess is that somebody found out how hard it is to pound a 2x4 stake into the ground, especially on roadside boulevards that frequently are beds of crushed stone. Limiting the size of the wood being used also helps to reduce costs and make for easier storage, rather than buying new wood for each election and scrapping it once the vote has been taken. Considering the NDP's fairly low voter results in this riding going back many years I must say that I am surprised by the number of election signs they have posted, with most in excellent high visibility locations. The belief is that with Dianne Watts abandoning this riding that it is up for grabs and it might be a close affair on election day. While many believe that it will be a two-horse race, the NDP are definitely hoping for a 3-way split, apparently energized by the BC NDP taking power from the BC Liberals with help from the upstart Greens.

The Liberals in this riding have taken a very different strategy with their election signs from those used in previous years. Gone are the huge plastic signs and massive 2x4 wood frames of yesteryear. Their new look signs measuring only 48" wide by 32" tall feature a full-colour digital print of their candidate Gordie Hogg standing next to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This is the first time that I can remember a political party having the picture of their candidate plus their leader on the same election sign. Obviously the Liberals believe they can take great strides by piggy-backing onto the public fascination with the young photogenic Trudeau. Judging by the big crowd that turned out at 5 Corners when the P.M. was in town, I'd say they might be onto something with this new look that uses much less plastic sheeting making it less susceptible to wind blow down. The frames have also undergone a radical transformation, with only two 2x3s being used to create the upside down L frame similar to the one that has been utilized for decades by real estate agents almost everywhere. If the Liberals are successful in getting Mr. Hogg elected, don't be surprised if their signage is copied by other parties in the next election scheduled for two years from now.

To date there are no election signs posted for the four other candidates running in this riding; Larry Colero of the Green Party of Canada, Michael Huenefeld of the Progressive Canadian Party, Rod Taylor of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada and Donald Wilson of the Libertarian Party of Canada. With only 4 days until the Advance Polls and a mere two weeks till the General Election Day, I would be surprised to see much more election signage hit the streets here. I know that Larry Colero is not a fan of election signs believing there are much less wasteful ways of getting his message across. Having worked on various election campaigns in the past, I must admit that not putting out election signs would save a lot of money, time and energy while eliminating a lot of waste. Driving through Surrey the other night, I found myself wondering why nobody had ever purchased bus shelter ads as they are protected, lit up at night and easy to read. Could this concept be the future of political signage in these parts? Its hard to say but I believe that all political parties need to evaluate the way they do election signage and get rid of giant billboards and boulevard sign carpet bombing that is such an eyesore.

On a final note about election signs, Section 325 of the Canada Elections Act states "No person shall prevent or impair the transmission to the public of an election advertising message without the consent of a person with authority to authorize its transmission". This does not apply to "the prevention or impairment, by a public authority, of an unlawful transmission if reasonable notice has first been given to the person who authorized the transmission; or the removal by an employee of a public authority of a sign, poster or banner where the posting of it is a hazard to public safety". For those people who think it helps their political party's chances or kids out at night pulling a prank, everyone needs to know it is a federal offense to tamper with election signs. Generally anyone who damages a sign could potentially look at a criminal charge of mischief, which is damaging property that is not your own. As much as I'm not a fan of election signage, I consider it an attack on democracy to vandalize or steal political signs. If you want one so badly, simply call the party office of your choice and they will gladly install one on your front lawn for free.

Naturally yours,
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 copy