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December 8, 2016, 3:56 am Advertisments

The Naked Truth

 

 

Don Pitcairn

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

 

 

December 05, 2016

 

South Surreyite's Survival Story

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

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

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

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

Carolynne Drane

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

Novezmber 28, 2016

 

Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Pitcairn Palace aka Studio 54

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

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

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

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

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

Luxe/Lite@14538-32nd Avenue

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Nov. 20, 2016

Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop To Drink

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

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

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

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

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



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


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


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

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


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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

November 14, 2016

The Naked Trump

The Donald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Naturally yours,
The Donald

 

 

 

November 07, 2016

Time For A Change, In Clocks And Planes


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yourzzzz,
Don Pitcairn

DISCLAIMER;

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

 

 

October 31, 2016

Halloween Horrors, White Rock Style

 

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

Playground jingle from the playground jungle.

 

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

 

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

October 30, 2016

Dear Mayor, Council and White Rock City Staff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to an early reply.

 

Sincerely,

***********

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

Nocturnally yours
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 23, 2016


BC Hydro Bullying


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 17, 2016

Taking a Stand on Trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 11, 2016


The Name Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

October 03, 3016

42 Tonnes of Crap

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

September 26, 2016
Musical Chairs With Seats Up For Grabs

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Sept 19, 2016

Mickey Mouse in Disneyland

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

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

 

 

September 12, 2016

A Peace Of My Mind

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

Well, its official.

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 


The Naked Truth - Sept. 5, 2016

No Relief For RELEAF

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

August 29, 201e


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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

August 22, 2016


Hip Yet Tragic

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

August 14, 2016

 

Catching Up With a Creep Catcher

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 09, 2016

Snake in the Garden

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 03, 2016

Chump to Champ

 

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

Lyrics from Bad Company's song Shooting Star.

 

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

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

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

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

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

See you at the range!

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 25, 2016

"Don't Fence Me In"


The Naked Truth - July 25, 2016

9:30 is the new 10 o'clock

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

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

 

July 18, 2016

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

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


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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 11, 2016


The Gauntlet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

July 4, 2016

Bar Atlantis - Surrey's Hidden Jewel

 

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

Olympic Trail stairs

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

 

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 27, 2016

$30 Million Discrepancy

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 20, 2016


Game of Drones

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

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

 

 

June 14, 2016


There Goes The Neighbourhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

The Naked Truth - June 7, 2016

Unreal Estate

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

May31, 2016


Hear We Go Again

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

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

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

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

Dear Dianne Watts,

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn, Columnist, White Rock Sun

 

P.S.

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

May 24, 2016

Pride in Surrey, No Pride in Surrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

www.surreyshirts.com

 

 

May 16, 2016

5 Corners Alarm Fire

 

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

May 09, 2016

Bin There, Done That

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 02, 2016

Sex in the Semi-Pen

Sex in the Semi-Pen

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

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

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

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

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

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


Don Pitcairn

 

April 25, 2016


The Poisoned Semi-Pen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

April 18, 2016

Stop At The Bar When Driving

 

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

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

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

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

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

White Rock - corner of Roper & Foster

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

April 11, 2016

Watts The Holdup?

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

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

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

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

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

Former office of Russ Hiebert

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

April 04, 2016

Fit to be Tied

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 29, 2016

Driven to Distraction

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Don PItcairn

 

March 21, 2016


Surrey In The Cross-Hairs

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 14, 2016

 

Storm Tracking

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

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

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

 

 

March 07, 2016

Crash Crescent

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 29, 2016


Three Course Meal - Bon Appetit

The Appetizer

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

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

Meat and Potatoes

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

January 5, 2016

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

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

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

 

The Dessert

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 22, 2016

Justice Delayed, Justice Denied, Justice For Hudson

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 15, 2016


Love on the Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

B.C.'s cop watchdog gets more teeth

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

(click here to read THE PROVINCE story)

 

 

February 09, 2016


Family Day, Flag Day, Holidaze

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

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

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

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


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

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

Naturally yours,


Don Pitcairn

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

 

 

February 01, 2016


An Ear For News

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 26, 2016

Climate Change, Global Warming, Weather Disaster

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

January 18, 2016


Bus Drivers Forced Into Danger

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

JANUARY 11, 2016

Rich Man, Poor Man

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 04, 2016

 

Shaken, Not Stirred

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 28, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

Dec. 21, 2015

Christmas Gift List 2015

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

Editors Note:

Present for Don? Careful what you ask for!

 

 

December 14, 2015


$lope $tability $tupidity

photos courtesy John B Vye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 07, 2015


Tall Trees Make For Great Neighbours

Advice From a Tree

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

November 30, 2015

White Rock, City By The C.C.


Sign of the times along the White Rock promenade

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

(Lyrics for Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi")

 

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

Log pile plus clear-cut devastation on the Hump

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

The Eagle Tree trunk, measuring 40 inches across

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

Three foot wide Big Leaf Maple stump on Hump

 

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

Four foot wide Red Alder tree stump on Hump

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 23, 20156

Gagging on Tainted Water

 

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

When the boneheads on Buena Vista realized that the cat was out of the bag and the agreement being passed around the Rock faster than a doobie at a Grateful Dead concert, the same redacted (blacked out) copy of the agreement they refused to release under FOI was then quickly posted on the city website. You can peruse it in your leisure or even in your underwear at the following link:
http://www.whiterockcity.ca/assets/City~Services/Documents/Water/2015-10-22%20Asset%20Purchase%20Agreement%20-%20Redacted.pdf


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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

November 16, 2015


Terror in Our Backyard

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

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

It is also likely that Bill C-51 which gave secret police powers to Canadian spy agencies to run roughshod over civil rights might not get quite the dumbing down that was promised by the Trudeau Liberals. While this piece of dictatorial legislation was proposed and passed by the Harper Conservatives before they were deposed, it was supported with reservations by the Liberal MP's in the House of Commons who voted for it. Here are the reported changes that Trudeau's cabinet were considering before the Paris massacre:
Reversing C-51's provisions that allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and other spy agencies to break Canadian law and Charter rights
Establish an all-party parliamentary committee to review the activities of CSIS, Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) and other spy agencies
Requiring the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada's version of America's NSA, to obtain warrants before engaging in the surveillance of Canadians.
Narrowing the definition of "terrorist propaganda" to help mitigate C-51's threat to free expression and artistic interpretation
A full review of C-51 after three years including consultations with average Canadians
If there is a softening of the desire to enact these alterations, expect the numbers to continue to increase on the "Kill Bill C-51" online petition (https://killc51.ca/) that now sits at over 303,000 and counting.

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 09, 2015

Surrey Rice Makes Sake Nice

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about Masa Shiroi and Artisan Sakemaker, visit and like their "Artisan SakeMaker & CMC Sake + Wine Merchants" Facebook page. You can find their website at artisansakemaker.dreamhosters.com. The Alcohol Professor blog has a great in-depth article about Mr. Shiroi available at the link http://www.alcoholprofessor.com/blog/2014/05/13/masa-shiroki-knows-sake/. With an ever increasing Asian population here in the Semi-pen, a plethora of great Japanese restaurants and many people looking for different culinary experiences, it would be wonderful if Sake from Artisan SakeMaker was available here. Besides the store at Granville Island and Nature's Pickin's in Abbotsford they do sell their products at farmers markets in Vancouver. I've put them in touch with the White Rock Farmers Market who are now operating indoors at the Elks Hall on George St. until mid December. Hopefully Artisan Sakemaker will attend as I now have a bottle of their Fraser Valley Junmai Sake brewed with nice Surrey rice on my Christmas list.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

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

 

 

 

 

November 02, 2015

Sitting Ducks

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

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

There are countless others from across Metro Vancouver including the Feb. 2015 crash on Canada way near Beta Ave. in Burnaby where 22 year-old college student Shiloh Johnson was killed in a bus shelter crash after being hit by a car that had previously collided with another vehicle. You can even see a video of a Vancouver accident involving a BMW M5 into a bus shelter taken from a rear-mounted dash cam that is online on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhIf1K6YwlE which has already been viewed over 130,000 times. The gentleman turns left, steps on the gas pedal too hard on wet streets and swerves out of control directly into the shelter that fortunately was unoccupied. The biggest issue with the main bus shelters is that they are usually placed just past an intersection and not before it, greatly increasing the odds of a vehicle ending up driving into the bus stop. The shelters or benches are positioned in this dangerous locations so that buses traveling in three different directions can turn and stop there. Unfortunately cars turning and accelerating can lose control swerving into these spots or vehicles involved in crashes at the intersection often smash into them. Simple physics and traffic flow ensure that there are many more crashes into these sides of the roads than the straightaway before an intersection.

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

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

Singapore shelter

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

Oct. 26, 2015

Politicians Lie - Numbers Don't

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

October 19, 2015

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

The Hub-bub at Riverside Golf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 12, 2015

In-Camera In Question

 

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

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

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

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

Imagine my surprise when reading the front page news story in last week's Oct. 7th Peace Arch News titled "Absolutely no reason to resign: White Rock mayor" when I realized that Mayor Wayne Baldwin had likely released information from a recently held in-camera meeting. The link is listed here ("http://www.peacearchnews.com/news/330952271.html) and the topic was about legal advice he had received which indicated a letter to the editor in the PAN he'd sent earlier had been legally correct. The passage in question reads, "I tried to actually get it out last night and have it go public but council didn't vote for that. At this stage of the game, you could FOI it, but since it's privileged information, if it would come out. It might." A member of the public who attended last week's raucous council meeting that included a visit by members of the RCMP assured me that this topic was not on the agenda for the regular council meeting, indicating that it was covered during the in-camera meeting held earlier that evening.

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 05, 2015


Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows


"Surryian" Terrorists

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 28, 2015


Oh Yes, There Will Be Blood

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

 

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 21, 2015

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 


September 14, 2015

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

PITCAIRN & PIXIE

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 08, 2015


Hump Hose

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

August 31, 2015

Summer's Over Weather You Like it or Not

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 24, 2015

How to Wreck a Beach

 

There are two basic truths to modern media, "If it bleeds it leads" and "If its nude, its news." In the dog days of summer, with a lack of bloody violence here except for yet another drive-by-shooting in Surrey (really?), it was not surprising to see the scribes at the Province newspaper focus their attention on Wreck beach. In case you missed the two page expose, it was on pages A2-3 in the August 20th edition titled 'We're an endangered species': Fewer nudists, more voyeurs as times change at Wreck Beach. Here is the link if you wish to read this titillating story masquerading as front page news that includes a few quotes from yours truly: http://www.theprovince.com/news/endangered+species+Fewer+nudists+more+voyeurs+times+change+Wreck+Beach/11302474/story.html

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

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

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

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


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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 17, 2015


Palma in Perry

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 10, 2015

Friends of Old Canada

l-r Marty Vanderzalm / Ves Vukovic

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 03, 3015

Three Years, Two Deaths, One Remedy

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

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

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

Added Scott Hamilton, Delta North MLA: "Highway 10 serves as a vital connector for residents, commuters and commercial drivers, and provides a link to key destinations like the Vancouver International Airport, U.S. border and BC Ferries. This project shows we're committed to improving the safety of this route."
- See more at: http://www.thenownewspaper.com/concrete-barriers-for-deadly-stretch-of-highway-10-in-delta-1.2011875#sthash.U7ENv5XO.dpufSafety Improvements Coming to Number 10 Highway in Delta
Work is set to begin to improve safety on Highway 10 with the installation of new concrete median barriers, as part of B.C. on the Move, the Province's 10-year transportation plan.
The Highway 10 upgrade includes widening to install 600 metres of median barrier between Scott Road and Highway 91 in Delta, which will significantly improve safety by preventing head-on collisions and other crossover incidents.
Imperial Paving Limited of Surrey is undertaking work on this $2.15-million project. Construction will begin at the end of July and is targeted for completion in fall 2015. During construction, drivers are advised to expect delays and are encouraged to check www.DriveBC.ca for travel advisories.
This project is a priority under B.C. on the Move to improve highway safety. Additional projects to improve the safety and reliability of B.C.'s provincial highway network will be announced as they are finalized.
Quotes:
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone:
"Safety is the top priority for my ministry, and I know that installing concrete median barriers along this stretch of Highway 10 is a priority for the community, so I'm very pleased to see work begin on this important project."
MLA Delta North Scott Hamilton:
"Highway 10 serves as a vital connector for residents, commuters and commercial drivers, and provides a link to key destinations like the Vancouver International Airport, U.S. border and BC Ferries. This project shows we're committed to improving the safety of this route."

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

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

 

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

July 20, 2015


"Grassholes"

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

 

July 13, 2015

Asian Invasion

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 06, 2015

Smoking Hot

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 29, 2015

Turtle Head

Bob Bose's fave t-shirt

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 22, 2015


The Ghost of the Spirit Square Rises

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

 

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

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

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

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

Bayvieww Park West Beach

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 15, 2015


Reefer Madness Alive and Well

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

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June 08, 2015

From Surf to Turf

World Oceans Day

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

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

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

Crafted With Flavor

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

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

Senate Scandal Snares a Saint

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

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

The Green Green Grass of Home

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 01, 2015


urBAN FOREST MANagement plan

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 27, 2015


Third Time's The Snake Charm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 19, 2015

"Censureship"

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 11, 2015


The Naked Hump

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

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

The Hump on Tuesday

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

The Hump Friday

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 04, 2015

Sausagefest

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

White Rock Sun Editor and White Rock Councilor Dave Chesney found out last week what Chip Wilson from Lululemon learned the hard way; it is almost criminal behaviour these days for a man to make commentary or express his opinions on a woman's body or her fashion choices. The media will hunt you down like a wounded animal and drag you through the mud for any comments they deem as derogatory to women, whether this was intended or not. In 2013, Chip's off-hand comment "Frankly some women's bodies just actually don't work for [wearing Lululemon pants]… it's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it," ended up costing him $1.7 billion (yes, B as in Billions) in stock losses followed by his stepping down as a company director. It didn't matter that given the context of the conversation and the garments in question that he was actually correct. In case you missed it, Dave Chesney was interviewed for the podcast "The Goddard Report" a month ago and link to the online recording was posted on the electronic pages of the White Rock Sun three weeks back with its now infamous "sausage casing" comment. Rather than cherry pick the lines that raised such a chorus of righteous indignation, here is a link to the interview which should be listened to in its entirety for context (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/05/01/krisit-gordon-pregnant-david-chesney_n_7190904.html). It was only last week after being accused of making defamatory comments towards another city councilor which resulted in his censure that this story broke hard and heavy on almost every news service in the Lower Mainland. Coincidence I ask?

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

April 27, 2015

Pot Shots or Pot Shops?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

Apil 20, 2015

Fun With Guns from Fri. to Sun.

The Pitcairns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 13, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 06, 2015

They're Here...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

March 30, 2015

Movers & Shakers

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


Movers

(clck here to view the interior)

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

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

It was interesting to read the Vancouver Sun this weekend and a story by Shelly Fralic titled, "The greenest house? A recycled one" (http://www.vancouversun.com/Shelley+Fralic+greenest+house+recycled/10926550/story.html). Similar to the lady in my neighborhood, a couple in south Delta are looking to sell their 1,400 square foot A-frame house located in Beach Grove near the water. The asking price is one dollar but the new owner will have to pay for the structure to be jacked and removed from the property. It is described as, "Funky and airy and well-built, with post-and-beam ceilings, wood walls and floors and modern updated fixtures. With two bedrooms up, including a balcony, and a roomy bath, living and dini

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

 

Shakers

 

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 22, 2015

Only in White Rock

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

March 16, 2015

South Surrey Burglar Spree

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 09, 2015

 

The Zoo For You

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 02, 2015

Democracy for $ale

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 23, 2015

 

 

 

 

Question.

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

 

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

The beautiful thing about question period in White Rock before it was gutted was that it gave people a public forum to express their thoughts and ask questions to their elected representatives during regularly scheduled Council meetings. Phone calls to the mayor of council, written letters, emails, or even talking to them on the street do not have the public component, which made question period a vital part of the democratic process in the City By The Sea. Now only months into the new four year civic term, question period is shelved in the Rock effectively eliminating one of the main ways that people could make grievances, ideas or questions about their local governance known to all. I'm lucky in that once a week I get the opportunity to voice my concerns in the White Rock Sun, something that I'm sure will cause White Rock Sun Editor and White Rock Councillor Dave Chesney migraine headaches in the not too distant future. For everyone else it looks like letters to the editors in the local papers are the only other option, short of opening one's own blog. The problem is that there's no guarantee your letter will be printed or edited for space. It is also quite likely that the few remaining community newspapers will soon merge this year, reducing opportunity for the expressing of viewpoints, not to mention that advertising revenue from City Hall pads their bottom line. That being said, kudos to the Peach Arch News for their editorial, "Time for one last question?" (http://www.peacearchnews.com/opinion/292443371.html) on the question of question period.

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

To the Editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White Rock, B.C.

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 16, 2015

 

The Coldest Night of the Year

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 09, 2015

White Rock Rail Safety Task Farce

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

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

Marine Drive crack

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

February 02, 2015

12th Man North

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

January 27, 2015


Social Media and Street Justice

Stompdown Thieves

 

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

On Friday morning at 5:30 am at least two men dressed in baseball caps and hoodies approached the Ephin store on 103A St. just behind the Guildford ICBC. They broke in through the front door of the shop and quickly made off with a sizable amount of clothing from the front area of the store. This is not the first time that Ephin has been targeted for its edgy clothing line with a previous robbery targeting the rear door on May, 2013 being caught on security camera of a young couple prying at the door with a crow bar and making off with an armload of shirts. With the first robbery, instead of calling the Surrey RCMP, they put the footage on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyrAtrk0Dkw) and posted it on their Facebook pages. With the distinctive truck and its large Tidy Tank in the box, it did not take long for the word to get around Surrey and for the perps to be identified and located. It is my understanding that the people involved in this crime have wisely chosen to move away from the city as they basically have been black listed after realizing that between the Stompdown and Ephin Facebook pages they have over 62,000 "Likes" meaning that they are well connected into the community and its subculture. Ripping off Ephin gets the Stompdown community breathing down your neck which is sure to be a rather uncomfortable feeling.

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 20, 2014

Black and White and Red All Over

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 12, 2014

Only in Surrey You Say

 

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

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

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

The Global TV story about "Only in Surrey" also included commentary from local Surrey bus driver and singer Amrit Bains who has posted his song "Super Sweet City (Surrey) on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AKfRbXQqgY#t=42 He joins others like Deepak Heer with his legendary "Sh*t Surrey Jacks Say" (parts 1 & 2 no less), rapper 666DLA999 with his dark "Better Safe Than Surrey" video and the documentary "Crackass: A Surrey Movie" as just some of the postings about Surrey you will find on YouTube. At the end of the day, every city will have its high points and its low lifes, with everyone having their own personal experiences and perceptions of the city in which they live. You will never find perfection as it turns out there were even a couple of rotten apples in the Garden of Eden. The great thing about social media is that it allows freedom of expression, the exchange of ideas and a platform for public discourse. Whether you agree, disagree, take a cheap pot shot or simply stir the pot, Facebook pages like "Only in Surrey" allow people to show sides of the city others may know nothing about and get residents engaged in their community. The beautiful part is that if you dont like it you dont have to visit or join and can quietly go about your business as if everything is wonderful and there is not a problem in the world. It will be fascinating to watch how this Facebook page evolves and changes over time as its members increase, similar to what has happened in Surrey since it was incorporated back in 1869.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

January 05, 2015

Another Dropped Ball

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

photo Curtis Kreklau

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 29, 2014

Joe Cocker and the White Rocker

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

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

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

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

Its funny how Joe Cocker and the White Rocker (actually Tim is from Langley) came together for me last week but with the loss of one musical legend I now get to be entertained by another one living much closer to home. Mr. Lawson gave me a copy of the TLB's "At a Loss For Words" CD and in return I told him I will supply the store a century plant, which are featured on the cover art for the album. If you wish to look into The Tim Larson Band they are on Facebook, the shell store with plenty more is online at 5555marinedrive.com or simply drop by the hard to miss East beach shop. If you have a couple of grand left over after the consumer orgy that is the Christmas spending spree, you might want to pick up a very cool one-of-a-kind guitar. It is retail outlets like this that are needed to help attract folks into the Rock 12 months a year and it is people like Tim Larson that make living in the Semiahmoo peninsula such a rewarding experience. I leave you this week with a rather apt tongue twister taken from the back of a 55-55 brochure that will likely be as hard for you to recite, as it was for me to type, so late in the night.


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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 22, 2014

 

Christmas Wish List – 2014

 

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

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

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

Mark Donnelly - Skating lessons for the well known Canadian anthem singer after he took a hard tumble, tripping over a red carpet laying on the ice at a Penticton Vees junior A hockey game. The present he won't be getting are singing lessons as he didn't miss a single note even after making a snow angel at centre ice. See the hilarious YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRHoPL0WtdM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

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

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

D.Chesney

Publisher/White Rock Sun

 

 

December 15, 2014


A Bridge Too Far

Anderson Creek/South Surrey

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 08, 2014

Pitfalls on the Promenade

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

December 01, 2014


Anniversary of Terror

Robert Pitcairn

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Editors Note: Click here for a link to the story in the National Post.
http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/11/28/forty-years-ago-saskatoon-got-its-first-and-so-far-only-hijacked-airplane/

 

 

 

November 24, 2014


Things are Hopping at the Pad

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 17, 2014


Crushed by Slate

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 10, 2014

Coal Trains Kill

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

November 03, 2014

The Death of Halloween

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

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

(read it here)

 

 

 

October 27, 2014


Stop Signs

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 21, 2013

Poor Engineering & Bad Government Kills People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dear Don;

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

Sincerely, Blair Lekstrom, Minister.

 

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 14, 2014

Bring Back the Beaver

 



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

October 06, 2014

Tears For Pamela

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 30, 2014

Same Old Surrey 20 Years Later

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 22, 2014

 

Silly Season Starts Safely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safely yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

September 15, 2014

 

A Passion For Compassion

The Caines on the White Rock waterfront

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

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

(click here)

 

 

September 08, 2014

A Better Surrey Is Just A Click Away

 

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

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

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

Use your iPhone, Android or Blackberry smart phone to go online and download a free copy of the Surrey Request App and then keep an eye out for issues and problems as you navigate around the city. The app should only be used to report non emergency problems you locate that can also be sent from your home computer or laptop to the "Report a Problem" website at surrey.ca/city-services/667.aspx. For more pressing concerns such as downed stop signs or broken water mains, report these directly by calling 604-591-4152 and for broken traffic signals or streetlights call 604-521-4338. Outside of city hall hours, use Ecom 911 for emergencies and the Surrey RCMP non-emergency line at 604-599-0502. The city wants residents who previously downloaded the former "SeeClickFix" app to delete it from their phones as it no longer links to Surrey and therefore is useless.

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

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

September 02, 2014


BC (Beyond Corrupt) Hydro Bully

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

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

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


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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 25, 2014


Top Shots in Connaught

DON PITCAIRN (front & centre)

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn.

 

 

August 19, 2014

White Rock Love Locks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

August 12, 2014

Dave's Got My Vote



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

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

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

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

Living in south Surrey I will not be able to vote in the White Rock election, instead playing a part in the outcome of the post-Dianne Watts era. Time will tell whether the Surrey First slate's stranglehold on council will remain or if it will evaporate now that Queen Dianne has stepped down from her throne. While some folks will say that I am promoting Chesney for White Rock council because of my connection to the WR Sun, the reality is I would vote for Dave because of his personal qualities and the principles that he stands for. I like my politicians to be honest and accountable, doing what is in the best interest of the constituents rather than just the special interests that helped to fund their election campaign. If you donate money to Mr. Chesney, don't expect any special favors in return as you will likely be disappointed.

On Nov. 15, get out and make your mark, putting an X beside Dave Chesney on the ballot. If you support the WR Sun and the Semi-pen community, embrace change and help get Dave elected onto Council. White Rock is a small neighbourly community and a word of mouth campaign with people talking to their friends and neighbours is the best method for success to beat well-funded special interests. Dave has my vote, make sure to give him yours as well.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

August 05, 2014

Movie Star Mondays

If you look forward to Monday for the TNT in the White Rock Sun, there are a couple of young guys in their early 20's living in the Semiahmoo peninsula who you might also want to follow. They are Dean Allison and Ben Vikich, the brilliant comedic minds behind, "Movie Star Mondays" or MSM for short. Bored out of their skulls on a quiet Monday back in April, the two junior A hockey buddies decided to have some fun by recreating the scene from a movie poster, with themselves portraying the well-known Hollywood actors. Their first attempt back on April 7th was to mimic Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly's "Step Brothers" movie. Both James and Ben posted these pictures side by side with the original poster as their cover photo on their Facebook pages so that people who knew them could have a good chuckle.

With the appreciative response from their circle of friends and calls for more pictures, they decided to do a different movie every week, adding to their collection. These photo shoots are done by sourcing clothing from their parent's closets and props from their homes or a quick trip to the thrift store with a maximum $10 budget. The camera person is usually a friend or one of their parents who also see the humor in what they are attempting to replicate. To date they have recreated the movies Goon, I Love You Man, Nacho Libre, Pain & Gain, Role Models, 22 Jump Street, Brokeback Mountain, Dinner for Schmucks, Dumb & Dumber, E.T., Freddy vs. Jason, The Breakup, The Notebook, Titanic, Wayne's World and The Wolf of Wall Street. This Monday's latest installment will be Wedding Crashers that starred Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. When gender-bending is required, a long-haired wig, women's clothing and some padding make the transformation complete. If you look closely at the Titanic MSM photo, you might notice the shot was taken at the Crescent Beach pier near Blackie Spit in south Surrey. The brick wall in Role Models was the side of the Ocean Cliff elementary school in Ocean Park. They do draw one line in the White Rock sand; no photo shopping is allowed.

Little did they realize that they were starting something big in the world of social media with their funny little pix. It was when a buddy Will Latchinian from the Ocean Park Pizza & Village Pub started sharing the pictures with the world on social media sites that things started to really take off. The MSM shots were loaded onto imgur.com and reddit.com websites and people from around the planet started looking at them, making comments and forwarding links to friends. To date the Imgur posting has accumulated almost half a million views. It started trending on Instagram at #moviepostermonday where it was quickly picked up by the mainstream media that follow social internet trends. In Touch Weekly magazine posted 10 of their best photos along with a story on their intouchweekly.com website. HLN TV posted their MSM photos under the headline "2 Canadian jockey pals re-create film posters" with an article about their copied creations. The two young men are hoping to one day appear on the Ellen Degeneres Show and are spreading the word through their growing following with the Twitter tag: #Ellen#TheDream.

It is hard to say how big Movie Star Monday will become or if it will just be a quick flash in the pan. You have to wonder if movie executives might realize that this is an easy way to reach a wider audience and hire these two Canadian hockey players to do their own twisted version of the actual movie poster. It is possible they might become to movie posters what Weird Al Yankovich is to parody music videos. Unfortunately their hockey careers might throw a roadblock in any plans with Dean soon heading to Flin-Flon, Manitoba to play with the Rockets while his co-conspirator Ben Vikich stays here in the Semi-Pen where he will join the local Surrey Eagles. Hopefully these two will figure out a way for Movie Star Mondays to continue for some time until they can get back together near Christmas time to create some more movie poster magic. Until then you can follow them on Facebook at Dean Allison and Ben Vikich, on Instagram at @bvikich and @deanallison, or on Twitter at @_viks9 and @deanallison21. It's amazing the power of social media and how a fun idea can suddenly become an internet sensation. Time will tell if these two local boys hit it big with MSM but I have told them to get an agent and not just for their hockey careers.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Click to see the complete collection here

 

 

July 28, 2014


What the Hell is Wrong With These People?

It has now been three weeks since the horrific night-time accident on King George Boulevard in south Surrey in front of the Timberland Motel where a Mercedes SUV packed with six teenagers and driven by a novice driver allegedly tried to pass a vehicle on the shoulder while doing double the speed limit. The SUV plowed into the back of a parked car, sending it flying into the wide grassy boulevard, mowing down a light standard in its path. At first E-Com 911 received frantic calls that there was a person trapped underneath the car that was hit with witnesses seeing hair underneath this vehicle. When emergency crews arrived, they quickly discovered it was a large dog that was dead after being crushed by the driverless car. It wasn't until later when someone heard moaning coming from the nearby blackberry bushes that they realized a person had also been hit and thrown far from the accident scene. This was Jocelyn Hallier, a barista at the nearby Holy Smoke Coffee Co. tee-pee who has served me countless cups of the Semi-pen's best coffee over the years. The dogs name was Deville, one of the nicest and best mannered German Shepherds I've ever met and being a Shepherd fan, I've known a few over the years and even owned one myself.

Jocelyn was stabilized and moved by ambulance to the nearby Translink Park N' Ride lot (the side that nobody uses) next to Hwy. 99 and airlifted by helicopter to the Royal Columbian Hospital in critical condition. I'm not going to go into the specifics of her injuries other than to say that her body was quite simply smashed by the force of the impact, either with the flying car, the falling lamp post, or both. She was kept in a drug-induced coma for days while surgeons worked to stabilize her injuries, stop the bleeding and pin broken bones. Her friends and family members and even her hairdresser dropped by to check on her condition, hold her hand and to try to make her comfortable. Al Nameth, her employer and friend at the Holy Smoke Coffee Company made the long drive many times from his home at Campbell Valley in Langley to New Westminster in order to give his support and encouragement as her battered body started the healing process. It is a great relief to report that Jocelyn has recovered sufficiently from her injuries that she was transferred last week from the Royal Columbian to Peace Arch Hospital where her medical care and rehabilitation will continue.

Here's the rub folks; in the three weeks that Jocelyn was at the Royal Columbian Hospital, not one young person from the six that were in the speeding Mercedes SUV phoned to see how she was doing. The young driver that caused such carnage needs to be singled out for not stepping up to the plate to take responsibility for their actions and Jocelyn's injuries. Not one person sent flowers, dropped by to see how she was doing or to possibly apologize for her extensive injuries. The same can be said for all of the adult parents of all the teenagers involved, not a word from a single one of them or any attempt to check on her condition. Nobody phoned the Royal Columbian Hospital for an update, nobody stopped by the Timberland Motel to make inquiries at the office and not one of these people stopped by the Holy Smoke tee-pee for a coffee and update on Jocelyn's fate. Does it not matter to all of these people that the dangerous driving which caused this crash that night seriously injured a senior lady and killed the faithful companion that she was out walking? Note I did not use the word "accident" because when you are driving in the manner that was reported by eye-witness Jazz Mattu, serious injuries or death are often the outcome. The six teenagers in the SUV should thank their lucky stars that none of them were badly hurt, especially when you consider there were only five seatbelts in the vehicle.

Does the young female driver simply not care for the pain and suffering that her actions have caused to a person old enough to be her grandmother? Do the many friends riding as passengers not feel that they have a shared responsibility for this crash for not telling their friend to slow down or possibly encouraging such erratic driving? Do all of the parents of these kids simply believe that this matter will be handled by ICBC and the courts, resolving them or their bastard children of any responsibility? Could it be that the parents lack of compassion and empathy, exemplified by their not attempting to find out the extent of Jocelyn's injuries, were passed onto the younger generation whose lack of moral compass makes them believe that life is like the video game Grand Theft Auto? It makes my blood boil to think that with this large circle of people tied to this serious crash, not one bothered to take a minute out of their important busy lives and try to find out how the injured lady who had been flown away in the "bird of prey" was doing? They probably could not imagine the impact it has had on Jocelyn's life (so glad she still has one) and the circle of friends and acquaintances who know her. They need to consider what it would have been like if their six little darlings had been standing by the side of the road and been sent flying like bowling pins in a similar so-called accident.

If the young lady driving the Mercedes, her five friends or any of their parents wish to make amends for this oversight, Jocelyn is now resting uncomfortably in room 418 in the Intensive Care Unit at Peace Arch. Please feel free to drop off a card, bring some fresh flowers and offer your condolences and apologies. While you are there, fluff her pillows, help her to eat a meal or get things out of reach from her bed. If you are feeling generous, offer to pay for the little colour TV that hangs above her bed helping to break the dreary monotony of hospital life. Better yet, bring her a new cell phone to replace the one that was broken that dreadful night along with her many bones. Maybe the parents of the driver and her passengers can pool their resources to help Jocelyn pay for some of the bills that continue to pile up while she is lying on her back in hospital. Not that Deville can ever be replaced but purebred German Shepherd puppies generally cost $1,500. People that can afford private schools and luxury vehicles shouldn't have much difficulty in passing the hat and making a donation to the cause. That is, unless they simply don't care or give a damn about the unfortunate victim badly hurt from such reckless driving.

It is likely that Jocelyn will eventually receive a substantial payout from ICBC, possibly years into the future. That being said, no amount of money can adequately compensate for this type of trauma. Even if her injuries all heal, she faces extensive painful rehabilitation and it is likely that this event will be a life-changer for her. Of course the same could be said for the young Mercedes driver who is being investigated by the RCMP for dangerous driving causing bodily harm. With being a novice driver and having so many passengers on board, it is likely that ICBC will void the policy hold the owners of the SUV responsible for any costs and monetary awards . This could run into the millions of dollars if Jocelyn does not make a full recovery and return to mobility. While the courts will decide the outcome of any future litigation, the young driver, her friends and their parents can make some restitution now by simply paying her a visit and seeing the results of several bad decisions made on the night of July 7, 2014. Remember that while we can't turn back the hands of time, it's never too late to do the right thing.

If you know any of these people outed in this TNT, get them to read this column and consider finally making much needed ammends.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 21, 2014

Beach Out of Reach

In the middle of last week my wife and I decided to go for a walk with her dog and new puppy down the 101 Steps in Crescent Heights to the shoreline, giving the new furry addition to the family a chance to visit the beach. After crossing the BNSF tracks on the elevated metal staircase at the western end of 24 Ave. we received a rather shocking surprise when we got down to the waterfront. Waiting in store for us was one of the largest tides of the year and even with no wind or waves the water was so high that there was almost no beach left on which to maneuver. Heading south towards the Crescent Rock, we did not even make it a hundred feet before the water was up against the rip-rap boulders protecting the BNSF rail bed from erosion. Turning north towards Crescent Beach was not much better, with a 4-5 foot wide ribbon of shoreline that came to a point where the only options were to climb onto the train tracks (no thanks) or to take off the shoes, roll up the pant legs and go for a dip in Boundary Bay. Realizing the futility in our outing, we went back up the stairs and walked the dogs through the neighbourhood streets instead.

The high tide we witnessed was thanks to a phenomenon that is now commonly referred to as a "supermoon" where the moon comes closer to the earth on its monthly orbit by some 50,000 Km. By definition, a new or full moon has to come to within 361,863 kilometers of our planet in order to be considered a supermoon. July 12th was the first of three supermoons that will occur this summer with the others scheduled for August 10 and September 9. Make sure you mark them on your calendar and check the WR Sun tide tables at that time if you want to witness the full effect. Also known as a "perigree" moon meaning "near Earth", our lunar neighbour appears 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than usual. On a previous full supermoon, we noticed the brightness in our backyard, being able to easily discern the colours of the various flowers in the landscape even late at night. I wasn't the only one in the family to take notice of the recent supermoon with my daughter Denise sending me a picture of a large full moon that she took with her Iphone from her vantage point in Vancouver during that time. Besides appearing markedly bigger and brighter in the sky, the other noticeable effect of these supermoons is the extra gravitational pull they exert on the world's oceans, creating the largest tides of the year.

Seeing for myself the lack of beach that exists on the Semiahmoo peninsula during a supermoon got me thinking that if warnings from scientists about the effects of global warming are indeed correct, it will not be long before the average high tide covers the usable beach front that people here use for marine recreation. It has been forecast that sea levels will rise between 0.2 and 0.4 metres by 2050 caused by melting continental ice sheets and the thermal expansion or warming ocean waters. If that is the case, the meager ribbon of beach front we did find at the base of the 101 Steps would have been completely submerged and the only way one could enjoy the shoreline would have been while swimming or in a boat. Most of the beach along White Rock already disappears during high tides with waves lapping at the rip-rap berms next to the BNSF tracks. People utilizing the more rugged and secluded Crescent Rock beach need to take into account the tide tables or else find themselves stranded jumping from jagged rock to rock or forced onto the dreaded tracks. I have seen waves driven by winter storms pummel the Crescent Beach walkway, blowing salt water and debris over the public path while damaging the smaller rip-rap shoreline defenses in place there. Over 30 years ago, a winter storm that happened with a perigree moon overwhelmed dikes along Crescent Road, flooding the then new Nico Wynd gold course with 4 feet of brackish water. In the not too distant future, it is likely that rising sea levels will make these extreme weather events much more commonplace.

All of this leads to the effects that higher water levels and damaging tides will have on the BNSF Railway along the coast of the Semi-Pen. In 2008 during severe winter storms packing gale force winds, the rail bed was heavily damaged by large waves and heavy logs being tossed against the rocks lining the corridor. A member of SmartRail decided to walk the tracks that day inspecting for washouts and damage, being worried about rail safety after seeing serious erosion at the shore near Crescent Beach. Past Kwomais Point where tides work with winds to create very large ocean waves, a portion of the rip-rap had tumbled out into the surf, allowing the waves to chew at the base of the tracks that were built a century ago on the inter-tidal section of the shoreline. A CP freight train utilizing the tracks that day came crawling around the corner and seeing the water spraying across the tracks, the engineer stopped the train and exited the locomotive, walking down the tracks to ensure that it was safe to cross and talking to the SmartRail member about the danger. In over a dozen places the waves came to within a metre of the tracks that winter and the BNSF Railway had to spend $800,000 the next year to bring in train loads of rock to (dare I say) shore up the rip-rap. I`m not too sure of the year but I remember reading in the archived copies of the Surrey Leader about a washout on the BNSF tracks where the steel rails were left hanging 4`in the air over a 60` long chasm. Of course this happened before the marked increase in rail traffic through the peninsula and the arrival of thermal coal trains and 125 car unit trains carrying explosive Bakken crude oil.

With rising sea levels estimated to cost the global economy $1-trillion a year only decades from now if nothing is done to take action on global warming, there are going to be substantial bills here to protect property and infrastructure. Vancouver has been identified in a study as one of the cities most at risk with Delta and Richmond also under increased flood threat. Closer to home, low lying levels of White Rock and Crescent Beach plus farmland along the Serpentine and Nicomekyl rivers will be under the raised likelihood of being inundated if forecasted projections about ocean water levels prove to be correct or possibly even underestimated. There are many folks in the Semi-Pen who would now like to see the BNSF Railway move to a safer inland location away from the public beaches, summer crowds, environmentally sensitive marine area plus the landslide zone along the Ocean Park bluffs. While I love the ``rails to trails`` concept, it is not likely that the railway will be interested in relocating, especially with the millions of dollars that the BNSF are currently investing in infrastructure improvements at the Mud Bay trestle and soon the Little Campbell River bridge. Should sea levels rise and the tracks come under repeated wave attack, it may prove impossible for them to continue operating along the waterfront due to economic and safety factors. While I doubt if this will ever happen in my lifetime, the power of nature can be far greater than public or political pressure. Of course the sad part will be that if this ever becomes a reality, there likely won`t be any beach here left to enjoy except at low tide.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 14, 2014


Leave It To Beaver


I'm not really sure where it started but somewhere along the way I became interested in the old City of Surrey beaver mascot. Few remember the carved beaver that used to grace the front of the former Surrey City Hall, sitting atop a stone cairn on the front lawn facing #10 Hwy. Several years ago after inquiries from city staffers lead me to the Surrey Works Yard, I located the former statue exposed to the elements and rotting on top of a shipping container in the compound. Sprouting mushrooms and clumps of grass it was beyond restoration and likely has been disposed of by now. When the "Welcome to Surrey" freeway signs featuring the beaver on top were decommissioned and replaced with the new "the future lives here" signage, I wrote the Heritage Committee to ensure that one of these was preserved, which I've recently been told has been the case. I also have a stylized version of the Surrey beaver that is used for the Surrey Shirts company logo and as I write this piece I'm wearing the Surrey "Retro" t-shirt that is my favorite with the beaver proudly displayed in green and gold.

For those who travel down the King George Boulevard (the KGB as I like to call it) by the Serpentine Fen or who shop at the Art Knapps Plantland, you may have noticed a change to the front of the store several months ago. With the new "Mud Bay Village" frontage installed, a large carved wooden beaver was mounted on top approximately three months ago. I was immediately intrigued, wanting to find out the story behind the new sculpture. I talked to the store manager who informed me that Marty Vander Zalm from WaytoGrow soil products located behind the store had commissioned the piece earlier this year. If you don't know Marty, you can check out his hilarious "dirty movies" on the WaytoGrow website at http://www.waytogrow.ca/dirty-movies . As the "rebel nephew" of former Surrey Mayor/BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm he also has five episodes of "Politics & Dirtbags" with Uncle Bill on YouTube that are worthy of a look. Obviously promoting the work of the artist, the Art Knapps manager handed me a pamphlet from the front counter for "The Stump Artist."

 

Jesse Toso is the carver who created the beaver sculpture in question and whose creations can be seen on his stumpartist.com website. At his very first carving competition in 2005 at the annual Campbell River Transformation on the Shores chain saw carving contest, he won first prize of $1,000 for the amateur division. Now running a carving studio out of a garage in Vancouver at Hastings and Clarke, Jesse had a chance encounter with an Art Knapps employee who knew that Marty was looking to commission a sculpture for the Art Knapps and grabbed his business card. Thirty years ago, Marty's brother had planted a Sequoia redwood tree at the corner of the property and after road widening on the KGB that possibly changed groundwater levels the now big tree had died. Marty had it cut down and the large trunk stored, hoping to transform it into a work of art to honor his now deceased brother. The piece was commissioned around Christmas time of last year and completed in two months, then placed in front of the Art Knapps this spring.

 


Artist Jesse Toso and his "First Breath" sculpture

The stumpartist.com website features plenty of pictures of Jesse's works over the years including his first carve of 2014 which was the Art Knapps Plantland beaver. Based on the artwork from the 1948 Canadian nickel, the website contains several pictures of the beaver piece from the original log to rough cut and completion plus a four minute high-speed video of the sculpture taking shape. If you are a Surrey history buff, an artist or sculptor, shop at Art Knapps or simply drive the KGB, this amazing video can be viewed online at http://www.stumpartist.com/beaver-2014/ Looking at the beaver over the doorway at The Mud Vay Village, you will definitely appreciate the artistry that it took to complete this piece. The Stump Artist's "First Breath" sculpture of a mother and calf Humpback whales from 2008 would look right at home in the peninsula, especially with Wyland's Whaling Wall mural and the baby Humpback that washed ashore in White Rock last year. Not bad for a woodworker who had never used a chainsaw for carving until he decided to invest $35 to enter the carving contest in Campbell River on a whim.


Photo courtesy of Surrey Archives
This got me thinking that it might be possible for Mr. Toso to replicate the beaver that once stood sentinel in front of Surrey City Hall for decades and present it to Surrey Council for use in their museum or the new city hall in Whalley. There are four pictures of it in the Surrey Archives online collection that show it in intimate detail plus I also have several close-up shots on a hard drive that can be salvaged. I'm going to see if there is any interest in this idea at City Hall and if so possibly look at having this done, collecting donations from the community for the cost that will likely be around $1,000. If you like Jesse Toso's talent and want to put him to work for you transforming a log into a work of art, he can be reached by email at jessetoso@gmail.com or by phone at 604-720-3354. Tell him that Don and Marty sent you.

Naturally yours,

Don Pitcairn

 

 

July 07, 2014

Pride in Surrey Alive and Well

Mr. Gay Surrey 2014 Luc Gagne & Don Pitcairn

 

No matter where I have lived I've always taken pride in my city of residence, growing up in Delta and living across the Lower Mainland in the cities of Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, Langley and of course the big city of Surrey B.C. Even as a kid growing up in the then rural Sunshine Hills (aka "Rainy Ridge") in North Delta I always wanted my parents to move to Crescent Beach to be nearer the waters of Boundary Bay, the sunny weather and remarkable sunsets. It took a few years but I have now owned three different houses in the Crescent Heights neighbourhood near Crescent Park over the past dozen years that were all only a few minutes walk to the beach. For a multitude of reasons, there is no place I would rather live and I'm proud to call Surrey and the Semiahmoo peninsula home.

This weekend Surrey pride was on display front and centre for all to see and enjoy. The opening of the Surrey Night Market was held on Saturday with a variety of food providers and vendors prepping their wares for the big occasion. While nobody knew quite what to expect, it was hoped that there were would be community interest, similar to what has made the Richmond Night Market such a success. My wife Sheryl and I were on site with our Surrey Shirts apparel that began from the simple concept of me wanting a jersey with the word "SURREY" embroidered across its chest. By the time the gates opened at 6 o'clock, the lineup snaked across the Cloverdale Agriplex roadways and off into the distance. As the crowd filed in, more arrived to take their place and in no time the parking lot was full with folks waiting an hour just to get into the market. By the end of the night an estimated 7,000 – 8,000 people had visited, representing the broad ethnic mosaic of the Surrey and surrounding cities. Organizers have promised to make changes for even larger crowds expected next Friday night on July 11 when the opening ceremony and official ribbon cutting will be held from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

With the first night of the SNM under our belts, we gathered up some stock and made our way home after midnight, catching a few winks before rising early to load up the Surrey Shirts machine and make our way to the 15th annual Surrey Pride Festival. I must admit that I have never been to the Vancouver Pride Parade or taken part in any Pride Week festivities but have known plenty of people of various sexual orientations and realize that everyone across the spectrum of society is seeking love and acceptance. To say the crowd, vendors and organizers were colourful would be a disservice to the GLBTQ community with rainbow flags, pennants and banners flying across Holland Park. Mr. Gay Canada 2014 Christopher Wee, Mr. Gay Surrey 2014 Luc Gagne and Miss Teen Surrey Vanessa P. were in attendance sporting their various sashes along with Emperor David Cook and Empress Eric Sg.asia Divine. A veritable who's-who of politicians from all levels of Surrey government strolled by with Penny Priddy and Barinder Rasode stopping by for a combined photo-op (Mayor Dianne Watts was noticeably absent). Special kudos to the omnipresent Sergeant Dale Carr for representing the Surrey RCMP in full red serge Mountie uniform and looking very dapper while doing so.

Being invited to the Surrey Pride Festival, I could not help but become embroiled in the refusal of Surrey Council to once again not fly the rainbow Pride flag in front of Surrey city hall as is regularly done in 43 other cities across Canada. This includes the neighbouring city of New Westminister just across the Fraser River that will be holding their pride week from Aug. 8-16 including a street party on Columbia Street. While the Pride flag was allowed in the new Surrey city hall atrium along with a small display, many perceived this as an insult similar to being hidden in a closest. Surrey Shirts new "the future lives queer" t-shirt that emulates the city's logo and mocks their "the future lives here" slogan brought plenty of media attention to this flag flap. It would appear that with all of the publicity it is likely that Surrey's flag policy will be reviewed and a fourth pole possibly mounted out front of Surrey city hall, hopefully without the $200,000 price tag quoted by outgoing Mayor Watts. I would like to offer my thanks to the amazing community activist Martin Rooney for his help with everything Pride related since he moved to Surrey in 1996 and ask you to read this man's sparkling personal biography available at the following Vancouver Pride link: http://vancouverpride.ca/martin-rooney-achievement-in-sexual-health-promotionawareness-award-nominee/

In closing this column about Surrey pride, I leave you with this rather unique poem by local author Michael Zrymiak that was presented to Council in 2012 as a tribute to the city of Surrey. Containing the good, the bad and the ugly, it captures Surrey and its growing pains in a nutshell.

What is Surrey

They call it a city
A strapping, uncoordinated, ungraceful teenager
All arms and legs with unfocused mind
Soaring in every direction, bouncing upward and inward
Surging and panting, needing space and air and soil
Impatient with controls, pushing and shoving against all constraints

It is merchant, fisherman, blueberry grower, ESL student, dock worker, developer
Horse stables, ultra-light flights, sailing lessons, yoga classes, homeless shelters
Sikhs, Hindus, Chinese, Afros, Europeans old and new, west and east
Traditional and new-age families, a rainbow of colour, a cauldron of cultures
Samosas, perogies, burritos, a Starbucks on every corner next to a sushi bar
Souvlaki sampled on Crescent Beach as the setting sun paints the placid bay

Festive times abound, Chinese New Year, Dawali, Fusion, Bear Creek concerts
Galleries, libraries, theatres, Peace Arch park, eco walks in Boundary Bay
Softball City, a rodeo, polar bear swim, nude beaches partially secluded
Marijuana grow ops, street prostitutes on iPhones, corpses in back alleys
Fruit stands on country roads near industrial parks where countless trees once grew
And in the farming lowlands, evenings bring soft peaceful mists

It seeks a core heart to pump life's blood to all parts to ensure dependence
To project a posture a conventional mind can grasp, to be the city of tomorrow
It wants a towering edifice, a central plaza, a world class monument
Now Whalley, Newton, Guildford, Semiahmoo, Cloverdale, farmlands, tomorrow?
While individualism challenges bureaucracy and ideas battle inertia, the clock is ticking
This is Surrey

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Take A Lot Of Pride In Who You Are (click here)

 

 

June 30, 014

Coal Train Traffic Cut in Half

With all of the community concern and public opposition here to increased coal shipment through White Rock and along the shoreline of south Surrey, it should be welcome news that the BNSF Railway is looking at detouring some of its coal train traffic away from the Semiahmoo peninsula. The OK the PK railway news website (okthepk.com) carried a news report earlier this week detailing upcoming changes in the BNSF's train schedules that have been confirmed by BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas. If you are a train nut (meant in a nice way) and "love the smell of creosote in the morning" the Ok the PK is a great site that allows you to keep an ear to the rail.

 

Unfortunately the upcoming changes to coal train traffic are not being done because of opposition to coal train traffic here and full loaded coal trains will still head north from the U.S. into Canada carrying Powder River basin thermal coal. What the BNSF are doing is to detour the empty coal trains from the Westshore Terminals at Roberts Bank east into the Fraser Valley through downtown Abbotsford to Sumas and south to Burlington in Washington State. There is construction on sections of track and several bridges south of the border on the regular route and redirecting these trains to the east allows work crews more time on the tracks without stopping for safe passage. The empty trains are also much lighter than the ones full of coal chugging north by the Peace Arch so they are better suited to the Abbotsford lines that currently only see one train a day in rail traffic.

Although Mr. Melonas confirmed that an agreement between the BNSF Railway and Southern Rail Link (SRY) that owns the tracks through Abbotsford has not yet been reached, he is confident that one will soon be signed. In fact a test run of the first empty BNSF coal train leaving Roberts Bank is scheduled for July 3rd with regularly scheduled runs of two to three of the two kilometer long trains a day beginning on July 7th which will run both day and night. This change in coal train routing is expected to last for 65 days when the construction south of the border is scheduled to be completed. While Abbotsford Council has yet to react to these upcoming changes, it is worth remembering that when White Rock called for trains carrying dangerous goods to be rerouted to the Sumas crossing, their Councillor Henry Braum said it would simply be "shifting a problem to a different jurisdiction."

It will be interesting to see how this coal train detour works out as it is unlikely that residents of downtown Abbotsford are used to the types of delays that were common throughout Langley before the Gateway overpasses were built and which still occur at Crescent Beach for long stretches of time. Because of the low train traffic in Abby, many of the level crossings do not have flashing lights or drop bars with vehicle traffic being halted only by a stop sign. While Mr. Melonas is on record saying that "safety is the number one priority" it might have been a good idea to upgrade the crossings before letting long coal trains pass through the city, even if they are only travelling at a maximum speed of 24 km/h through the downtown core and double that in rural locations. While the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association or their city hall has yet to comment on this change in rail traffic in their community, if there is any pedestrian or vehicle accident involving a BNSF coal train in the next couple of months, there will likely be hell to pay.

When this experiment is over, it might give credence to the concept of the BNSF moving dangerous goods through Sumas instead of Peace Arch. While this may not be needed at all times, it would certainly be worth considering when we experience heavy rains that increase the risk of slides onto the Semiahmoo tracks. I believe that when the BNSF tracks here are off limits to the Amtrak passenger train because of the slide threat, dangerous goods should be rerouted away from the known slide zone that is the Ocean Park bluff. The same can also be said for when we are experiencing high tides and strong storm surge which has damaged the rip-rap boulder defences in the past and once washed out the tracks leaving the rails suspended four feet in the air. With the BNSF tracks running is such a perilous place next to the ecologically sensitive waters of Boundary Bay, steps should be taken to reduce the likelihood of a derailment, chemical spill, or environmental devastation. Think about that the next time you see one of those 120 tanker car unit trains carrying explosive Bakken crude oil rolling north through White Rock or spot tanker cars of deadly chlorine gas from the Canexus chemical plant in North Vancouver heading south to the US.

For those of you who have an interest in rail safety in the Rock, Councillor Grant Meyer and the Rail Task Force are holding a town hall meeting on Monday, July 7 at 7 p.m. at the White Rock Community Centre, 15154 Russell Ave. at the base of the BOSA towers. If you want your chance to say your two bits worth on issues concerning railway relocation, fencing of the rail corridor, rerouting of dangerous goods, beach access, rail safety or any other topic that is train related (did I forget air horns?) this will be a prime opportunity. While White Rock bills itself as "The City By The Sea" it is also the city by the tracks and as recent events have shown, there is nothing like changes to the waterfront involving the BNSF railway to raise the hackles of the community or incur the wrath of the mayor. I hope to see you there as It would take more than a fully loaded freight train to keep me away from this important meeting. Keep an eye out for the members of SmartRail and consider joining this local rail safety group that monitors the tracks, infrastructure and freight movements while advocating for safe railway transportation through our little corner of the world.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

Here is an interesting article from the TORONTO STAR pertaining to rail safety in Canada. (click here)

 

June 23, 2014

Happy Birthday


Before we get into the nuts and bolts of yet another riveting TNT, I have a little public service announcement to make to the people of the Semiahmoo peninsula who regularly follow my weekly rants and raves. On Sunday night while spending time celebrating my father Bob's 76th birthday it suddenly occurred to me that I might be having a rather special birthday of my own. Fortunately every single The Naked Truth is still archived on line and scrolling back through time I found that June 20, 2009 was the very first time I wrote a column for the White Rock Sun. While this inaugural article didn't have a title, not surprisingly its subject was the clothing-optional Crescent Rock naturist beach along the Ocean Park bluffs. Since that time there have been 260 TNT's posted for your viewing pleasure with the BNSF Railway and the shoreline of the peninsula being the most common topic. With this in mind, this special anniversary issue will deal with these two issues together as it is often hard to separate the trains from the waterfront.

The fiasco that was the fencing off of the Firminger boat launch at the west end of West beach seems to be at an end with some common sense finally being shown and the ridiculous and unnecessary gates removed. Friday's community protest in front of the gates instead turned into an impromptu celebration against brainless bureaucracy trying to fix a problem while creating others due to a lack of understanding and common sense. While it appears that Transport Canada may finally be starting to listen to the residents of White Rock, there are still plenty of problems to be addressed. The closing of all of the pedestrian crossings between the pier and boat launch only serves to increase trespassing across the entire length of the promenade, rather than decreasing it while making going to the beach an afterthought for most people. The fence along the west end of Bayview Park that they hope will stop trespassers from walking the tracks two and from the Coldicutt ravine is not needed while a public pathway linking these two would likely solve the trespassing issue.

Don Pitcairn / Coldicutt Traill rail advance slide warning wire

What is not needed and should not be tolerated is the closing off of the Coldicutt ravine trail. This historic trail is nearly as old as the railway and affords people living in West White Rock a park-like setting with which to access the waterfront. I have to point out that the landslide detector fence (LDF) that runs across the base of the Ocean Park bluffs actually goes up and over the pedestrian trail. This is also true for the Olympic Trail in Ocean Park plus several of the private staircases that hilltop homeowners have built over the years down onto the tracks. While the BNSF brass and Tranport Canada suits made plenty of noise about the dangers of trespassing in this region, as far as I can tell the last person hit by a train in this stretch of tracks was Ira Warren, better known as the hermit of White Rock who lived in the Coldicutt Ravine. He was mowed down by a passing freight train back in 1953 as he carried a piece of plywood for his shack down the tracks, likely unaware of the danger due his deafness.

Besides funneling people onto the tracks heading for White Rock, the Coldicutt ravine trail also serves as an important access point for the south facing portion of Crescent Rock beach. Just west of the trailhead is a large sandy outcropping known as Hermit's Haven where Mr. Warden would often sunbathe and skinny-dip and this spot still attracts nudists looking for a quiet place to unwind and reacquaint with nature. Even more important is how both the Coldicutt and Olympic trails allow for emergency services access to this remote and rocky shoreline. These trails also provide an emergency escape route up into White Rock for anyone who gets hurt along the shoreline, tracks, or the water. Closing off all access to the shoreline from White Rock to Kwomais Point makes as much sense as welding closed all of the pedestrian crossings from the pier to boat launch. While the BNSF Railway unfortunately may have been allowed to built a railway on the beach, they do not own the tidal areas of the beaches in the Semiahmoo peninsula and with years of allowing access, there is a legal question as to whether this constitutes an easement.

Artist rendering of rail underpass

The City of Surrey installed a metal pedestrian overpass at the 101 Steps at 24 Ave. for safety reasons and four years ago the BNSF replaced the wooden tunnel under the tracks at the 1,001 Steps at 15A Ave. in Ocean Park with a concrete one. Last year the BNSF replaced several small wooden bridges over creeks west of kwomais with large metal culverts. Instead of taking the cheap way out and attempting to block the pathway, the BNSF instead should be looking at building tunnels under the tracks at Coldicutt and Olympic trails. This system was considered back in 1978 in the Foreshore Report with tunnels being proposed for along the east and west beaches. A simple opening under the tracks at the main staircases would funnel people onto the beach and away from the tracks while improving safety for people visiting the Crescent Rock beach waterfront. San Clemente in California had the same kind of trespassing and death rates as White Rock that have now been corrected with overhead walkways, tunnel, grade crossings with lights, bells and falling arms plus a metal walkway next to the beach at the bottom of an oceanfront bluff. The city that I call "White Rock south" should become a model for us on how to coexist with an industrial railway at a marine recreational site that is used by a million people in the Fraser Valley.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

June 18, 2014

Gate Crasher


When I first heard about Transport Canada finally taking steps to address rail safety across the White Rock waterfront, all I could think was, "what took them so long?" The safety problems involving pedestrians, the close proximity of the promenade to the rails, people crossing in front of trains and walking down the tracks is common knowledge. The death toll over the years now stands at 19 with a further 16 serious injuries. We need to follow the lead of San Clemente which has built overhead walkways, under track tunnels and gated level crossings with lights, bells and drop arms to allow for safe access to the waterfront. I previously wrote about these safety initiatives in a TNT column on Feb. 18 earlier this year titled "White Rock South" in case you missed it. The draconian changes suddenly made to west beach that eliminated all legal access to the public marine park need to be reversed immediately as not only are they stupid, they are simply dangerous.

The west beach boat launch has been a particularly sore point for me with anybody able to drive a vehicle and boat trailer across the BNSF tracks without the proper level grade warning lights and crossing arms. I always felt that this was an accident waiting to happen and was surprised when I learned that someone at Transport Canada had actually woken up to the danger. What is laughable is how the boat launch was fenced off and locked, then suddenly opened to the public with a note stating, "CONTROLLED ACCESS CROSSING, Users Must Ensure Gate is CLOSED For Safety Reasons." While this gate should only open towards Marine Drive, it can also be moved towards the tracks opening fully into the middle of the rails. As if this was not dangerous enough, the gate does not have a spring loaded closing mechanism so it can easily be left in this position awaiting the arrival of the next BNSF freight or AmTrak passenger train. Being painted black, it is likely that the engineers would not see them, or have time to stop even if they did possibly sending the fence flying into the promenade. So much for rail safety; thanks Transport Canada.

Removing every pedestrian crossing across the entire length of west beach was idiotic. Now people will simply cross where they like by stepping over the laughably low safety railings. What should have been done was to limit the number of crossings while increasing signage, markings and installing gates that close when trains are on the tracks. I find it odd that Transport Canada is suddenly showing interest in rail safety at White Rock when for years they have ignored many serious incidents endangering trains often carrying dangerous goods. They did nothing when White Rock razed the Hump for views, removing over seventy trees on an old slump landslide site just east of the pier. They were absent when a slide site failed multiple times over three days near the Olympic Trail where I witnessed a BNSF freight train carrying nine tanker cars of poisonous chlorine gas rolling by. They did nothing to stop BNSF trains with dangerous goods from passing a slide site near the Crescent Rock while a Surrey drain pipe poured water onto the slope where a full sized cedar tree hung suspended by a broken pipe high above the tracks. They have done nothing to stop Ocean park bluff top residents ( or the City of Surrey at Kwomais Point) from cutting trees for views, including several of which have caused landslides onto the tracks when the roots rotted and destabilized the slope. They have not forced the BNSF to extend the landslide detector fence from near the 101 Steps walkway to the end of Bayview Street even though this was the last place a train was hit by a mudslide. I informed Transport Canada about all of these safety problems and they did nothing, except for place me on a "do not contact" list so that inquiries from the Green Party of BC Transportation Critic instead go through their media relations department for sanitation. Heads should roll at Transport Canada for their lack of common sense or ability to safeguard our railways and communities near the BNSF tracks in the Semi-pen.

White Rock beach is the main marine recreational site for a million Fraser Valley residents and if Transport Canada thinks they can simply fence it off, they should wake up and smell the coffee. School is almost over (one way or the other) and when hot sunny weather breaks out families with children will descend on White Rock in droves as they have for generations. Until such time as the tracks can be moved to a safer inland location away from the public beaches and the landslide prone bluff, people will need access to the waterfront. Transport Canada should read the history books about what happened to the Berlin Wall, because if they try to fence off White Rock, it is likely folks will show up with beach blankets, coolers and hacksaws or gas powered chop saws to cut their own holes in the fence. There is also the legal question about access for people with disabilities plus the aspect of historical accessibility. While nothing has happened yet, there are plans to fence off the bottom of Coldicutt Ravine, which along with the Olympic Trail in Ocean Park have allowed access to the remote stretches of Crescent Rock naturist beach for decades. If these two historic trails are closed, it will mean that four km. of shoreline will effectively be off limits except for trains, while eliminating points where people can safely leave the shoreline and rail corridor in case of emergency. While we're on the topic, when will the BC government create beachfront access from the provincial Peace Arch park to the shore of Semiahmoo Bay, especially now that there are two sets of train tracks there to cross and with Beach Ave. now closed to parking?

If you wish to let Transport Canada know your thoughts about these rail safety "improvements" along the White Rock rail corridor, their email address is railsafety@tc.gc.ca or you can phone them personally at 613-998-7767. I've already informed the Transportation Safety Board of Canada Rail Division about this problem through their SECURITAS reporting program at securitas@bst-tsb.gc.ca. Our MP Russ Heibert (info@russhiebert.ca / 604-542-9496) might also want to hear what you think about the beach being fenced off right before the start of summer, let alone the gates that open to the middle of the tracks. Several Facebook pages opposed to the fencing on White Rock have been started with "Save White Rock Beach" attracting over 1600 likes and the new "Save The West Beach Boat Launch" already having 65 members. A poster attached to the boat launch fence is titled, "Rally & Petition, Beach Access For All!" and is looking to support the legal appeal of the ridiculous changes along the waterfront. Currently the rally is planned for Friday, June 20th, while I would think that the equinox and first day of summer on June 21 would be more appropriate and draw far larger crowds. The rally and petition are being promoted by local animator/consultant/advocate Pat Petrala and if you would like to help in this effort, she can be reached by email at patpet@shaw.ca or 604-536-7686. Its our beach not the BNSF's and you can help save it from brainless bureaucratic bungling.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

June 09, 2014

"Market" on Your Calendar – July 4, 2014

 

In a scene eerily similar to Godzilla walking through downtown Tokyo, I finally got the chance this weekend to visit the uber-successful Richmond Night Market (RNM) near the River Rock Casino. By chance this happened on the same week that it was announced that the Chinatown Night Market, which has operated for 17 years, will not be held in 2014 because of the costs associated with the set up and tear down of this tent city every night. Besides hundreds of vendor tents selling a wide array of products mainly of the imported variety, the RNM also boasts a large food court with a variety of asian culinary delights. The RNM is open from May 16 to October 13, Friday and Saturday nights from 7-12 pm and Sundays and holidays from 7-11 pm, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the Lower Mainland and Washington State. Even with the traffic jams and parking problems (hint: park at the Bridgeport Rd. Costco and walk over), the RNM has now become a tourist destination and an experience that should not be missed.

With a population now exceeding half-a-million people, it was only a matter of time before somebody realized that Surrey was missing the boat and should be holding a multi-cultural night market of its own. On May 20th, the posting below showed up on Craigslist, giving full operational details of the planned Surrey Night Market (SNM) that will be held on Friday and Saturday nights during summer weekends at the Agriplex complex on the Cloverdale Fair Grounds. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, the organizers from the Surrey Board of Trade are following the tried and tested format of the RNM that will likely ensure its success and possible future expansion. There will be at least 30 market vendors, 70 food vendors, plenty of live entertainment plus plenty of free parking for the 5,000-8,000 visitors that are expected on a nightly basis from 7-11 p.m. Here are the more pertinent details from the original Craigslist ad that show what you can expect to find at the SNM along with some job openings.

Exciting Opportunities Available at the Surrey Night Market
We are pleased to announce the availability of numerous opportunities at the Surrey Night Market that will be opening in Surrey in the first weekend of July. The Surrey Night Market will be an open air summer market for local residents and small businesses to sell and consume a variety of local foods, services and goods. This night market will be a multicultural family friendly event for all the residents of Surrey and neighbouring cities.
The Surrey Night Market will have 100+ vendors from various nationalities and communities and each night the market will cater to 5,000 to 8,000 attendees. The event will also showcase a variety of local talent in performing arts and create an environment that promotes both community spirit and inclusion across the board. A stage will be set up at the event for local talent including - Western Bands, Jazz, Solo Dances, Group Dances, Singers, Musical Instrument Players, Magicians, Jugglers, Clowns, Fashion Shows & Displays, etc.

Location and Duration
The Surrey Night Market will be located across from Agriplex Complex, within the
Cloverdale Exhibition Grounds, at 6050 176 Street, Surrey, BC
From July 4th to August 30th (weekends only)
Fridays and Saturdays
Time: 6 pm to 11 pm

Food Vendor Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market is looking for 70+ food vendors from various nationalities and cultures. Attendees should get to sample Western, Chinese, Caribbean, Arabic, Philippines, Vietnamese, Fijian, African, Pakistani, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Latin American, Korean, First Nations, Greek, and Indian cuisines and dishes.
For Example - Burgers, Hotdogs, Sandwiches, Subs, Deli Sandwiches, Soups, Fish & Chips, Salads, Wraps, Poutine, Fries, Tacos, Shushi, Japadog, Seafood, Chicken Tikkas & Pakoras, Veg Pakoras, Fish Pakoras, BBQ, Ribs, Samosas, Pranthas, Curries, Sweets, Jalebies, Chaat, Alloo Tikki, Gol Gappe, Ice Cream, Kulfi, Chhole Bhatoore, Puri, Kulche, Dosse, Idli, Sambar, Uttapam, Tea, Lassi, Pop Corn, Mini-Donuts, Cup Cakes, baker's products, Coffee, Smoothies, Slurpies, Shakes, Fresh Juice, Fresh Fruit and others.
Food Carts will also have an opportunity to participate in the night market.

Non-Food Vendor Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market is looking to have 30+ merchandise, artisans and services vendors. The goal is to provide an opportunity to local artisans & craft personnel and other small businesses.
For Example: Pedicure, Menicure, Cosmetics; Handicrafts, Decorations, Artificial Jewelry; Massage Booth, Aqua Massage, Karaoke Booth; Tarot Cards & Crystal Ball, Fortune Teller - Hand Reading; Mobile Phones, Plans and Accessaries; Internet & Cable Plans offered by Rogers, Telus, Shaw, Bell; Insurance and RESP providers; Post Secondary Institutes, Training Institutes; Credit Unions, Banks.

Performance Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market will have a stage set up at the event for local talent including - Western Bands, Jazz, Solo Dances, Group Dances, Singers, Musical Instrument Players, Magicians, Jugglers, Clowns, etc. There will be no charge for performing at the event, but a refundable security deposit will be required from performers to facilitate planning for each evening.
For a nominal fee, there will be opportunities for Fashion Shows & Displays at the Surrey Night Market.

Security Services Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market has an opportunity for an experienced Security Company to provide security services at the venue. The contracted company will arrange to provide both static and mobile patrols at the venue during the event days. The security personnel will monitor the entry and exit points, oversee the direction of the parking arrangements, and also ensure the safety and security of attendees, vendors, and performers at the night market. No drugs, alcohol or smoking will be permitted at the venue at any time. For the rest of the week, adequate security arrangements will be needed at the venue to safeguard and protect the equipment of the vendors.

First Aid Tent and Service
The Surrey Night Market will have an opportunity for an agency or business to set up a First Aid tent and provide first aid services during the event.

Temporary Work Opportunities
The Surrey Night Market will have opportunities for temporary work in the evenings during weekends from July 2nd to August 31st. We would prefer to discuss this with any Temporary Placement Agency.

Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteer opportunities will be available at the Surrey Night Market for high school graduates and post-secondary students.

For more information on this exciting community event, check out the new SNM webpage at surreynightmarket.com or visit the SNM Facebook page that already has nearly 550 likes. If you are interested in being part of this family event or possibly applying for a position at the SNM, they can be contacted directly at surreynightmarket@gmail.com or by phone at 604-805-3440. There is already a strong sense of excitement about this community event and a buzz on the streets of Surrey that will likely increase later this month with a strong multi-media promotional blitz that is planned. When the SNM opens, drop by and say hi as my wife Sheryl and I will be proudly doing our part to promote pro-Surrey culture, bring our edgy Surrey Shirts apparel and merchandise to the Agriplex.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

 

June 02, 2014

 


Beach Bozos

Warm weather and sunny skies make the beaches of the Semiahmoo peninsula an irresistible draw for many people from across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Unfortunately along with the throngs of people who visit the shorelines of White Rock and Crescent Beach are the morons and idiots who seem to think that they can desecrate the waterfront strewing litter from one end to the other and leave their mess for others to clean up.
Over the years I have collected hundreds of bags of garbage from Crescent Rock beach, performing a yearly post-summer cleanup on the 6.5 km. stretch from Crescent Beach to White Rock, along with helping to organize the removal of debris from a 40 foot pleasure boat that washed ashore. I'm not the only person who routinely cleans this area either and know that SmartRail's Brian Lauder has litter tongs just like mine for this purpose. When visiting a natural area it is nice to find it litter free, which is why I pick up other people's garbage when camping, walking in parks or hiking in the forest. I simply do not understand the mentality of those people who knowingly trash the environment they have come to visit.

For reasons unknown, this weekend at Crescent Rock beach was particularly bad for the amount of litter left behind. My wife Sheryl took our dog for a walk south of the 101 Steps staircase and found piles of refuse left behind by late-night partiers. Fortunately it appears that these people have figured out that beer cans weigh far less than glass bottles, plus they don't break into sharp shards at the beach. In only a few hundred metres, she picked enough beers cans, wine bottles, discarded clothing plus other related litter to fill a large size garbage bag. She was so appalled by the mess that she took pictures including that of the new graffiti tag spray painted on the 120 tonne Crescent Rock boulder. As if all of the mess wasn't enough of an eyesore, Surrey's version of the White Rock boulder once again needs a fresh coat of paint to help it blend back into the environment.

The more public Crescent Beach fared no better with a young employee of mine texting a picture of an overflowing garbage can from beside the walkway calling it "awful." What the picture doesn't show is that the can is not actually full; the people were too lazy to place their crap into the can or didn't want to touch the spring loaded lid. These specialized garbage cans are a dozen feet deep and only need to be emptied infrequently but they can only work if people take the needed step of actually placing their debris into them. Leaving litter next to these cans will only attract night time visits by skunks and raccoons plus flocks of seagulls and crows the next day to shred the junk and then spread it around the beach. Not disposing of garbage properly is almost the same as littering. The same goes for the morons who bag their dog crap and when no one is looking toss it aside or leave them dangling from blackberry bushes like some weird Christmas ornament.

We need to work together to change the habits of those people who believe it is okay to leave a mess behind as someone else will clean it up. Hopefully the Surrey RCMP will have enough manpower to try and curb nighttime drinking parties at the beach that are the source of much of the garbage left behind. As far as people or families dumping their garbage beside trash bins, if you see this behavior let those responsible politely know that this is still littering. If you are walking along the beach or visiting one of our parks, help be a part of the solution and pick up and dispose of litter and garbage left behind by those with no respect for the environment, themselves, or their community. I started doing this when I was ten years-old and if a young boy can figure out that this makes the world a better place, maybe those junking the waterfront can also come to the same realization.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 26, 2014

Translink's New "Park & Pool" Lot

 

Not long after it officially opened, I was the first person to ring the alarm bell over the colossal waste of money that is the expansion lot for Translink's South Surrey Park & Ride lot (TNT - Nov. 25, 2013). Other media outlets ignored this giant white elephant until it won a coveted "Teddy" award from the Canadian Taxpayer Federation, with Translink taking the prize in the local government category for the "best of the worst in government waste." Translink's brass were quick to point out that they were merely the "owners and operators" of the lot and that it was the BC government that had forked out the $4.5 million for its construction. Squabbling over who owns this mess when in the end of the day its tax payer dollars paying for an empty parking lot is ridiculous but it now looks like Translink may have another expensive headache when it comes to their field of asphalt. I'm hoping the repair bill is high enough that they win a back-to-back Teddy (fittingly a golden pig) for this ongoing debacle.

With the newly expanded park and ride lot opening in November, our wet weather concealed a serious flaw with the construction of what I now call the "Park & Pool" lot. This is not to be confused with the nearby park and pool carpool lots beside the Nicomekyl River on Elgin Rd. or north of the 99 Hwy. on 40 Ave. that actually get used by commuters. With warmer dryer weather now upon us, I couldn't help but notice the large pools of water that were sitting on the new asphalt even though it had not rained for days. Driving onto the expanded lot (there were no parked vehicles in case you were wondering) it became apparent that the water was percolating up through the asphalt in multiple locations. There is so much leakage that I had to take a dozen photographs just to capture the worst of the running water. In some spots the leaks are so bad that there is even bright green algae growing in the flowing rivulet that course across the asphalt. About the only thing that is missing is jelly frog spawn and some tadpoles but that is only because the nearby ditches flowing to the "Nic" offer better amphibian habitat.

It would appear that the engineers who designed this extravagant waste of money didn't perform proper percolation tests properly or call for enough drain rock to lift the parking lot above the water table. Either that or the contractors who did the paving accidentally used porous asphalt instead of the more conventional cheaper variety that drains water to catch basins. Usually water runs off asphalt and the only other location I have ever seen water coming up through a roadway is on either end of the George Massey tunnel on Hwy. 99 as it heads down under the Fraser River. Translink has been forwarded the pictures I took of the mini-springs and have had little to say about the situation except to say that they are awaiting the results of a report looking into this problem. It is going to be interesting to see how this problem is going to be corrected and what the final tax-payer funded repair bill will be. My guess is that as strips of asphalt will have to be cut out and removed, drains installed, repaving completed and new lines painted.

Of course the question has to be asked, why make repairs to a parking lot that nobody uses? The sad reality is that this is a public transportation lot and needs to be safe. In the winter any salt placed to stop the buildup of ice will likely wash away and the water then freeze in place. If someone were to slip on the ice, then Translink would be liable, especially if this resulted from them not making timely repairs to the leaks. With bitterly cold outflow conditions in winter as sometimes happens, the percolating water will freeze and expand, likely damaging the asphalt and exacerbating the problem. Even now the water poses a safety threat as motorcyclists are utilizing this usually empty parking lot to practice their two-wheeled driving. Who is to blame if a new motorcyclist happens to skid in one of the many wet puddles when they are expecting dry road conditions on a sunny day? If this sounds far-fetched, there were bikers using the new park and pool lot at the time I took my pictures and I warned them to stick to the dry side of the lot for their safety.

Until such time as the new park and pool lot is actually needed, Translink would be better off gating the driveway and closing it to the public. They could save the salting, sanding and snow clearing during the winter months and allow them to turn off the large overhead lights, reducing the electrical bill. It would also stop the parking lots use as an impromptu racetrack and tempting illegal dump spot. Once repairs are made to fix the obvious drainage problem, I have a solution that actually might attract some visitors to this empty expanse of asphalt. Keep the $2 daily rate for the old parking lot close to the bus loop but allow free parking on the new lot that is a quarter of a kilometer away. This will allow those cheapskates who refuse to pay this nominal fee to park free of charge instead of clogging to the streets of the Semi-pen along the bus routes. The free parking might also attract commuters who went back to driving their cars to work to get onboard the 52 window coupe.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 19, 2014


Off To The Rodeo

Well it's 40 below and I don't give a f***
Got a heater in my truck and I'm off to the rodeo
And it's allemande left allemande right
Come on ya f***in' dummy get your right step right
Get off the stage, ya god damn goof, ya know
Piss me off, ya f***in' jerk, get on my nerves

Lyrics from Gary Lee and The Showdown's "The Rodeo Song"


The May long weekend usually signals the start of camping season but it is not very often you will see me load up the 4X4 and head out into the bush. I spend enough time outside in the elements that I don't particularly like wasting time living out of a tent in the pouring rain. Not to mention the Victoria Day holiday attracts a rowdy hoard of drunken idiots to every imaginable campsite from here to Hope. I've learned from past experience that it is better to stay home, enjoy the beach if the weather allows and head off to one of the best times that Surrey has to offer, the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair.

Dating back to September 1888 when the first fair started at the Surrey Municipal Hall and grounds, it moved to its current location at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds with the rodeo being first being held in 1945. The fair and rodeo are now operated by the Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition Association and you can learn more about then from their website at cloverdalerodeo.com. While I usually attend as a member of the general public, this weekend was my introduction to the four day marathon endured by those working this event as my wife Sheryl and I decided to take our Surrey Shirts merchandise to the fair.

One of the more interesting aspects of the fair had to be parking on the Fraser Downs racetrack. This 5/8 mile oval of hard packed wide banked gravel seemed rather inviting as I drove my buddy's Dodge hemi-powered truck onto the track. I must admit I didn't see a speed sign and probably went a little faster than the horses in the harness races that are regularly held there. It kind of reminded me of being on the old Langley Speedway in south Langley where my family regularly attended stock car races until its closing in 1984 when it became part of Campbell Valley Park. I know that nearby residents of Cloverdale would probably object but all I could think of while driving or walking on the track that it would be a fantastic place for spring car dirt track racing simply by building walled barriers to contain the cars. If you have ever been down to the Skagit Speedway in Burlington Washington to check out the sprint car racing that goes on there, you would understand exactly what I mean. The reality is that the only car racing that will likely ever happen at the Fraser Downs track will be those vendors and exhibitors heading for a good parking spot early in the morning during the fair.

The Cloverdale Fairgrounds are quite a different place when you take away the throngs of people who are in attendance during the open hours. It's a quiet world without bells, flashing lights, strange smells and loud voices when it is only the carneys from West Coast Amusement, Cloverdale Rodeo staff, security guards and the folks running concessions and retail businesses. We busied ourselves to get our canopy assembled in its assigned spot and the merchandise properly displayed and arranged. Our neighbours were the fine people from Costco selling their memberships and giving out free swag and an enterprising trio of energetic young people from Calgary selling "Artic Ice" cooling towels that performed so well they seemed to defy the laws of physics. For four days we worked up to fourteen hours in a row, meeting tens of thousands of people and selling hundreds of our pro-Surrey shirts. Needless to say, during that time there were plenty of interesting experiences and personalities who passed by our Surrey Shirts booth.

Surrey may have half a million people but it's a rather small world after all, as the song goes. Our first political personality to grace our humble store was none other than Mayor Dianne Watts herself who dropped by on the way to the first rodeo events. Unfortunately I missed her as I was busy handing out stickers to the hundreds of young people skateboarding and bike riding at the brand new covered Cloverdale Youth Park on the northeast corner of 62 Ave. and Hwy. 15 that opened last week. She was very pleasant and relaxed, even when confronted with our two more controversial designs focusing on Surrey's gun and gang violence problem. Marvelous Marvin Hunt, the man who wears two hats in Surrey as both a city councilor and MLA for South-Surrey/Panorama paid a visit to chat about the rodeo, the direction of Surrey and negotiating the complexities of Provincial politics in Victoria. Newly and truly independent Surrey councilor and mayoralty hopeful Barinder Rasode dropped by with her wonderful kids in tow, giving her support for our efforts to improve Surrey pride and tackle our crime problem. Former Surrey-Cloverdale MLA and previous White Rock councilor Ken Jones stopped by to say hello on several occasions, enjoying his first time at the fair as a visitor after volunteering at the rodeo for 22 years. Current Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Stephanie Cadieux and Surrey-Tynehead MLA David Hayer finished off the who's-who of Surrey's political finest that came by our prime concourse vantage spot.

On a different note, there were also other people we met linked to the darker side of Surrey. On Saturday night a very large man came to our tent inquiring about a 3X hoodie, specifically our notorious "Better Safe Than Surrey" design. He put the apparel on, checked it for fit and then asked for a mirror. Seeing himself, he suddenly looked shaken and explained how it just dawned on him it was the fifth anniversary of when he had been shot and wounded at the Legacy Showroom in Cloverdale. I knew about this unsolved gang-land shooting where Chris Whitemee, a 34 year-old father of two was gunned down as an innocent bystander in the strip bar bathroom on May 16, 2009. We agreed that it would be bad karma for someone who had been shot in Surrey to be wearing a Surrey Shirt with bullet holes on it. By strange coincidence I met another gentleman the next day working at the Sturgis North Tour Bus who when hearing this story informed me that he had been working as a doorman at the same bar on the night of the shooting and that his brother had been washing his hands in the bathroom when the other men were hit by bullets. Pushing the realm of possibility even further, one of the RCMP officers who bought a t-shirt from us ("Surreyman" in case you were wondering) was also at the bar on the night of this chaotic shooting and talked about the long-lasting emotional pain inflicted on everyone involved.

We had plenty of interaction with Surrey RCMP officers during the course of the weekend because of our location directly across from the Longhorn Saloon. The paddy wagon featured a visual of the inside of the drunk tank and the caption "Drink & Drive and You Could Spent the Night Here" showed up every afternoon at four p.m., the same time that the doors opened. With booze flowing freely, there were plenty of altercations with a parade of young men being escorted from the premises by security of cops and placed into the van being used as a portable drunk tank. In all my years of attending the Cloverdale Rodeo & Fair, I've never stepped foot in the Longhorn, avoiding the crowds, long line ups and reputation that it has gained. For many others the Longhorn is as much a part of the rodeo as bull riding, bucking broncos, lemon heaven and those little donuts. My nephew who was recently wrote about who was stabbed at a Newton house party attended the Longhorn this weekend to celebrate his 19th birthday with his Dad, Step-Mom and other family members and friends. Imagine his surprise when standing at the bar he was approached by a former acquaintance from his old neighbourhood of Newton who told him that he knew who'd stabbed him, giving the perpetrators name. Needless to say, this information plus other interesting details have been passed on to the Surrey RCMP Serious Crimes Unit and hopefully it will help them find the person responsible and to lay charges.

 

There were plenty of other notable folks that helped make the weekend fly by including the three young ladies from Surrey, England that we sold our "Surrey Girl – Damn Proud Of It" shirts to, giving them our "Surrey" personalized BC license plate bumper stickers to take back home. The wonderful couple from Naples Florida who explained they were stopping over in Vancouver to visit their daughter before continuing off to Fiji for two weeks in a nude full ship charter with cruisenude.com certainly made me smile. More than anything it was the constant parade of regular folks proud to be living in Surrey and thrilled that we were giving them the opportunity to wear apparel with the Surrey name prominently displayed on them that I will always remember. We even had four people show off their rather large Surrey tattoos on their chest, back, arm and neck. Besides gaining an appreciation for the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at the Cloverdale Rodeo, I realized that even with half-a-million people and a large land base that Surrey really isn't that big.

After all, the place you call home never really is.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

May 12 2014


Watt Really Happened With The Mayor's Car Crash?

If ever there was an anti-climatic ending to a story, the out-of-court settlement reached between the Watt's and Shawnene Redekopp over their late night car crash in south Surrey on April 23, 2010 certainly takes the cake. This civil case has been delayed time and time again and was finally going to go to court on June 17 of this year. It was hoped that we would get answers to many of the questions revolving around who was ultimately responsible for this serious accident that hurt both Dianne and her husband Brian, while critically injuring Shawnene. Instead the Indo-Canadian newspaper The Voice (voiceonline.com) broke the story that this case had been settled by the parties involved, with non-disclosure agreements assuring that any skeletons in the closest stay behind closed doors.

What is known is that around 11 pm on a rainy Friday night, the Mayor's Cadillac Escalade was heading east on 24 Ave. after the Watt's left a dinner party at palatial mansion in Ocean Park. At the 24 Ave. and 128 St. intersection, the Escalade t-boned a dark Chrysler 300 sedan driven by Shawnene Redekopp, hitting it hard on the driver's side and sending it into a light standard at the corner of Crescent Park Elementary. The Watt's Cadillac spun over 180 degrees on the wet streets with heavy front end damage. The force of the impact fired the many airbags including the two side curtain air bags on the Chrysler 300 that has a 5-star side impact safety rating. The tow trucks were probably not yet at the accident scene when questions about this crash started to be raised.

When the media got wind that Dianne Watts had been involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, the Surrey RCMP released that the Mayor has been in a crash and that "alcohol was not involved." Interestingly, the police would not tell reporters the location of the accident scene other than to notify them it was in south Surrey. The light at 24 Ave. is a demand light that is normally green for traffic on 128 St., meaning that drivers on 24 Ave. have to stop to activate the signal. Given the damage to the vehicles involved, it appears that the Watt's Cadillac entered the intersection going at least the posted speed limit. Another odd circumstance was the RCMP apparently reporting to media scribes that the Watt's vehicle had been t-boned in the crash, where the opposite was true. This mistruth was published by various media sources and with the exception of the Province newspaper never corrected. I should point out that from personal experience I know that the vehicle doing the broad siding has nothing to do with who has the green light. It is a simple result of who is unlucky enough to get into the intersection first.

After a lengthy investigation by the RCMP where an apparent witness was eventually found, the cops wrote a ticket against Shawnene Redekopp for running a red light and being responsible for the crash. Once she had recovered from her many serious injuries, Mrs. Redekopp filed suit against the Watts and their leasing company, claiming that it was the Cadillac that had run the normally red light on 24 Ave. Should you care to read the "statement of claims" and "statement of defence" filed in this case, local south Surrey blogger and 24 Hours columnist Laila Yuile has both posted on her website (lailayuile.com) at the following link:

http://lailayuile.com/2011/07/26/surrey-mayor-dianne-watts-named-as-defendant-in-civil-suit-relating-to-2010-car-accident/

They make for some rather interesting reading with a list of Mrs. Redekopp's 24 listed injuries and accusations that Mayor Watts was driving without due care, ran the red light, was speeding, plus driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs or fatigue. Watts counter claim basically stated the opposite, making this a she said/she said court battle.

Now that this case has been settled out of the public's eye, it is likely we will never know the full details and whose version of events was actually truthful. For an official in Watts position and with the Mayor's Office spokesperson originally stating that Dianne was at the party on official Surrey business, the people of Surrey require an explanation. This car crash created serious public interest with many explanations, accusations and conspiracy theories being posted on social media. A friend of mine even had a supposed eye witness to the crash with details that I have to withhold because there is no way for me to verify them. If Dianne Watts wants to represent south Surrey in Ottawa as has been rumored, the residents of the Semi-Pen deserve to know what they are voting for. If the Mayor's version of events is true then we would like to know that is the case.

For me, it is not Mayor Watts that I am really worried about because there is a much more serious problem to consider. If Shawnene Redekopp's version of events is true, then it means that the Surrey RCMP botched the accident investigation and ticketed the wrong person, victimizing the lady with the lacerated spleen, damaged pancreas, punctured lung, broken collar bone and a host of other serious injuries. I'd like to know if either party was tested for alcohol, considering Mrs. Redekopp informed me she had been accused of drinking at the crash scene and offered to give a blood sample at the hospital. You have to wonder if being the chair of the Police Committee, the person who helped bring the E Division headquarters to Tall Timbers and the one who voted to give the RCMP a new 20-year contract in Surrey bought Mayor Watts a favor from officers attending the accident scene. If this is the case, and I certainly hope that it's not, then corruption in the force is certainly alive and well here.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

May 05, 2014

"Letter" Know The Truth

 

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Lyrics to Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi"

I must admit that I was surprised when I finally received a copy of the letter that the City of White Rock sent to federal Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt earlier this month. It itemized many of the concerns that I have had for years with the BNSF Railway, the slide prone Ocean Park bluff and the shipment of dangerous goods through this community along an ecologically sensitive corridor. This correspondence touched on the new shipment of unit trains of explosive Bakken crude oil through this region and the ground vibrations caused by long heavy coal trains. The main casual factor listed as contributing to their concerns was the steep and unstable hillside between White Rock and Crescent Beach adjacent to the BNSF tracks and its long history of mudslides and derailments. The letter was late in showing up at the desk of editor Dave Chesney as the White Rock Sun was left off the CC list that included the Vancouver Sun and Province plus the two local community newspapers. This is not the first time that City Hall has purposely left us out of the loop and if this type of selective media manipulation disturbs you, please feel free to let Mayor Baldwin and WR Council know.

While it was refreshing to know that City Hall is obviously aware of the dangers from the BNSF tracks, if the Honorable Mrs. Raitt knew what was going on at the Hump hillside between east and west beach recently, she wouldn't line the bottom of a bird cage with that letter from Mayor and council. The reason is that you can't rail on about how you are afraid of slope stability above the tracks and then not only allow but this time actually pay to clear-cut more of this hillside. The Hump was a diverse forested woodland only a few years back before first 40 and then a further 36 trees that had been marked for preservation were cut down by the BNSF. Now the City of White Rock literally mows down more of the bush and then this week hires loggers (not arborists in my books) to reduce 12 trees including Canada's Big Leaf maple to cordwood. At least this time after trying to justify the need for this work to "check for slope stability" (what a crock) they finally admitted it was to improve the views of wealthy Marine Drive residents. This is beyond hypocrisy, stupidity, or rational thought, leaving me wondering if the cutting down of trees to improve views and property values resulting in higher taxation is official White Rock policy. Could it be that the plan for a multi-level parking lot built into the Hump hill might possibly be resurrected in the near future?

What is particularly concerning with City Hall's behavior is that in 2007 after a series of mudslides onto the BNSF tracks, Transport Canada reviewed slope stability on the Ocean Park bluffs and identified three main causes of slides. These were hill-top residents draining water onto the slope, the presence of antiquated septic and drain fields plus the cutting of trees by homeowners for views. While the Hump is not the OP bluff, it shares the same geological formation and steepness, plus a history of landslides. A photo book of early White Rock sitting on the front desk at City hall shows the Hump after trees were cut down in the early 1900's with a 150 m. wide lateral slump slide just east of the pier plus several other vertical slides reaching from Marine Drive to the tracks. The sidewalk safety railings on Marine Drive had to be replaced several years ago because they were leaning towards the beach due to soil creep. There are ground motion sensors embedded in the roadway at the Hump and a section of asphalt caved in to the centerline in the early 1960's. Even with all of this evidence of the risks and a letter to the Minister of Transportation, the fools still hack and slash at the remaining trees on the Hump, ignoring the fact there is no landslide detector fence at the bottom of it, unlike most of the Ocean Park bluff.

I was coming home from Chilliwack Sunday night and drove into flooding on 16th Ave. in Hazelmere that had caused a couple of cars to leave the road. Police arrived on scene and eventually blockaded several portions of the road that had turned into rivers up to a foot deep. After several detours I finally made it home to learn from weather reports that a storm had stalled over the Rock, dumping rain unofficially measured at 8 cm in only five hours. I also heard that there was flooding at West Beach along Marine Drive which is no surprise considering it has happened at that spot before. It is this type of rainfall event that often results in mudslides onto the tracks here, with 5 cm. of precipitation in 12 hours usually being the tipping point for landslides. We will have to see on Monday morning if there was any slide activity in this region, either from the Ocean Park bluff or the Hump. Guaranteed that if White Rock Council continues to allow the clearing of trees from the Hump, as the roots rot there will likely be serious slope stability issues. Why Transport Canada does nothing to stop the tree felling on the Hump is a mystery but I will mention it to Mrs. Raitt when I contact her regarding the continued clear-cutting for views above our tracks where dangerous goods routinely roll by on the train tracks.

The lovely "Hump" should be renamed "Eagle Hill" and the forest there given the same protected status as the ravine lands in White Rock stopping all development and tree clearing. Several Douglas firs should be planted on the hillside not only for stability but to eventually serve as perching or nesting trees for eagles in the future, especially after so many stately evergreens have recently been chopped down and bald eagles forced to eat out of the dump at Burns Bog. It would seem that the only way for this to happen is to give the axe to the clear-cut council controlling White Rock and put some of these dinosaurs out to pasture in November. If not, the only tall thing left standing in White Rock will be concrete towers and the only nature to be found will be at the naturist beach. Take a walk to the end of the pier, turn around and look at what White Rock is quickly becoming. The two-tier tree policy and monster house construction is ensuring that the city is as hard and barren as the giant granite boulder on the beach that it's named after.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 28, 2014


Every Family's Worst Nightmare

I usually have an assortment of topics to write my weekly TNT column on and had a dandy concerning White Rock and their friendly neighbourhood railway before life threw a wrench onto the tracks and derailed my story. This weekend's plans and lists of chores were all tossed into the shredder when the phone rang and woke us from a deep slumber in the darkness at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning. The call was from my sister-in-law, phoning from the Emergency Department of the Royal Columbian Hospital after a ride there in a RCMP cruiser to let us know that our nephew had been seriously hurt. So began the weekend from hell that should serve as a warning to anyone living in Surrey who thinks that violence here happens only to other people.

My eighteen year-old nephew is a clean-cut regular guy who lives a quiet routine life and is apprenticing as a commercial plumber. A couple of his buddies from work invited him to a house party in Newton on Friday night with other young adults and things got out of control after midnight. He made the mistake of trying to be his usual helpful self by stepping in to stop a fight. For his small act of courage he was stabbed with a knife deep into the chest and abdomen. Fearing for his life, he ran for the door and as he grabbed his shoes was stabbed another seven times in the back and chased into the yard by four Caucasian men. There he was punched, beaten, kicked in the head while on the ground and robbed of his wallet and cell phone. He managed to get away from his attackers, collapsing into a ditch a couple of blocks away from the party. Fortunately, passersby heard his weak calls for help as he lay bleeding and phoned 911 summoning the police and ambulance.

We went to the hospital and sat with his Mom and Dad (who was the Best Man at my wedding) plus other family members while waiting for news from the surgeons who were working to repair the many stab wounds and a serious internal injury. I am happy to report that he'll likely make a full recovery from his injuries but I'm sure that the psychological trauma of being hunted by a pack of wild animals and left for dead will leave scars in his psyche larger than the ones on his skin. It turns out that Global TV had footage of the scene when he was first discovered in Newton and the Surrey RCMP then questioning people at the house party. On Saturday afternoon a reporter and TV crew dropped by his Dad's house to question him on what had happened to his son. I came by to give my support and because of my "Rootin', Tootin', Newton" t-shirt was invited to say a few words on my injured cousin's behalf. When the TV crew was done there, we then drove to the party house at 6166 133 St. where I confronted and questioned the young man who had hosted this bloody debacle, trying to get information about my cousin's attackers. You can watch the show on the Global TV website at the following link: http://globalnews.ca/video/1293864/surrey-teen-stabbed-9-times

Knowing about the code of silence in Surrey, people not wanting to "rat" out criminal scumbags, or get involved because of fear or lack of compassion, we put together some rather seriously worded posters reading "WANTED FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER." These contain details of the vicious attack, using derogatory terms like "white-trash, cowards and goofs" to describe the assailants. There is also a large "$ REWARD $" printed in red to bring attention to the pay day available to anyone wanting to come forward with information about the knifing. These rather nasty looking posters have been put up around Newton and we are hoping that they will get people talking about this latest violent assault in Surrey that was witnessed by a house full of people. Already Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are buzzing about this wild party, the "Wanted" posters and talk about how the perpetrators need to be identified to the police.

The Surrey RCMP Serious Crime Unit is investigating this violent assault and we have been informed they are working on a number of promising leads. Hopefully the "Wanted" poster campaign loosens a few more tongues and people can help the police to make some timely arrests in this case. Anyone with information about our nephew's stabbing can simply phone the Surrey RCMP non-emergency reporting line at 604-599-0502 with their details for the case file number 2014-55989. For those who wish to remain anonymous, they can contact Crimestoppers, either online at solvecrime.ca or by phone at 1-800-222-8477. The bonus with Crimestoppers is that if and when these four thugs are arrested, tried and convicted for this senseless crime, the tipsters will then receive a monetary reward for helping to make the streets of Surrey safer.

I don't want to use my nephew's unfortunate experience to score political points but I must bring up Mayor Dianne Watt's comments in the Province newspaper on Sunday regarding her leaving office at the end of this term, which I read while sitting in the hospital. The question and answer section of this front page article went like this:
Q. "Public Safety has long been an issue in Surrey. Do you think Surrey is a safer place than when you became mayor? Has it shed its bad rep?"
A. "You know what? I do. I fully understand the high-profile incidents that have occurred and they're tragic, there's no doubt about that. But when you look at the community, the crime rates have come down."


This simple statement shows just how out of touch Mayor Watts is with the "Real Surrey." Instead she promotes the "Surreal Surrey" that the developers, spin doctors, corporate paid media and RCMP brass have all colluded to paint. The real Surrey, the scary Surrey, the sick Surrey, the dangerous Surrey is the one where one's life is constantly threatened with a record 25 murders here last year and the title of Canada's Murder Capital for 2013. It is the same Surrey where you don't want to go out at night, have to walk in groups for safety, stay away from dark unlit areas and carry weapons in case you're attacked.

If you think this kind of violence is random in Surrey you should know this is not the first time my nephew has been assaulted in the city where "The Future Lives Here." He made headlines almost a year ago on May 4th when himself and two friends walking down Crescent Road from the beach were swarmed and robbed of their wallets and cell phones by a larger group of youths armed with pepper spray and a machete. RCMP spokesperson Bert Paquet had this to say about the incident: "These three did nothing wrong – they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time" (translation: Surrey at night). From now on I expect my cousin will be spending his leisure time at his new home in Langley wearing his "Better Safe Than Surrey" t-shirt and staying the hell away from here until public safety improves.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 21, 2014

TNT Triple Play

Most people got to relax on the Easter long weekend but I found myself working three times as hard as normal with a trifecta of titillating subjects for your reading pleasure. Just like spring training in baseball, three strikes and you're out.

1. Hump & Grind

Hump: definition - a rounded protuberance such as a mound, hummock or mountain range
slang - the act or an imitation of having sexual intercourse

White Rock City Hall was up to its same old tricks last week with a Gradall excavation machine sporting a flail mower attachment grinding vegetation to a pulp on the Hump in the third installment of so-called "vegetation control" on the forested hillside between east and west beach. In the first instance which saw Dave Chesney doing his best impression of Tarzan five years ago to stop the unauthorized clear-cutting, Marine Drive residents paid the BNSF to reduce the scrub and invasive species where the railway promised "not a single tree will be removed." The end result was 40 trees cut down with myself collecting a one-tonne truck full of cordwood and taking it to the BNSF offices in New Westminster under the bright glare of TV camera lights. In the second phase of this clear-cut operation a year later, the 36 trees previously marked for preservation were then chopped down, affording the Top of the Rock development and others a 180 degree view of the water minus the pesky trees growing on an old 150 m. wide lateral slump landslide site just east of the pier. Scroll down into the TNT archives to the March 8, 2010 (Gone But Not Forgotten), Nov. 30 2009 (Stopping the BNSF in Their Tracks), Oct. 19, 2009 (Clear-Cut Case of Negligence) and Sept. 21, 2009 (Stumps on the Hump) for a historic overview of this ever bizarre situation in the Rock.

In the latest act of desecration, White Rock actually paid for the vegetation control, hiring a Gradall machine with railroad wheels underneath and a flail mower at the end of the boom arm to brush cut all of the plants near the sidewalk. This work included using the mower attachment to hack away at branches on the mature trees leaving many shattered ends that are now an eyesore and vector for disease, insects and rot. To make this even more idiotic, they had crews take gas-powered chop saws to the new safety railing, hacking it into pieces to allow the machine to reach further onto the Hump so they could check for slope stability without getting scratched by black berries. The old railing previously replaced as it was leaning towards the beach at angles of 15-25 degrees downhill from vertical because of soil creep. To their credit, at least this time White Rock actually came out and said that the other reason for this work was view improvement for residents along Marine Drive. Nice to see that the city is spending tax dollars to raise the property values of the rich folks on Marine for whom the need for a 12 month unobstructed view is more important than slope stability or railway safety on the BNSF tracks below. When the work is completed I will be filing an FOI to find out the total cost of this lunacy and will share the results here. A copy of the email I sent to Mayor Baldwin and company is posted on the letters page of the White Rock Sun should you care to read it to discover why the name "Hump" perfectly fits this hillside (see slang explanation above for a clue).

 

2. Defection From Surrey's Worst

Cracks are beginning to show in the highly polished teflon exterior of Surry's ruling elite (aka Surrey First) with councillor Barinder Rasode making the first high profile defection from Mayor Watt's hand-picked party laughingly refered to as a "coalition of independents." After blowing an estimated $150 million hole in the budget to build the new Surrey City Hall in Central City, or as I like to call it "downtown Whalley", Dianne didn't have enough money in the bank to pay for more cops on the streets as the bloody body count rose throughout last year to a record level, giving Surrey a black eye and even worse name from coast-to-coast. As chair of the police committee, Barinder had plenty of questions and ideas on how to deal with the increased violence tied directly to gangs and the failed war-on-drugs, especially after the bludgeoning death of much more than hockey mom Julie Paskall in Newton that is still unsolved. Watt's predictable control freak response was to publically dump Rasode from her position, basically ostracizing her from the rest of the Surrey Firsters, who with the exception of veteran councilor Judy Villeneuve, follow the Mayor obediently around City Hall somewhere between trained barking seals and Rev. Jim Jones People's Temple cult members in Jonestown, Guyana.

Councilor Rasode now sits as a truly independent councilor in Surrey, officially starting what is known in media circles as "silly season" or the approximately six months leading up to the next civic election. With Barinder exiting stage left and marvelous Marvin Hunt stepping up to the ledge in Victoria to rep Panorama/south Surrey, there are now two gaping holes in the Surrey First slate. Left to be seen is if Queen Dianne will jump ship and accept the offer of a federal riding in south Surrey/White Rock with Harper's Conservatives now that lame duck MP Russ Hiebert has secured his gold-plated pension. Adding to the fur-flying free-for-all is word that former Mayor "Cowboy"Doug McCallum (who ironically threw Watts off the police commitee before losing to her nine years ago) may toss his 10 gallon Stetson hat into the ring. It is rather sad that while Rasode and several other councilors have their eyes on the mayor's throne, none have had the chutzpa to say they will run against Watts, waiting for her to make up her mind and step aside. With Dianne earlier stating that the Mayor's term should be limited to three terms (that she has now served) and with Surrey bearing the shameful title of "Canada's Murder Capital for 2013", how much more ammunition do you need? Maybe I should take her on wearing my "Better Safe Than Surrey" or "The Future Dies Here" apparel from Surrey Shirts as I obviously have a much better idea of the serious public safety shortcomings facing this community than someone now sitting in a marble and ivory tower looking down at the peasants. Better yet, maybe Dianne will ask me to join the Surrey First cult with the hopes of shutting me up. Mmm..., pass the purple Kool-aid please.

3. White Rock Wailing Wall

In an act of utter desecration, agents from Colliers International decided it would be good advertising to drill six holes into the concrete wall of Wyland's whaling wall at the corner of Johnston Rd. and Russel Ave. and screw up (literally) one of their coreplast real estate signs to the mural directly in front of the two grey whale parents and their young calf. The mural was originally painted in 1984 as a gift to the city of White Rock from Californian marine artist Robert Wyland and Paul Watson's Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Cloverdale Paint donated $2,000 in materials and the Ocean Beach Hotel provided accommodation for this budding artist who went on to become world-renown for his murals and the foundation that bears his name (wylandfoundation.org). The White Rock Whaling Wall was the fourth painting of a hundred done beginning in 1981 and ending in 2008 in Bejing for the start of the summer Olympics. The completed "Wyland Walls" campaign that was done to convey the urgency of marine conservation issues to the masses is one of the largest art-in-public-places projects in history, spanning five continents, 13 countries, and 79 cities around the world. The White Rock Whaling Wall is now the oldest of Wyland's life-sized murals still in existence at its original outdoor location, with seven of the original ten moved indoors, covered up or "extinct."

It's not like the folks at Colliers International didn't know the value of the 70' wide by 30' tall "The Gray Whale Family" mural to the people in White Rock as the listing feature reads, "The 'Whalling Wall' building is an iconic landmark and a staple in the community." Yeah, "staple", you really can't make this stuff up. There is a small landscaped bed directly under the large mural that would have easily accommodated a couple of posts capable of holding this sign while still giving it maximum street exposure. Instead, it looks as if the whales are about to choke on a piece of plastic flotsam drifting in the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Gyre. If Colliers wanted to generate interest in the office space for lease in the HSBC building they sure got it but in an extremely negative way. They might as well have stapled a "For Sale" sign to Leonardo da Vinci's painting of Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre or drilled and bolted a "Censored" sign over Michelangelo's David sculpture's hard as stone nether regions (that really is The Naked Truth). Word from editor Mr. Chesney is that the agent responsible for this listing is aware of the furor that has erupted from the good citizens of White Rock over the offending sign and will take steps to remedy the situation after the Easter weekend. The Wyland Foundation has also been alerted to the damage and we'll have to wait and see if Colliers will pay for professional repairs likely needed to White Rock's most cherished piece of artwork to make it hole..., I mean "whole" again.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

April 14, 2014


Alarming Times, Alarming Fines in Surrey

 

The people who live around my house must be wondering just what the hell is going on with their flamboyant neighbour and why emergency services personnel often drop by with lights a flashing. Three times over the past couple of years the firemen from Hall 12 have been summoned to the house by 911 calls over a kitchen fire, a toxic plastic smell traced to burning garbage and a defective fireplace that pumped smoke into the house instead of the chimney. As if this were not enough, the RCMP has been on scene several times for vandalism, auto theft and an assault (we live in Surrey after all). At least in these cases we had called them for help, rather than them show up uninvited or with warrant in hand. Unfortunately we have since had a visit by the RCMP concerning an incident that involved alarm tampering, alcohol abuse, public nudity and voyeurism.

While this sounds salacious and titillating, in fact it was a scene right out of the keystone cops. When our house alarm system was installed, the so-called technician managed to mount one of the door sensors backwards and with it not functioning properly, moved the unit closer to register the magnet attached to the door. Unfortunately this meant that if the door was slammed shut or blown closed by the wind, the alarm module was impacted, eventually causing it to become cracked and fall to the floor. When this happened our alarm monitoring company phoned the house to say they had received a tampering alert (even though the alarm was off and people were at home). We informed them about the problematic unit and ordered a new one online that I planned on installing myself to save the hefty service call. It turns out that I should have shelled out the $125 as it would have saved me a lot of trouble, headache and embarrassment (pronounced "em-bare-ass-meant").

So there I am with my lovely wife Sheryl late in the evening on a mid-week night, getting ready for a quick soak in our hot tub before bed. We go into the back yard closing the kitchen door behind us, not knowing that it registers yet another tampering report. As we quietly relax in the tub sharing a drink, the alarm company frantically phoned our house, both cell phones and a relative trying to contact us. Not being in the habit of bringing phones into the tub, we miss the calls which then results in the cops being dispatched. We were just about to get out of the steamy water when suddenly three dark figures carrying very bright flashlights walked into the yard and approached the gazebo. I see these strangers and in my most macho kick-your-ass voice bellowed out, "Who goes there", spilling my drink in the process. The answer quickly came back, "Surrey RCMP, is that the Pitcairns?" We told them yes and warned them that we would be right out after putting some clothes on. We quickly figured it was the damaged sensor and informed the officers that we would disable that zone until the new unit that we had already ordered was installed.

We thought this rather hilarious incident would be the end of our problems until we received a letter from the City of Surrey informing us that we had run afoul of the "Surrey Security and Fire Alarm By-Law, 1997, No. 13168." Without boring you with the dry details, you will be charged for each and every false alarm that results in either the police or fire service being dispatched to your home or business. This includes alarm testing, mechanical failure, faulty equipment, user error, atmospheric conditions, excessive vibrations and power failures. Needless to say, I felt that being held responsible for a false alarm that occurred when I was home, the alarm system not being activated and a signal sent by an improperly installed module did not sit very well with me, let along the $89 fine ($114 if not received within 14 days). I appealed this fine, sending pictures of my new door module, the proper installation done by a trained professional (me in this case) and the copy of the service contract of our new monitoring company that does not call the police for tamper alarms. I learned that a friend of mine had appealed an almost identical false alarm situation and lost, yet for reasons unknown we were let off the hook. Probably this had something to do with me promising to write a TNT column on the subject at a later date.

With the high rates of B&E and thefts in Surrey, you would think that City Hall would be encouraging residents and businesses to use alarm systems to protect their property and valuables. While I realize that false alarms are a nuisance, fines should not be levied on the first offence. How can citizens be held responsible for the failure of an electronic gadget that is beyond their control? My parents in Chilliwack had their transformer hit by a bolt of lightning triggering an alarm which in Surrey would result in a fine for what many would consider an act of God. This by-law makes as much sense as having the RCMP ticketing drivers whose vehicles break down on the side of the road. For reoccurring false alarms then fines should be in order but for first time offences, I don't understand how they can hold people accountable for circumstances totally beyond their control. With the new alarm module and reprogramming to switch alarm companies, I spent around $150 to fix the problem which is maybe why my appeal of the fine was ultimately successful.

Hopefully the City of Surrey will review this unjust bylaw that could be looked at by those with a jaundiced eye as a blatant tax grab. Properties with multiple false alarms should be the ones targeted with fines, not those who have had a first-time false alarm triggered for reasons not relating to criminal activity or fire. If you find yourself with an unwanted visit by either the Surrey Fire Service or RCMP because of a false alarm and receive a by-law fine from City Hall, appeal it using my successful bid quoting the invoice #055406. At the very least, take steps to correct the problem or replace faulty equipment and then ask for relief from these unjust fines that might make some people hesitant to have an alarm system installed in the first place.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 


April 7, 2014

Blooming Good Time to Join the Club

 

It looks like spring is definitely upon us, something we should all cherish knowing that there has been snow on the ground in Winnipeg for six months with still more in the forecast for today. Daffodils are out in force here, buds on the trees are breaking into flowers and grass is definitely on the rise with the sound of lawn mowers and the smell of freshly mowed grass permeating Semi-pen neighborhoods. My own garden is slowly coming into form with perennials bursting from the soil and several rhododendrons and camellias in showy full bloom. I may be pushing it but I even dragged my collection of palms out of their improvised greenhouse and took the winter coverings of towels, sheets and tarps off the banana plant groves. In no time attention will turn to the backyard vegetable patch, dahlia garden and tomato plants that will find a sheltered home in pots under the eaves of our upper deck. Local garden centres are getting noticeably busy especially on sunny days and the Ocean Park Potters store is definitely in the spirit with their road sign reading, "Spring is here, we're so excited we wet our plants!"

For those dedicated gardeners who can't get enough of horticulture, there are local clubs here specifically for those with a green thumb or at the very least dirty nails. Top of the list has to be the South Surrey Garden Club who are celebrating their 25 anniversary this year. While there used to be a three-year waiting list to join, the club now has around 350 members and is very active in the community. They hold monthly meetings on the fourth Wednesday of every month (except Aug. & Dec.) at St. Mark's Anglican Church at 12953 20 Ave., in south Surrey that include a guest speaker, gardening tips and expertise, plus show and tell. Also available is a Q & A table, plant sales and access to their club library with over 600 titles. Their program committee organizes club activities that include gardening workshops, tours of member's gardens, plus their annual plant sale in May the Saturday before Mother's Day and their summer vegetable and flower show. Membership also allows you to join their online discussion group and receive a bi-monthly newsletter.

A little smaller with only 65 active members, the White Rock & District Garden Club was formed shortly after WW2 in 1947 and still soldiers on today. They meet on the second Tuesday of every month (except in July & Aug. when field trips are scheduled) at the Cranley Hall at 2141 Cranley Dr. in Surrey. At each meeting they have a judged parlour show, a guest speaker and a instructional demonstration. Workshops are held throughout the year with their floral art group teaching beginners, they supply silk flower arrangements to local care homes at Christmas and they donate to charitable groups year round. While their spring flower show has already been held last month at the Semiahmoo Mall, you can attend their upcoming Spring Plant and Bake Sale being held on Sat., April 26 at the historic Ocean Park Community Hall, 1577 128 St. in south Surrey from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m.

Should you be looking for a gardening club that is "landed", look no further than the historic Darts Hill Garden Park (dartshill.ca), located at the NE corner of 16 Ave and 168 St. in south Surrey. Our own version of Van Dusen Garden in Vancouver, Darts Hill is the result of nearly 70 years of hard work and dedication guided by Francisca and Edwin Darts who took this south facing piece of the Hazelmere hillside and turned it into an award winning orchard and then a unique garden park. Bequeathed to the city of Surrey, it contains a large number of rare and unusual plants, many in a mature state. Darts Hill also includes one of the most diverse collection of tree species in BC with some being planted over 50 years ago. The park garden is open to the general public on four open house dates that include tours and plant sales, with the Saturday Stroll series being continued since introduced last year. Darts also holds special events such as the City's Sounds of Summer and private tours. You can join in the fun either as a member or a volunteer, giving yourself more opportunities to visit the gardens. They are always looking for people to help with special events, act as guides, help with propagation or even get their hands dirty with weeding. If you go, say hello to my sister Lee-Anne who assists with propagation to help create plants for the plant sales and to add to her own amazing garden at home in Langley.

All of these garden clubs and parks are members of a larger collective, the B.C. Council of Garden Clubs (bcgardenclubs.com) formed in 1943 that is the umbrella group for nearly 190 garden clubs across the province representing over 19,000 gardeners from children to seniors. Besides acting as a unifying force, the Council speaks with one voice on issues pertaining to gardening and horticulture in the province and to governments. Its website is where you can find links to the gardening clubs across the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island as far north as 100 Mile House. I should note for those from neighbouring communities reading this column that there are also gardening clubs in North Surrey, Delta and Langley. The BCCGC holds twice annual council meetings in spring and fall, has an elected executive board, issues The Bulletin newsletter six times a year, runs a scholarship trust fund for B.C. horticulture students and supports projects like "Green Your City." Showing their importance to the horticulture community, I was recently at Kwantlen College in Newton where scholarships from the BCCGC were awarded to deserving students.

Should you care to join any or all of these gardening organizations, here is their contact information:
South Surrey Garden Club - contact David Broomhead ( membership secretary), 604-533-1142 or email at davidbroomhead@shaw.ca
White Rock Garden Club - contact Eileen Davidson, 604-538-0496
Darts Hill Garden Park – contact the society at 604-501-5050 or email at lindasw@shaw.ca
BC Council of Garden Clubs – email at info@bcgardenclubs.com

Hopefully you will find that being a member of a garden club grows on you, helping to branch out and spread roots into the community.

Now its time for me to get back to my own garden of weedin'.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 31, 2014

Bum Rip Rap For BNSF

 

A member of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee tipped me off to problems on the BNSF line at the bottom of Sunshine Hills in Delta back in 2010 where the railway placed car loads of boulders as a rip-rap defense against flooding from Cougar Creek. While the work had been authorized by Transport Canada, it was not completed in the time frame allotted, utilized twice as much rock as was allowed and worst of all, covered up to a third of the width of the creek channel alongside of the train tracks. Imagine my surprise several years later when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced they had filed charges under the federal Fisheries Act against the BNSF for harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. This court case went through the usual chronic delays in the justice system and on March 7th, the BNSF plead guilty to the charge and were fined $75,000 which ironically must be paid by the date this column is posted in the White Rock Sun.

Now normally one would think that myself of all people would be applauding this verdict sending a message to U.S. billionaire Warren Buffet's railway that tampering with the environment will not be tolerated up here in Canada. Unfortunately, while the BNSF is held accountable for its limited damage to Cougar Creek that killed no actual fish, much more serious and long-term problems are allowed to continue regardless of their effect on the Chum and Coho salmon, Cut-throat trout and other aquatic life that lives in this stream. Growing up in North Delta, I spent plenty of my time exploring Cougar Creek and Burns Bog when Scottsdale Mall was still a wooded lot. The creek flowed steadily through most of the year with crystal clear water that certainly didn't kill me of any of my friends who regularly drank it during our many excursions. Now-a-days, I wouldn't let my dog drink from this stream because of the changes that I have witnessed happening in only forty years.

With never ending development in Delta and Surrey the hydrology of this waterway has altered remarkably with it now pulsating with heavy rains, much like what happens in a sewer pipe when you flush the toilet. The water quality has also gone down the drain, with the crystal clear waters of my youth being replaced by a grey silty flow. The culprit of course is the many parking lots and roadways upstream starting in Newton that divert water from where it would have previously infiltrated into the ground. Instead it is now funneled in into storm drains that greatly increase the flow rate of the stream during rainfall or snow melt followed by low water levels during summer dry spells. I have worked for over fifteen years at a development located next to Cougar Creek in Delta and have witnessed the steady degradation of this waterway and the ever increasing erosion of the riverbanks. About five years ago, the Corp. of Delta worked with the DFO to place rip-rap boulders in the stream bed to slow the forces of nature but it appears this has done little against the rushing waters that are now common. Add to this chemicals flowing from Sunshine Hills that have caused fish kills and a gasoline spill into the stream at Scott Road that I reported to the RAPP line several years ago and it is amazing that fish actually still spawn in what is now an urban stream.

Even the waterway at the bottom of North Delta next to the old Peat plant at 72 Ave and Westview Drive that was affected by the BNSF flood control measures is not what it appears. Cougar Creek originally entered Burns bog and flowed southwest eventually emptying into Boundary Bay. In the past century this original route was blocked first by the rail corridor, then the peat plant, a GVRD sewer line, Hwy. 91, and finally a second bigger sewer line. In the early 1970's, Cougar Creek and neighbouring Blake Creek were diverted into a man-made channel draining north into the Fraser River given the rather industrial title "Northeast Interceptor", also known as Davis Creek. The diversion of Cougar Creek coupled with the torrential flows coming from upland development in Delta and Surrey make the BNSF tracks susceptible to flooding and ballast rock fouling by sediments. When I visited Cougar Creek alongside the tracks it was not the ballast rock that caused me the greatest concern but the many stretches of the tracks where mud has been pushed up between the sleepers (wooden ties), likely by hydraulic pumping from the weight of the new coal trains. Flooded tracks during heavy rains was what caused the derailment of a CN coal train into Silver Creek in Burnaby last January that fouled Burnaby Lake with coal. Considering the risks of a derailment and subsequent damage to the environment that could happen at Cougar Creek, I think the addition of some rocks next to the tracks is minimal by comparison. With the Harper Conservative government's recent gutting of fish habitat protection, it is unlikely that the BNSF would now be charged for their attempts to protect the tracks against floodwaters which have been created by poor drainage planning in Delta and Surrey.

It is hypocritical to hold the BNSF accountable for damage to Cougar Creek while turning a blind eye to the waves of stormwater runoff originating from upstream developments in Delta and Surrey. The flooding of the tracks beside Westview drive should be addressed at its source by retaining or infiltrating stormwater runoff from parking lots and streets around the Scott Road corridor. Not only would this calm the fluctuating flow of Cougar Creek, it would also improve water quality by reducing sediments, salt and vehicle pollution coming from the large mall parking lots. The Cougar Creek Streamkeepers (vcn.bc.ca/cougarcr/index.html) have been doing their part to increase water infiltration by diverting drain water into raingardens beside parking lots and decommissioning drain pipes flowing directly into the creek. The $75,000 fine from the BNSF Railway is being placed into an environmental damages fund that Delta and Surrey can access to use for their projects. Now would be a good time for these cities to put up some money of their own and take the steps needed to address the ongoing and on-flowing problem of Cougar Creek flooding the BNSF tracks.

Naturally yours,
Don Pitcairn

 

 

March 24, 2014


Monstrous Behavior You Can Bank On

 

Coast Capital Savings has a long and successful history as a financial institution in Surrey, starting out as the Surrey Credit Union, then Surrey Metro Savings and finally Coast Capital Savings as it amalgamated with smaller credit unions across the Lower Mainland. As it grew the "Credit Union" words disappeared from the name in front of their buildings to the point where you now have to look carefully to even find a mention of its credit union affiliation. Along the way, it would appear that those running the credit union began to feel that they were controlling a bank, losing interest in the shareholders who are the backbone of the credit union philosophy. Last week I received my "A Monster Ask" package containing information about the vote for the 2014 Board of Directors election along with 2014 Special Resolutions. While normally voting for boards of directors and resolutions in financial institutions is as exciting as watching paint dry, in this case it is the proverbial David vs. Goliath battle, with leaders of the credit union in mortal combat with a group of members that are taking a stand against the way the "bank" is governed.

The Coast Capital Compensation Watch (CCCW) as it is known was formed in response to hefty pay increases given to the executive directors of the Coast Capital Savings Credit Union once they had assumed control of their own raises in 2007. This resulted in the total compensation to Coast Capital directors being double that of the much larger Vancity Credit Union directors by 2011. Last year the CCCW forced a vote on this issue and in the largest voter turnout in the history of Coast Capital Savings, nearly 80% of ballots cast were in favour of credit union members establishing the amounts that would be paid to the directors. Instead of this happening, a loophole allowed the Coast Capital board to reduce their pay by a small amount and form a Task Force to study the matter though they have yet to meet and have no power to set director pay. Because of this legal slight-of-hand and delay, outraged credit union members are now forcing yet another vote and are looking to make concrete changes in the way the credit union is governed. The four new resolutions include a 12-year director term limit, disclosure of pay for top three executives including the CEO, allowing director election campaigning and to set specific pay for directors of Coast Capital at current Vancity Credit Union pay levels.

This seems relatively straight forward until you start to discover the spin that Coast Capital board is putting on the information they are sending out to their members. While you would think that voting should be a truly democratic process especially for a Credit Union, this is far from what is happening. The Coast Capital Compensation Watch group are specifically mentioned and targeted under the title of "Our success is under threat", calling them a disruptive special interest group while ignoring the 79.7% of members who voted last year to end the practice of directors setting their own pay rates. The Coast Capital board even drafted four of their own special resolutions with the same headings as the four resolutions from CCCW, putting them ahead of the member resolutions that they are so afraid of. To top off this copy-cat tactic that appears carefully crafted to confuse voters, the directors even had the audacity to post recommendations in the pamphlets on how members should cast their ballots. Of course, they want members to vote for the Coast Capital resolutions maintaining the status quo, not those put forward by credit union members looking to take control of executive spending and the democratic process. To see the obvious institutional bias, read the following statement taken directly from the Coast Capital website: "Four Special Resolutions are from individuals who want to change how your credit union is run. The other four Special Resolutions are from Coast Capital and aim to retain the good governance, good service and innovative approach to banking that you love."

Besides the slanted literature accompanying the call for members to vote like trained seals, the process that the Coast Capital board calls "democratic" is anything but with director election rules set to control who gets elected. Rather than just list the candidates for election to the Board of Directors in alphabetical order, they actually "recommend" the candidates they want to see elected under the bold blue title, "BEST OVERALL FIT" and place them first on the list. As if this isn't enough of a disgrace to the electoral process, Coast Capital has effectively placed a gag order on candidates and basically eliminated any campaigning. Candidates may only speak to individual members either by person (no couples please) or telephone (no conference calls) and are banned from using social media (no Facebook or Twitter) to either announce or promote their candidacy. They have banned candidates from participating in interviews with the media in connection with the election plus placing advertisements or statements in newspapers, websites or other media. Candidates also cannot use the assistance of others including family members, third parties or members of the media to campaign on their behalf. Though hard to believe, the actual ballot shows the board recommended candidates and what resolutions members should vote for and against! This makes it a sham election worthy of a third-world fascist regime that even North Korea's Kim Jong-Il would be proud of.

If you are a member of Coast Capital Savings or know someone who uses this financial institution, I ask you to look into this bizarre so-called election and learn the truly disturbing facts for yourself. The Coast Capital Compensation Watch website can be found at coastcapitalcompensationwatch.ca while the Votermedia Democracy Blog has valuable information on this subject at the following link, http://vot