By A. Gortan, Citizen Journalist
Appreciation was bubbling over at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Center, during a reception recognizing volunteers for their dedication. Executive Director Angus Matthews opened the event by expressing his gratitude. “We can’t do it without you. Go read the guest book. There is not a day that goes by without comments that say, ‘amazing volunteer’, ‘so knowledgeable’ and ‘so friendly’. That is the soul of this place.”
Guest speaker and host of the CBC National Science Radio Program ‘Quirks & Quarks’, Bob McDonald, praised the center for the important role it plays in the lives of young people. “This is a fabulous, fabulous place. I believe and support places like this, because this is where I began. Science centers, large and small – they take people and make them aware in a way schools cannot do.”
Throughout the evening, Volunteer Coordinators Beth Watkins and Kendra Fowler, recognized the hours of service contributed by each volunteer “Oceaneer ”, by presenting them with certificates and commemorative pins.
Oceaneer Tina Kelly told the audience, “Most of us…we love the ocean. That is part of why I do this. So I can share my love of the ocean with everyone else.”
The celebration concluded with a festive, octopus adorned cake (courtesy of Thrifty Foods), in addition to several raffle items that were donated as gifts for the volunteers.
As the evening drew to a close, the crowd lingered amongst the tranquil sea life, which for some has become a second home. In the words of guest speaker Bob McDonald, “The beauty of volunteering, is you do this because you love it.”
By A. Gortan, Citizen Journalist
Two years after first considering the idea of videotaping council meetings, the cameras in Central Saanich are finally rolling.
The move followed a wave of controversy in 2011, when residents discovered that council was no longer recording their votes in the Minutes. The lack of record keeping became a significant issue during the last general election, resulting in promises from candidates to increase transparency.
Councillor Zeb King believes webcasting council meetings is the beginning of fulfilling this commitment. “Today’s Council needs to be commended for taking Central Saanich out of the dark ages and opening up the proceedings to the 21st century with webcasting.”
North Saanich was the first municipality in the CRD to webcast meetings and has offered this service for over two years. Sooke began webcasting last year and is presently the only District that webcasts meetings live, while they are in session.
Central Saanich is now the third municipality to webcast meetings and Colwood will begin in the coming weeks. The City of Victoria plans to start in September.
The addition of microphones has also benefited members of the audience who now say they can hear much better. In addition, a speaker has been installed in the lobby, for those rare occasions when attendance exceeds chamber capacity and people are standing outside the chamber doors.
Central Saanich Manager of Information Technology Tony Bousquet is “thrilled” with the new system. The move to webcast meetings has been an exciting development in his eight year career with the District. He believes the two year wait prior to implementing the technology, “actually helped us.” Bousquet explains that the last two years allowed Central Saanich to avoid mistakes and find the best system for their budget. “You’re dealing with the public and transparency – you want to get it right”,said Bousquet.
The recording system being used is developed by Granicus, which provides streaming for government agencies and is the same system used by North Saanich council. The cost to operate the system is about 10,000 per year, which Bousquet feels is money well spent. So far, there have been 83 public views in the last 30 days.
Central Saanich Councillor Carl Jensen is also pleased with the new technology. “I believe this is a great investment for the District, as it will bring Central Saanich Council meetings to its residents and businesses, wherever they can access the Internet.”
To view council meeting webcasts visit the Central Saanich Municipal Hall website.
By Ed Johnson, Citizen Journalist
On May 6th 2013, the swearing-in of Central Saanich’s newest municipal councillors will take place in the council chambers. Alicia Cormier and Ryan Windsor topped the polls in the recent by-election, winning their seats on council. An exclusive Saanich Voice Online video interview demonstrates the issues that are important to each candidate.
“Seventy to eighty percent of the people I spoke to wanted the same things as myself for Central Saanich – protect farmland and the rural environment and build a local economy”, said Cormier.
Ryan Windsor believes the expansion of the Urban Containment Boundary is another important issue. “We need to ask what is motivation behind the expansion of the Urban Containment Boundary. That question has not been answered and it’s a big question with me.”
A voter turnout of almost 3000 voters represented 20% of eligible voters in the district. First place Cormier tallied 872 votes in the preliminary election results, while Windsor was close behind with 859. Bob Thompson, a previous councillor in Central Saanich came in third, trailing Windsor by 32 votes.
Watch exclusive video interview with Alica Cormier and Ryan Windsor.
By J. Barlow, Citizen Journalist
What would you give for just one more day with someone you loved?
Did you both have a chance to say everything you wanted; to leave nothing undone? Sometimes death sneaks up and catches you unprepared; sometimes you see it coming a mile away, and you’re still not ready.
Stephen P. Roberts, North Saanich Gulf Islands Provincial Liberal candidate and member of the Vancouver Hospice Board of Directors fundraising committee, knows death is not a popular topic for conversation. Taxes; the environment; BC Ferries fares and salaries; people love to talk about those issues.
Conversations about death and dying are painful and uncomfortable; people would rather not think about it. They put it off, thinking, ‘There’ll be time for that later.’ Regrettably, for some people, “later” too often becomes “too late”.
For Stephen “later” came when his father was diagnosed with liver cancer four years ago. The family provided 24-hour in-home care as long as possible, taking turns staying up at night. “Everyone’s life was on hold. No one knew when the disease would take its toll. Providing round the clock care is exhausting and many people just can’t do those kinds of things for their loved ones,” says Stephen.
It was heartbreaking when his father inevitably went into the hospital. “Most people would prefer to be in our homes when we pass on,” Stephen observes, “but the reality is most of us will be in a hospital where people are busy and no one has time to be with you.” As for his father, “He spent his last two days in the hospital. They didn’t even have a room for him. He was in the hallway.”
When Stephen’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year later, things were very different. The frail 75 year old spent her last four days in Hospice, with a private room, a cot for sleepovers, a kitchen, and personal touches like a hand-crafted quilt on her bed. Even the family pet was welcome. And the nurses! “They were like guardian angels,” Stephen recalls.
Dave Traynor, Manager of Communications at Victoria Hospice, joins the conversation. “We see that every day. People come in and they’ve never been through anything like this and it becomes a very profound experience – I almost hate to say it’s positive and yet that’s how it ends up.”
As if the Roberts family had not endured enough, Stephen’s brother also passed away three years ago from a massive heart attack. Stephen reflects on his passing. “There was no warning… he went suddenly and I never got a chance to help him.”
Dave notes that this scenario occurs all too often. “… about 20% [of the people at Hospice] are people who experience sudden or unexpected death and come in and seek our resources.”
The privilege of sharing end-of-life moments is a gift. “The end of a good life is something to be embraced and celebrated,” Dave asserts. “We all come up against it at some point. People get a chance to shed all that stuff that gets built up in life. They get to clean up their own lives and make amends if that’s what they need to do… everyone is better off if they get a chance to do that.”
Stephen has a suggestion for how everyone can make a difference. “We as individuals can advocate for better end of life care. We can also do what we can ourselves to make the end-of-life experience better. Government can do better, but we can also take responsibility to do better ourselves because government can’t do everything. We can donate or volunteer in so many ways.”
Both Stephen and Dave urge families to have those critical conversations before it’s too late. It might make you squirm, but a candid conversation about after death can bring peace of mind on the worst day of your life. If you’re not sure how to begin, Hospice can help, with reading and support material to point you in the right direction. Visit their website. While you’re there, maybe you could make a donation – more than half of their budget depends on donor dollars.
Do it today – not later. You never know when “later” might become “too late”.
By J.Barlow, Citizen Journalist
The hall at St. Patrick’s Church on Haultain Ave was crowded on Friday the 19th of April with over 100 Toastmasters from all over Victoria and beyond. From Sooke to Sidney they gathered to hear Victoria’s six top public speakers vie for the honour of representing Victoria in the upcoming Toastmasters District 21 International Speech Contest.
To reach this point, all six contestants had to win a contest in their Club, followed by a second win when they competed against contestants from other clubs in their Area.
Representing the elite from 36 local Toastmasters Clubs were Steve Bertrand, David Best, [Central Saanich Councillor] Carl Jensen, Mike LaPlante, Shawn O’Hara, and Peter Scott.
Taking top honours was Carl Jensen, with Shawn O’Hara coming in second, and David Best claiming third place.
From here Carl advances to the District 21 International Speech Contest in Nanaimo on May 4 where he will compete against nine other contestants, representing 5350 members, from 285 clubs throughout British Columbia.
If Carl wins in Nanaimo with his speech entitled “Engagement 101”, the next stop for him will be the International World Championship of Public Speaking in Cincinnati, Ohio at the 2013 Toastmasters International Convention in August. And he’s got a pretty good chance – who would dare topple a fully kilted burly muscleman who throws around hammers and trees (well, actually, cabers) for fun?
Carl smiles modestly. “I was very happy to win – very honoured. I was up against a couple of very good speeches. I would also give credit to my fellow club members; they’ve listened to it a couple of times and still came up with feedback for me.”
Carl isn’t looking as far ahead as Cincinnati however. “I just take it one win at a time.” Nevertheless, “It would be fantastic to go to the World Championship.” If he does advance to the international level, he would be up against the world’s best public speakers with a brand spanking new speech in his back pocket.
“Not a problem,” laughs Carl. “That’s actually the easy part. It’s like giving blood – if I don’t set a date it’s very easy for other things to get in the way. By setting a date [to deliver a speech] it gives me a chance to get the creative juices flowing and come up with something that people will find interesting.”
This is not the first time Carl has represented the Victoria Area in a District Contest. A highly skilled public speaker, Carl placed third in the 2009 District 21 Humorous Speech Contest.
Carl recognizes that winning contests isn’t the point of being in Toastmasters. Nevertheless, there’s something about it that appeals to his competitive side.
For now, Carl is just focused on Nanaimo, polishing and tweaking his winning speech even more. “It’s the International. It’s supposed to be inspiring. You need to be a little bit over the top, a little outrageous. When you’re at bat you gotta swing for the fence. You’ll either strike out or hit a home run. I’ll be swinging for the fence. It’ll be the best that I’ve got.”
Of course, if Carl should win top honours at the International in August, he’ll have to hang up his microphone – no more competing through Toastmasters. “That’s okay,” says Carl. ”I can live with that. It’ll just be one more thing to cross off my bucket list. There are other ways to challenge myself.”
If you want to see Carl in action in Nanaimo a few tickets are still available. For information about Toastmasters or the contest, or to find a club near you, visit the District 21 website at www.d21toastmasters.org
And if you don’t make it to Nanaimo, you can see Carl at the Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival.
The nine day tartan extravaganza kicks off its 150th anniversary with the May 11 Tartan Parade in downtown Victoria. Events throughout the week lead up to the highlight, the games themselves and the Celtic festival paying homage to Scottish music, culture, and arts, May 18 and 19 at Topaz Park. Check it out. You’ll be in good company. His Royal Highness, Prince Andrew, The Duke of York will be in attendance as the Chief of The Games. Carl is “heavily” involved in the Heavy Events competition. Watch for him; he’ll be the guy in the kilt.
Well, one of them anyway.
Visit www.victoriahighlandgames.com for more information.