Stefano & Melissa Mosi return home to Saanich
by Michele Murphy
Mosi Bakery Café opened its doors to an eager line-up on a sunny morning in February and owners Stefano and Melissa Mosi couldn’t be more pleased. “We were busy all day,” says an excited Melissa. “Everyone was really receptive, we were pleasantly surprised by the warm reception.”
While the Mosis may have been surprised by the eagerness of their Prospect Lake neighbours, the young couple are hardly strangers to warm Saanich welcomes.
The Mosis are probably best known as the founders of La Collina , a popular Italian bakery, café and gelato outlet that they started in an unassuming building on Cedar Hill Road in 1997. La Collina had grown to three shops by the time the couple sold their share in 2005 and headed to Maui. There they opened the island’s first gelato shop, Ono’s. The Mosis have returned home now, and have just opened up another bakery in the old Prospect Lake General Store building at the corner of Spartan and West Saanich Rd. SVO caught up with Stefano on opening week to find out more about their new endeavour. Here’s what he told us:
What made you decide to come home?
Our family all live in Victoria and while we were living in Maui we adopted a baby girl which made travelling to see them very hard (Maui is a six-hour flight). Once our daughter got her Canadian citizenship we sold our gelato shop and moved back to Victoria to be closer to them. Also living in the States is a difficult transition from Canada in terms of health care and not being able to vote.
As soon as we moved home last May we started to search for our next business. We looked at lots of different areas but the West Saanich location came available in December and the owners of the 101-year-old building are family friends, Rick and Brenda Mitchelmore. It was good timing.
Why this location – and why do you expect to succeed in this location while others haven’t been quite so fortunate?
It’s true that past businesses have had trouble in this location, but we are providing a different service than those in the past. The West Saanich heritage building has been an integral part of the community at many different points in its history; from a post office, to Chinese corner store. It was always a meeting point for the community. Twelve hundred cars pass by here daily on their way to and from work servicing the Peninsula. As well, the number of cyclists on the Interurban Rail Trail on the weekend is staggering.
Our business concept is an on-site bakery-café and gelateria. I have heard from countless residents that they are so glad that we have come to the area and want to help support our endeavour.
What does Mosi’s offer?
We have a full in-house bakery which includes artisan breads, baked goods like brioche, salted caramel cinnamon buns, ham & cheese croissants, and cannoli. We make our gelato freshly churned and offer 10 flavours daily that are displayed in an old-fashioned gelato case, like the one my grandfather used in Italy in the 1920s (of course he used ice back then instead of electricity.)
We have a breakfast menu with Eggs Benny Italian style, country breakfast, bakery toast, and locally roasted Drumroaster coffee. Lunch is an array of bakery bread sandwiches served hot and cold. Our specialty is an Italian grilled cheese with melted Fontina. We make soup daily in house. We also have a full espresso bar. Our liquor licence is in process, so we hope to offer a selection of local craft beer, cider and wine.
Is your business just retail or will you be selling wholesale as well?
One thing that we have learned from our growth and expansion with La Collina is that we need to stay with one location and focus on retail. La Collina had grown to five retail locations and was the largest artisan wholesaler on the Island at the time. We sold to BC Ferries and Thrifty Foods, with more than 100 employees; it was too much growth in too short a period of time. We ultimately sold our shares to our then-partners Alex Campbell, Jr. and Jeff Sims and pursued our gelato shop idea in Maui.
What are your plans for the future of Mosi’s?
Our plan is to strive for a balance of work/life, to enjoy our daughter Sofia and our family. Our plan, keep it small and focused, have great employees and pay them a living wage, and provide great baked goods and food for the community.
What’s the one thing that you really want SVO readers to know about Mosi’s?
I’d like the readers to know just how much we really appreciate their support, and what a difference it can make when the community comes together to support a worthwhile business.
We plan to work with local farmers like the Red Damsel farm down the street. They grow amazing fruit in the summer months and we can’t wait to make fresh gelato with their strawberries and other fruit! Our name, Mosi Bakery, is paying homage to my grandmother on my father’s side who owned a pasticceria in Viareggio, Italy in the 1920s called Mosi as well. You can see a photo hanging in our shop.
An update on governance/amalgamation – for the latest updates – scroll to the bottom of the article
by Roger Stonebanks
Victoria city council has moved to bring to a head the issue of a provincial study of amalgamation or governance in Greater Victoria.
At a council meeting on Feb. 12, Mayor Lisa Helps was “directed” to “write and meet” Community Development Minister Coralee Oakes “requesting that the province undertake a study on regional governance” based on 10 guidelines headed “Capital Region Amalgamation Study.”
The guidelines include: the study team must report to the Minister of Community Development in a timely manner, must include all municipal agencies and First Nations in the Capital Region, “recommend changes to achieve good municipal governance across the region” and include more than one option for municipal boundaries. The complete guidelines are available on the City of Victoria website.
Voters in North Saanich and Sidney supported an amalgamation study – and Central Saanich supported a cost-benefit analysis – but restricted to the three peninsula municipalities – and only for the province to fund the study. Saanich voters supported a “governance review” (the word “amalgamation” was not mentioned) by Saanich – specifically, “Do you support Council initiating a community-based review of the governance structure and policies within Saanich and our partnerships within the Region?” Council is waiting for a staff report before starting its governance review.
North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall told SVO that there was “some willingness” between North Saanich and Central Saanich “to pursue a joint effort to obtain funding from the province for this study (to be done by the municipalities).” She expected individual peninsula municipal councils “will make their own decisions as to how each will proceed.”
Elsewhere in the region – voters in Victoria and Langford (by 1 percent, or 13 votes) were for amalgamation; Esquimalt voted in favour of exploring it; Oak Bay was against; and View Royal, Colwood, Metchosin, Highlands, and Sooke did not hold votes.
At the provincial level, Community Development Minister Coralee Oakes said before the election, “For those communities who are interested in continuing to examine governance structures, following the election results I will make ministry staff available to provide necessary resources and support.”
After the election, Oakes posted a statement on Nov. 17, 2014, on the Community Development Ministry website which included the comment, “I remain committed to provide the support and resources required by the newly-elected local governments, once they have had an opportunity to discuss and review the results in greater detail.”
Also on Nov. 17, 2014, she told reporters (Victoria Times Colonist, Nov. 18, 2014), “We will be doing a governance study. It’s going to be hard work. It’s going to be complex. It’s going to be very, very difficult, but we’re committed to doing that.”
Under BC legislation, amalgamation requires affirmative public votes within the affected municipalities and cannot be forced.
Further to this article:
SVO asked the ministry if it would go on record confirming or denying Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development’s apparent statement to the Times Colonist on Nov 17, 2014, that it “will be doing a governance study.” This is the response that SVO received:
“The ministry is in the process of considering how best to proceed. As the referenda questions were quite mixed, it is important for citizens that governments think broadly about governance and services in the region.
Knowing what conversations are occurring in the community and among local governments is an important part of these considerations.
Decisions about potential next steps in terms of a study will come out of the Province’s considerations and future discussions between local governments and the Province.”
UPDATE – March 11, 2015
SIDNEY SAYS NO TO TRI-COUNCIL PARTICIPATION ON AMALGAMATION STUDY FUNDING REQUEST
A decision by Sidney council – by a single vote – on the subject of a study of amalgamation of the three peninsula municipalities has resulted in some confusion over the issue.
The minutes of Sidney council’s decision on Feb. 23, arising from an earlier tri-council meeting recommending creation of a committee to secure funding from the BC government for an amalgamation study, resulted in this 4-to-3 decision by council – “that Council deny Sidney’s participation in the creation of a Mayors Task Force and deny Sidney’s mayor participating in approaching Minister (of Community Development) Coralee Oakes with regards to funding and setting out a plan of study.” The motion was supported by Mayor Steve Price and Couns. Tim Chad, Mervyn Lougher-Goodey and Cam McLellan. Opposed were Couns. Erin Bremner, Barbara Fallot and Peter Wainwright.
Mayor Price told Saanich Voice Online in a statement that his council’s decision “is being taken out of context and council fully supports our residents’ request for an amalgamation study being conducted by the Province and looks forward to the Minister’s review of good governance in the capital region.
“The majority of council simply resolved to deny North Saanich’s request to form a Mayor’s Task force and that we weren’t prepared to approach Minister Oakes with respect to advising them how to go about their study – that’s up to the Province to determine and we can then comment once they’re developed their Terms of Reference, which was made perfectly clear to all at the tri-municipal meeting.”
Last November, Sidney residents voted “Yes” (2,566 to 1,232) in a non-binding referendum to this question, “Are you in favour of a provincially funded study to investigate the feasibility, costs and implications of amalgamating the three municipalities of the Saanich peninsula?”
Mayor Price’s comments left Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor saying there was no suggested “task force” but rather that the three peninsula mayors should meet Oakes following the referendums last November. His commitment remained what voters in Central Saanich approved (3,588 to 1,489), “Should the District of Central Saanich petition the Province to fund a cost/benefit analysis of an amalgamation of Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney.”
He said Sidney council’s decision “leaves a lot of room for speculation” and he found it “bizarre” that Sidney did not want to approach Oakes with Central Saanich and North Saanich. “If Sidney wants to exclude themselves . . it seems an odd move.” The next step should be for the three mayors to meet Oakes and not wait for the province, said Windsor.
Mayor Alice Finall of North Saanich has not been available for comment.
The next meetings of Central Saanich and North Saanich councils are on March 16.
UPDATE – March 12, 2015
MINISTER CORALEE OAKES SPEAKS TO A PRIVATE AUDIENCE ON AMALGAMATION/GOVERNANCE
Community Development Minister Coralee Oakes says the provincial government has put money aside for a study of amalgamation/governance in Greater Victoria.
But she stressed at a breakfast meeting on March 10 of the Victoria-Swan Lake BC Liberal Association that she cannot dictate what the study will look like and she needs to hear from local governments – specifically mentioning she has only heard from the City of Victoria (see lead post). Oakes spoke and answered questions for 36 minutes. Here is an audio file of that presentation, posted this week on the Amalgamation Yes website.
March 15, 2015
FURTHER AMALGAMATION UPDATES
Progress on studying the possible amalgamation of the three Saanich Peninsula municipalities has, effectively, stalled for now. Here are the positions of the three municipal councils, in their words, as shown in recently posted minutes:
NORTH SAANICH – Council said the mayors of North Saanich and Central Saanich should approach Community Development Minister Coralee Oakes “with regard to funding and setting out terms of an amalgamation study.”
SIDNEY – Council voted to “deny Sidney’s participation in the creation of a Mayor’s Task Force and deny Sidney’s Mayor participating in approaching Minister Coralee Oakes with regards to funding and setting out a plan of study.” Mayor Steve Price added in his letter to the other councils – “Council supports our residents request for an amalgamation study and looks forward to the Minister’s review of good governance in the capital region.”
CENTRAL SAANICH – Council decided, “That the matter of the amalgamation study be referred to a future committee discussion regarding the parameters of the study.”
More updates to follow
Effective January 1, 2015 kitchen scraps were banned from Hartland landfill. The Regional Kitchen Scraps Strategy was developed by the Capital Regional District (CRD) to promote sustainable waste management for the region. As a result, all residences and businesses in the region are required to segregate food scraps from regular garbage.
The CRD estimates that organic material, such as kitchen scraps, constitute approximately 30% of the waste at the landfill. Current recycling programs are diverting 46% of the waste stream from the landfill, and a goal of 70% is envisioned by diversion of kitchen scraps.
Sidney and Saanich are both directed by municipal services and included in property taxes while residents of North, and Central Saanich rely on private companies for collection. In those areas, there are at least two companies that pickup kitchen scraps separately from regular garbage: Pan-Insula Disposal (Pan-D), and Capital City Recycling (CCR). Waste Management also has a local service pick-up but does not accept the separate organic material, according to their service agent. Repeated attempts to contact BFI Canada failed. Both Pan-D and CCR charge nearly the same for regular garbage pickup, $52 for three months, per can, but CCR charges an extra $13.48 for three months for the addition of kitchen scraps, but supplies the extra tote free of charge. Pan-D allows you to use your own bin.
Some residents in Central Saanich have complained about the need for several different companies plying the roads with large trucks but according to Coun. Chris Graham, “The competition between companies keeps prices low.”
Coun. Bob Thompson takes his own garbage and recycling to Hartland or DL Bins “for about $ 80.00/year,” he says, adding that he has no desire to pay more then that in taxes for a municipal service.
For some residents, backyard composting makes sense. And while most kitchen scraps compost well using regular composting methods, the CRD says that some items, such as meat, fat, and bones, cannot be properly composted in a typical composting bin. For these items an alternative method of composting may be best – enter the compost digester.
Compost digesters are designed to break down or ‘digest’ organic material that regular composters cannot. Some are the shape of an inverted cone which is partially buried in the soil. Kitchen scraps are added at the top, the unit is heated by the sun, and scraps are reduced primarily to nutrient-rich liquid which permeates the surrounding soil, providing nourishment to nearby plants.
Central Saanich Coun. Zeb King has several digesters in his backyard. “While the CRD dithers, debates and continues to send kitchen scraps to the lower mainland at considerable cost to the taxpayer, a solution is right at hand,” says King. King has been testing two types of cones, the Green Cone and the Bard Matic. King says that he prefers the Bard Matic, because “It is simple and doesn’t require excavation to retrieve the basket at the bottom of the cone in, say, 2-3 years. All you do is pull out the cone and bury the compost gold.” Both cones sell for about $160. The Green Cones are in use at Stelly’s High School.
The Compost Education Centre of Victoria has been in the forefront of composting in the region. They have available many types of composters and digesters together with fact sheets covering their installation and use. They even have instructions for making a backyard digester out of an old plastic garbage container.
King has asked them to provide a workshop for Peninsula residents.
For community-minded gardeners, a larger digester that is hand cranked and handles kitchen scraps from several families might be a solution. The finished product is soil for the garden that could be shared among the participating families. The SunMar 400 is just such a digester. Mr. King has been using two of them for some time and says that ‘It takes no time to decompose kitchen scraps most times of the year except the colder days of winter. For those days, the cones are best.’
In the following on-line video, he demonstrates three different types of digesters.
Community Meeting to be held in Brentwood Bay & Sidney
Gary Holman, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands will host two town halls on the Saanich Peninsula this month to discuss ways to make elections fairer and give citizens’ greater influence in how government operates.
The town halls are part of a public consultation process that Holman has undertaken in his role of Official Opposition Spokesperson for Democracy Reform. He’ll be travelling throughout the province meeting with the public and stakeholders to get feedback on the process and the type of proportional representation the province should use, should the BC NDP take government in 2017 and make changes to the province’s voting systems.
“The NDP will campaign for a YES vote and ensure the public gets all the information they need to make an informed decision,” said Holman from his community office in Sidney.
“Over the next year, my job is to consult with the public and stakeholders to get feedback on the process and the type of PR we should use.”
Wendy Bergerud, President of the Victoria local of Fair Vote Canada will be in attendance at the events. “We need a proportional voting system provincially as well as federally,” says Bergerud. She adds, “I am pleased to see that the BC NDP are taking a serious look at this and have now started public forums to discuss possible changes with citizens.”
Holman said that electoral reform is just part of a larger governance reform package the BC NDP will be putting forward in the upcoming spring session of the legislature. “Our intention is to both empower citizens and create greater accountability in the provincial government, an element that has been in decay for some years now,” says Holman.
The town halls will be held in Sidney at the Mary Winspear Centre, Activity Room 2 on February 3rd, and in Brentwood Bay at the Central Saanich Senior Citizens’ Centre on February 5th. Both events run from 6:30pm – 8:00pm, and will include representatives from Fair Vote Canada and Fair Voting BC.
by Roger Stonebanks
Now that the 26-acre Trio property has sold for $6.1 million to Aragon Properties (a Vancouver land development company with ideas for a major residential project plus a commercial component) attention has turned to sometimes-forgotten Cordova Bay Plaza, just over two kilometres to the south.
The plaza is a 1960 strip mall that became trapped in a neighbour’s underground gasoline pollution problem. The public was well aware that there was a pollution problem at the nearby site of a Payless (owned by Shell Products Canada) gas station, which closed in 1997. According to the Cordova Bay’s newsletter, The Cordovan, Payless officials admitted at a general meeting of the Cordova Bay Association for Community Affairs on Jan. 21, 1998 that “the gas station site is contaminated and is now being remediated. Off-site contamination has not yet been tackled.”
It was in the summer of 1997 that the plaza informed tenants that it intended “very soon” to seek a Development Permit for a new shopping centre. In 1999 Saanich council, after public input, approved a new and much larger shopping centre as well as shops and 16 apartments in one three-storey building and a separate bank building. But council withheld issuance of the development permit pending two conditions being met: consolidation of the two lots that comprise the plaza property; and, importantly, confirmation from the Ministry of the Environment that no site remediation was required. There was no such confirmation. The plaza pollution saga was under way.
There were years of pollution remediation by Shell Products Canada as well as regular test
drilling nearby to monitor the spread of underground gasoline. A lawsuit and counter-suit in BC Supreme Court, started in 2003, and was settled out of court in 2010, with agreement that all details be kept confidential.
Scotiabank, which had intentions to build on the site, had to make do for a number of years in a double-wide trailer in the plaza parking lot, until it eventually moved into the south end of the mall.
Finally, on May 18, 2012, a Certificate of Compliance for the plaza property was issued by the BC Ministry of the Environment “regarding remediation of petroleum hydrocarbon and dissolved metal contamination” that migrated to the plaza from the Payless property at 5146 Cordova Bay Road. The certificate states that the plaza property has been “satisfactorily remediated to meet Contamination Sites Regulation Standards for commercial land soil use and marine aquatic water use and Hazardous Waste Regulation standards.”
But, the ministry cautioned that it made no representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information received by the ministry on which the certificate was based. “This Certificate of Compliance should not be construed as an assurance that there are no hazards present on the site described above,” said the ministry.
Since then, no action has been taken by Your Family Food Mart Ltd., the plaza owner, to develop or sell the property. There are seven shops at the plaza, which is anchored by Tru-Value Foods. Currently, two shops are vacant.
Saanich Voice Online asked the plaza’s spokesperson, Brenda Ferguson, for an update.
“Most leases in the plaza run until Spring 2017 with Tru Value Foods being the largest tenant,” she said. “We have a vacancy in the old bakery [Euphorium Bakery] and since we have been trying to offer a lease that does not go beyond Spring 2017; it has proven very difficult to lease the vacant space.”
The plaza has “no immediate plans” for redevelopment given that the leases run until 2017 “but there has been lots of interest from buyers who would like to develop the site with no commitment from the owners to sell.” She added, “We seem to be in limbo. Now would certainly be a good time to think about redevelopment with the Trio site now sold.”
Whatever commercial-residential development plan for the plaza eventually goes ahead, it will have a significantly bigger building imprint on the property than the current strip mall. To give a sense of that change – the plan approved in 1999 was for 3,586 square metres of commercial floor space or 38,599 square feet. This was to include a supermarket three times bigger than the present 7,500 square foot grocery and extending west into open space behind the mall. Shops with apartments above them would be in a three-storey building on the south side of the property which now is green space. Scotiabank would be in a separate building in the northeast corner.
In the meantime, redevelopment is still “On Hold.” And despite the mall’s age, the plaza and its tenants have worked well to renovate and improve the appearance of the mall and grounds, including significant internal improvements to the supermarket when Tru Value Foods became the tenant in 2012.
Roger Stonebanks was a reporter for the Island’s daily when it was called the Victoria Daily Times and from 1980 the Victoria Times Colonist. He’s published two books and loves living in Cordova Bay with his wife, Helen.
by Roger Stonebanks
A new lobby group will hold a public meeting in February aimed at taking the municipal amalgamation issue to what it sees as the
next stage – a study.
Greater Victoria Conversation is the group and the meeting organizer is Susan Jones, the former president of Amalgamation Yes. The meeting will be held on Tuesday Feb. 24 at SJ Willis Education Centre, 923 Topaz Avenue, from 5:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.
The group says on its website that the meeting “is an event intended to provide an opportunity for Greater Victorians to come together and discuss what they want to see in the governance study to be carried out by the Province.” The group also said, “The study about governance and amalgamation will be underway in the near future.”
However, the BC government has not said (as of Saanich Voice Online’s deadline) that it will carry out a study of governance or amalgamation. Community Minister Coralee Oakes did say last November, after the variously-worded referendums, that “I remain committed to provide the support and resources required by the newly-elected local governments, once they have had an opportunity to discuss and review the results in greater detail.”
The GVC described its upcoming meeting as “an opportunity for the 60,000 (75 per cent of 80,000) who voted Yes to some form of regional governance study in the last municipal election to discuss the terms of reference that they’d like included in a study.”
Only two municipalities, North Saanich and Sidney, voted, specifically, for an amalgamation “study.” Central Saanich voted for something similar – a “cost/benefit analysis.” All three Saanich Peninsula municipalities voted to ask the provincial government to fund the “study” or “cost/benefit analysis” – but not for the province to do it. The next step will be the tri-municipal meeting on Feb. 11 at the North Saanich municipal hall. North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall said there will be an agenda item “regarding obtaining provincial financing for a municipally-conducted study.”
The word “study” did not appear on the successful amalgamation ballots in Langford, Esquimalt and Victoria – though Esquimalt did vote for “exploring” service sharing and reduction of municipalities. Oak Bay voted against amalgamation. Five municipalities
- View Royal, Colwood, Metchosin, Sooke and Highlands – did not vote on the amalgamation/governance subject.
Saanich voted for a “governance review” (avoiding the word “amalgamation”) – specifically, the ballot read “Do you support Council initiating a community-based review of the governance structure and policies within Saanich and our partnerships within the Region.” Council is awaiting a staff report before starting its review.
The GVC website identifies more than 30 supporters. Some of them were/are active in Amalgamation Yes which campaigned to have the question to be put on the ballot at the last municipal election. Amalgamation Yes, on its Home Page, encourages readers to join GVC.
It’s time to plant
by Ed Johnson, photos by Ed Johnson
By the end of January when Saanich Voice Online hits the newsstands there will have already been four Seedy Saturdays on Vancouver Island, two of which were on the peninsula. The biggest one comes up on February 21st at the Convention Centre in Victoria. Seed collectors and growers converge in large numbers at these events to sell and trade the seeds they have grown.
Some may be businesses, like Mary Alice Johnson’s Full Circle Seeds, while others will be backyard gardeners with a bent for the unusual.
The first off the block was Saanich’s Haliburton Farm’s Seedy Saturday on January 10th, complete with farm tours and an informational lecture. It is a good time to check out the farm as the tours are free, unlike the rest of the year when an $8.00 charge fills the need for infrastructure demands – even if rubber boots, heavy coats and maybe rain-gear are the order of the day.
After slogging through the fields with fellow Haliburton farmer, Dr. Peter Liddell, retired UVic professor, learning of the where- and why-fores of organic farming, and showing off their new cold storage building and wetland restoration, the ‘tourees’ retreated to the warmth of the house to hear Christina Nikolic of The Organic Pantry speak.
“Dirt, Chocolate Cheesecake and You – a closer look at our soil,” was the title of Nikolic’s talk.
If pastries and coffee weren’t tempting enough, there were several seed sellers as well as books, seedlings, garden necessities and even a few winter squash to fill your knapsack with.
And, if you really wanted to get your hands dirty, Dr. Liddell assured that, “There is an opportunity to join a volunteer work-party on the first Saturday of every month.” Haliburton, now in its fourteenth year even has a food box program, delivering seasonal fresh produce to the door of ‘Greater Saanich’ residents.
The history of the farm is rich. In 2001 it was saved from development by a group of concerned citizens and the District of Saanich, which purchased the land. The non-profit charitable organization, Haliburton Community Farm Society, as it is now known, is being developed as a community and educational certified organic farm.
For income, plots are leased to farmers, memberships in the Society are sold, but the majority of their income is derived from grants. The farmers themselves are able to earn an income through the box program, farmer’s market sales, and direct sales to restaurants.
The next seed event attended by this reporter is technically not a Seedy Saturday because it falls on a Sunday – always has (the last three times), and always will, says the Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers (GTUF). GTUF distinguishes itself in another ways as well. For example, their Seedy Sunday event is for members and those on a ‘friends’ list; the members donate their excess seeds in a sharing event; and all transactions are free.
The ‘give-what-you-have-more-of- and-take-what-you-need’ yearly event brings out 30-40 members from the 120+ household membership.
A loose-knit organization with no hierarchy, the group came about in 2008 because of shared concerns about food security in the neighbourhood. Members have since established a Community Seed Bank, lobbied for a bylaw change allowing chickens to be kept in Saanich, and created a very helpful ‘Critter Encounters’ and Weed Identification section on their website, www.gtuf.ca.
Julie Graham, speaking from the membership table, is enthusiastic to say the least. “Because my neighbour has an excellent compost system, I take my compostables around the corner to his place, and then when I need finished compost in the spring, it is available. We are a small community of like minds and like to keep it that way, that is why our membership is restricted to those who live and work in the area.”
Gabe Epstein, one of the founders, describes the group as more “conversational than presentational” in their meeting format.
“Acting as individuals rather than members some of us may be found in other gardening projects in the area, such as the Gorge Park Community Garden or donating food to Saanich Neighbourhood Place.”
This makes for a relaxed atmosphere, there are no AGMs, no elections, and no expectations placed on anyone, he adds. A coordinating group, open to all, decides on meeting dates and other activities as the need arises.
Watch for upcoming videos of a few members of this group on the Saanich Voice Online Youtube channel.
Accompanying this article online is a short video of Bill Morgan demonstrating planting onions from seed. Bill is a top contender for the largest onion in the Saanich Fall Fair, so he must know what he’s doing!
Ed Johnson lives and writes on his hobby farm in the Mt Newton Valley. His latest life goal is to one day grow enough asparagus to feed he and Lynne year-round.
Spyware story beginning to take shape.
January 20, 2015, the BC Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, announced that she is launching an investigation into whether the District of Saanich’s use of employee monitoring software complies with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The events that preceded that announcement have been both interesting and confusing.
The story began in December when newly-elected Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell discovered that employee monitoring software had been placed on his new Saanich office computer, although, he at that time, chose not to involve the public in the matter. It wasn’t until January 12, 2015, that the mayor called a news conference where he made several stunning allegations involving both the Saanich administration and police.
The Mayor read a prepared statement alleging that someone in the Saanich administration, without his knowledge or consent, was planning to spy on everything that he did on his computer using a program called Spector 360. The mayor went on to say that he had been informed by legal counsel that these actions may amount to the criminal interception of private communications under the Criminal Code of Canada.
Atwell said that his legal counsel “wrote to Saanich Police Chief Bob Downie asking him to request an external police entity to investigate the allegations as we believe oversight of the investigation places Saanich Police in a clear conflict of interest.” The Saanich Police would have been investigating their own employer, the District of Saanich, including the wife of the police chief, who works as an administration assistant in the chief administrative officer (CAO) and mayor’s office.
Spector 360 Employee Monitoring Software is made by American software company, Spectorsoft. According to the company’s website the software is meant to detect and detail harmful employee computer activity. It “reviews individual and aggregate employee actions, as if you were sitting there with video-style screen playback.”
Spectrosoft says that their software is capable of capturing all user activity including website activity, personal web-mail, instant messaging, social media activity and private messages, file transfers, all keystrokes typed including passwords and banking information, and is completely undetectable by the employee.
Saanich council confirmed the use of Spector 360 on Tuesday, January 13, when they responded to Atwell’s allegations with a media release of their own titled, “Software Installed to Protect Integrity of Saanich Computer System.” The release explained that the installation was in response to recommendations made some six months earlier in a May, 2014 independent external audit of the District of Saanich computer systems. The audit apparently recommended the installation of security software, and as a result Spector 360 was purchased on Nov. 21 and installed on an initial group of key computers, including the mayor’s office computer, the following month.
The council’s release also stated that a review of the Saanich administration staff ‘s actions had been initiated by the district’s own police force and that, “they determined that there was no basis for recommending charges against Saanich employees.”
The following day the District of Saanich released a Backgrounder document to be used by staff to help answer media questions. It names Wordsworth & Associates as the firm that conducted the audit but it does not say that the security firm specifically recommended Spector 360. The document said that the mayor was given a Network Access Terms and Condition form at the time that his new computer was installed, although they have not received a signed form back from him.
The Backgrounder also states that in the interest of protecting municipal and public information, no additional details related to Saanich’s security measures or audit would be released. Saanich’s Network Access Terms and Condition form is attached to the end of the document.
It seems that the Office of BC’s Privacy Commissioner didn’t find Saanich’s monitoring of the new mayor’s communications quite so benign. The Office issued a news release on January 13th (and an update on January 14th), outlining privacy law around the overt and covert use of employee monitoring software. The release stated that, “…in the case of covert use of software there have been no cases brought before this Office where covert monitoring was found to be justified under privacy law.”
Six days later the Commissioner decided to ‘act on her own motion’ and take a step further initiating an investigation into whether the District of Saanich’s use of employee monitoring software complies with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
“We need the facts concerning implementation of the software, including what methods of data capture have been enabled and the extent to which personal information is being collected from employees,” said Denham. The investigation is expected to be complete before the end of March and will be released to the public.
The days following the Commissioner’s announcement saw the media (finally) jump to attention. The Times Colonist’s (TC) January 23rd headline read “‘Spyware’ on Saanich mayor’s computer rare in B.C.’s large local governments.” TC reporter Cindy Harnett surveyed 25 of BC’s largest municipalities and found that not one uses surveillance software that can covertly capture keystrokes and screen images. She went on to report that BC’s provincial government also said it does not use software that covertly monitors workers, and the Capital Regional District says that they have only used it as a tool where employee conduct was being questioned, but currently does not have it on anyone’s computer.
The Globe & Mail, in its article, “Tracking software installed on Saanich mayor’s computer ‘atypical’,” spoke with Steven Schnider, principal consultant at Vancouver-based Procyon Security Group. He remarked that the security software on Atwell’s computer belongs in “hacker territory.” “It’s usually used by the black hat, not the white-hat security people,” he said.
The Vancouver Province’s Michael Smyth, in his column, “Embattled Saanich mayor could have the last laugh,” quotes Victoria political consultant, Mike Geoghegan, who worked on Atwell’s campaign. Geoghegan brought the story back to December when three Saanich insiders allegedly alerted the new mayor that spyware had been installed on his municipal hall computer. Apparently Atwell questioned the three insiders, tape-recorded their testimony and turned their statements into sworn affidavits now in the hands of his lawyer. Geoghegan said that he listened to the recordings, and is calling for a full investigation.
The media response to the issue has by-and-large been to call the allegations explosive, bombshell, and to describe Atwell as paranoid. But 12 days into the story and it’s now starting to look as though the narrative is shifting; apparently it may be the municipality that’s paranoid and not the district’s new mayor.
The mainstream media’s curiosity is finally beginning to pique. And there’s still plenty to be curious about.
Questions: Who is authorized to spy on whom? Where did the now-let-go Saanich CAO believe that his authority came from to carry out this monitoring? Who was he planning to report out to on his findings? Were his actions legal? Were they grounds for dismissal? Would enough rope have been a better choice than $480,000? If Saanich council is okay with the use of spyware in the workplace, then what other rights to privacy are they okay with weakening, and why?
For answers we look to the Privacy Commissioner’s report and the District of Saanich
Michele Murphy is a 30-year resident of Saanich, a bit of a political junky, has asked too many questions her entire life, and wishes SVO were a weekly.
by Michele Murphy
“…it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
~ Winston Churchill
Canadians have, at the very least, agreed to settle with democracy. But are all democracies created equal? Does how we execute our democracy determine the fairness of it?
Canada’s last federal election in 2011 saw the Conservative Party of Canada become the ruling party of Canada–with just 39.6% of the vote. To be more specific, that’s the confidence of 39.6% of the only 61% of eligible voters who actually voted. So in reality, our government is the declared first choice of less than 25% of the Canadian electorate.
What can a party with the confidence of only 25% of eligible Canadian voters do with that little support? As it turns out – pretty much anything they want.
Under Canada’s current voting system, known as First-Past-the-Post (FPTP), the Conservatives, with 39.6% of the vote were granted 54% of the seats in the House of Commons, a majority. As a voting block, the Conservatives can pass any vote or over-rule any vote in the lower house that they see fit. And they do.
Wendy Bergerud, local president of the Greater Victoria branch of Fair Vote Canada, has long been saying enough is enough, and now she is being joined by an increasing number of Canadians and elected officials from across party lines. ”Fair Vote Canada has been working for more than 10 years to get electoral reform on the political agenda and it is a great step forward to now have the support of the federal NDP as well as the Green Party”, says Bergerud.
First-past-the-post-voting originated in the 12th century and was adopted from Westminster. Now, some 900 years later, most major democracies have tossed it out in favour of some form of proportional voting.
The idea of democratic reform is nothing new in Canada. In BC a change to the system got as far as creating a Citizens’ Assembly to determine what type of proportional voting system the province might replace FPTP with, and then held two referenda.
The Assembly determined that the most suitable form of proportional representation for BC would be Single Transferable Vote (STV). The province then took that to the people and while more voters than not wanted the change in the 2005 referendum – the vote came in just 2% shy of the demanding 60% support that then-BC government required – a later referendum saw less support.
What happened? According to political strategist and communications specialist, and then president of the NO STV campaign, Bill Tieleman, “In brief: the giant STV ridings scared off voters, as did the incomprehensible STV voting system.”
According to members of the Citizen Assembly, there were many factors that contributed to the lack of public support for STV, not the least of which was the communication strategy of the YES campaign and its failure to meet the challenge of explaining the benefits of the new, somewhat complicated, voting system.
Fast-forward to 2014 where a national conversation on proportional representation (PR) is emerging leading up to the 2015 federal election. This past December NDP MP Craig Scott put forth the following motion in the House of Commons:
That, in the opinion of the House: (a) the next federal election should be the last conducted under the current first-past-the-post electoral system, which has repeatedly delivered a majority of seats to parties supported by a minority of voters, or under any other winner-take-all electoral system; and (b) a form of mixed-member proportional representation [MMP] would be the best electoral system for Canada.
While the motion was predictably defeated – with no Conservative support, and only 16 of 31 Liberal MPs in favour of the change – it was supported by all NDP and Green MPs and it has reignited the conversations about having fairer representation in our governments.
Along with the motion has come a commitment from Canada’s Official Opposition that they will, should they have the power as a result of the 2015 election, make 2015 the last unfair federal election in Canada.
How does the average voter make sense of all this?
“Voters simply need to understand that what we have does not serve them well. The majority of Canadian voters do not have the government that they voted for. And Canada is one of the few major democracies left that is hanging onto this archaic 12th century system that serves only those that are in power. Countries all over the world are enjoying democracies that actually reflect the values and choices of their electorate. We can do better.”
And, if you’re thinking that this is a political ploy that will work well for the parties proposing it, Victoria MP Murray Rankin explained, “No. In fact, had the last federal election used proportional representation, despite our momentous electoral gains, New Democrats would have had slightly fewer seats in Parliament today.”
This article is the first in a series of SVO articles on proportional representation. As SVO is at its best when its content is written by the Saanich/Peninsula/Sidney community, we encourage you to contribute to this series. Please consider adding your voice to the conversation.
You’ll find our submission criteria HERE
For more info:
Vancouver 24hrs – NDP Backs Loser in Prop Rep (the comments are worth reading)
by Francisco Canjura
Green Drinks-Saanich Peninsula is a gathering for environmentally-conscious people to meet, network and share ideas in informal sessions over appetizers and beverages.
Green Drinks began in 1989 in London and has since expanded to a variety of countries.
Green Drinks have been taking place in Victoria for years and it was in Victoria where Alicia Cormier, Green Drinks-Saanich Peninsula organizer, developed a taste for the monthly meetings.
Cormier lived in the Saanich Peninsula and worked in Victoria at the time. However, a few years ago she made a conscious decision to reduce her carbon footprint. She decided to get a job in the Saanich Peninsula close to home.
Her decision meant that she would now attend Green Drinks-Victoria on rare occasions rather than monthly, but she missed Green Drinks and in May 2013 she decided to start a chapter in the Saanich Peninsula.
Green Drinks-Saanich Peninsula has been a success, “we get about 30 people a meeting and people range from landscapers to academics,” said Cormier. “Everyone is welcome and the great thing is that about one-third of the people that come are always new to the event.”
The meetings sometimes have guest speakers, or involve tours of local businesses or organizations, but the focus of Green Drinks is for like minded-environmentally conscious people to network and share ideas, says Cormier.
The first part of the meeting gives people a chance to interact and usually they last 20 minutes are reserved for the guest speaker.
Past speakers have included local climate change experts, green-business leaders, businesses that have made significant changes to their operations to operate in a more sustainable way, and companies that have been recognized for their environmental and ethical leadership.
Green Drinks-Saanich Peninsula’s next meeting takes place on January 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Zanzibar Café, 1164 Stelly’s X Road. Cost to attend is $10 and includes appetizers.