When good things happen to awesome people.

The best part of writing this blog has always been the incredible people it’s brought into my life. From diplomats to farmers, loggers to ceo’s and everything in between, the diversity of my audience has lead to long lasting friendships and camaraderie that surpasses the distances between us.

One such long time reader and friend is David Cox, who has written a book that is attracting the attention of many in BC, including the media. Those of us who’ve known him for some time will recognize his blog from the sidebar to the right:  http://offthegridhomes.org/

 

“It’s a fantasy for many on the West Coast: give up your office job for a life on a quiet island communing with nature.

David Cox lived that fantasy, and he wrote the book on it. Our Life Off the Grid: An Urban Couple Goes Feral will soon be available on paperback — it’s currently available as an e-book.

Cox used to live what he calls “the cul-de-sac existence.” He lived in the suburbs with two kids and a variety of jobs, trying everything from running a medical clinic, to professional motorcycle racing to a stint as a banker.

“I was bored,” said Cox. “I thought the routine of driving in traffic and living to work was unsatisfying.”

David Cox’s book will soon be available on paperback

David and his wife Sally set off for Read Island, B.C., a remote island that has no roads, no stores and no power.”

Read the rest of this great story and listen to his interview here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/our-life-off-the-grid-couple-moves-from-suburbs-to-remote-island-1.2920131?cmp=rss

And take a few moments to watch this video,which is in essence, a trailer for the book:

If you like what you see and hear, and would like to purchase his book, you can do so at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Our-Life-Off-Grid-Couple/dp/0994014503

Congratulations David and Sally- you are living the dream of many. May you continue to reap the rewards of taking that leap!

Posted in Laila Yuile | Tagged , | 13 Comments

The ‘real’ thing about the Port Mann Bridge.

“The thing about the Port Mann Bridge is people start using it–and they love it, because it saves so much of their time that they would otherwise be driving and they can spend with their family for example or get out and coach soccer. So they have some really good strategies I think to try and improve those numbers, but after speaking with them I’m confident they’re gonna find a way to manage through this.”

The Transportation Investment Corporation which operates the bridge for government has had to borrow money to fill the gap in revenue left by the shortfall.

The number of vehicles crossing the Port Mann declined every single month last year except for December, which saw a 3% increase. ~ http://www.cknw.com/2015/01/22/premier-says-drivers-will-embrace-tolled-port-mann/?sc_ref=facebook

 

Here’s the real thing about the Port Mann Bridge, Premier Clark.

It’s true that people love saving time on their commute so they can spend more time with their family, or get out with their friends….or get to their second,and sometimes third job.

You see Premier Clark, because the Vancouver area is too expensive for many average families and young couples starting out, Surrey,Langley and the Fraser Valley have provided somewhat affordable housing for all of us. We also have a very large population of  lower-income earners and pensioners, both groups of people who are often barely making ends meet.

Those who used the old crossing were excited to hear an end to the gridlock down Highway 1 was in sight, but in the years since the bridge began construction, a lot more has changed in this province than just premiers.

Life’s become more expensive for just about everyone from college kids to seniors. 

The federal government is taking more money off paycheques in the form of higher EI and CPP deductions. ICBC is going up, BC hydro rates are going up, MSP premiums have gone up again.

Tuition rates have risen,hitting college students and parents in the pocket-book hard.

BC ferries has gone up over the years, for those who can still afford a vacation. Even with the fuel surcharge gone for now, it’s a budget breaking trip for many.

Food prices have skyrocketed, something we have discussed at length here on this blog. When people are worried about the soon to expire discount disappearing you know things are worse than it seems at first glance.

In Surrey, property taxes were just hiked and that didn’t just impact property owners, but renters as well as landlords happily passed part of that burden on to tenants.

Even the ability to go camping-historically a low-cost alternative vacation for families that was affordable with a tent tossed in the back and some gear – is increasingly out of reach as your government announced today a fee increase for usage.

It all adds up Premier Clark. And when it does, there isn’t much left over- certainly not enough in many cases to cover a months worth of tolls if you use the bridge twice a day, five days a week to get to and from work or school. It actually does make a very big difference to many people’s budgets.

So here’s the thing about the Port Mann bridge Premier Clark, that gets to the heart of the matter.

It could have turned out like a Field of Dreams, where if you build it, they will come.

But after being nickeled and dimed at every opportunity, drivers are sending a very clear message to your government about the Port Mann Bridge. The question is, are you listening?

outrage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*please note it states ‘going to’ – not ‘gonna’.

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Federal politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Legalize tent cities.

As my regular readers know, I have a real issue with the way homelessness is dealt with in many cities. Instead of doing what needs to be done to alleviate the issues related to homelessness, it seems we are getting closer to criminalizing homelessness related activities and issues like many American cities are doing. In some US states,even feeding the homeless is illegal.

Is this what it has to come to? Have we no compassion at all anymore? Even if the provincial and federal governments kicked in all the money and land needed to build more affordable housing right this second, it still would leave us with a certain portion of the homeless population outside camping. Is it better to continually invest all the time, bylaw and police resources to do continual sweeps and cleanups? Or is it time we acknowledge our communities failures along with a heaping dose of reality and look at alternative, interim approaches? This is as much about the economics of these homeless camps as it is about compassion.

One thing I know for sure, what is currently happening clearly isn’t working when you see the number of tents, camps and tarps in parks and lots in Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods. This week, Brent and I are taking the lead in looking at this issue. Please, feel free to disagree or perhaps you agree, but let’s get the conversation started.

This week’s topic: Should local governments enact bylaws that would allow and regulate legal tent cities for the homeless?

If there is one thing that remains true about the state of homelessness in Metro Vancouver, it’s that no one has been able to solve the issue. For years we’ve seen a never-ending stream of conferences, studies and task forces on the root causes of homelessness, with an equally generous number of promises to find solutions. So where are they?

There is even more finger-pointing between various levels of government as political leaders on the hot seat try to pass the buck when the media spotlight shines on issues of unresolved homelessness in their community. A good example of this is the Oppenheimer Park tent city last year that brought Vancouver national attention. The city of Abbotsford’s antagonistic approach to dealing with people on the street – which included chicken manure – raised even more compelling questions not only on how to deal with homelessness, but how we view it.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

Both situations speak to the need for immediate action on interim and long-term solutions. If community leaders want to avoid similar issues this summer, they need to start now. Most shelters currently only offer an overnight bed, sending residents back to the street during the day. Many don’t offer space for belongings or a cart, and a large number of homeless choose instead to camp in lots, parks or wooded areas instead. This is not going to change – it’s been happening for decades.

The result is never good for a community. Public urination/defecation, and garbage impact the health and welfare of both campers and neighbouring residents or businesses. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is now addressing the growing need in his city by proposing new legislation to authorize and regulate three more tent cities. Yes, there are others – six within the city, and King County has several. He makes it clear it isn’t a long-term strategy, but a much safer interim option than what is happening in parks, alleys and vacant lots…

Read the rest of this weeks column, vote and comment at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/01/18/the-duel-legalize-tent-cities

This is a link to Seattles current tent city website, which is run by social service agencies and religious organizations on a rotating location basis. http://www.sharewheel.org/Home/tent-cities

And a recent news stories on Seattle mayor Ed Murrays proposal http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2025464425_homelessencampmentsxml.html

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Overreacting to heinous acts is what the terrorists want.

This week’s topic:

Does the massacre in Paris justify further expansion of spy powers in Canada?

In the days since the terrorist attack in Paris, I’m concerned about how this is all unfolding as I look at the response from the public and those like myself who are paid to share our opinions. One expects a visceral reaction to such a barbaric attack, in particular because those killed were simply doing what they loved.

The thought of being murdered is perhaps the worst fear for many who share provocative commentary or satire that offends others, and support for those walking at the edge of our right to freedom of speech and expression is part of what spawned the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie. There is a world of debate in this issue alone, perhaps for future Duels.

To some extent, one comes to expect the rhetoric that inevitably and sadly follows in reaction to such a heinous act, and is often used to promote everything from limiting immigration to enacting new anti-terrorism legislation. Fear is a powerful thing and it isn’t only terrorists who use it to manipulate and dominate. Look around the world and it’s easy to see that fear has been something world leaders have often used to affirm involvement in wars, limit freedoms, and pass questionable laws or policies.

Read Brent Stafford’s columnhere.

In response to the attack in Paris, Canadian political leaders rightly denounced the actions and Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to expedite and bring in new anti-terror legislation. Yet even as his promises remained fresh and stark in the implication that what legislation we currently have isn’t enough to keep us safe, two brothers from Ottawa were arrested Friday on terrorism-related charges…

Read the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/01/11/duel-dont-overreact-to-terrorists

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Things that make you go “Hmmmmm…”; Or who is gauging support for former premier Gordon Campbell in Vancouver telephone polling?

It’s interesting what pops up out of the blue sometimes.

For example,Thursday morning I posted a story about Harper visiting Annacis  Island to facebook. That post prompted the memory of a friend living in Vancouver, who left a comment that she had just received a call from a company conducting polling. (It’s been a hectic week so I’m just catching up now)

The poll was political in nature,initially asking what she thought of the Stephen Harper government, which isn’t surprising considering some are speculating an early federal election is in the offing.

However,what was more interesting is that she was also asked to respond to a list of names- this is paraphrased from her memory:

I will name 5 people, and you are to tell me if you find them trustworthy” 
Campbell takes oath

Most of the names she did not recognize, but one definitely stood out : former BC premier,Gordon Campbell.

She said that she did not find him trustworthy,and it left a bad taste in her mouth.

The call came from 604-681-0381, which belongs to NRG Research Group http://nrgresearchgroup.com/, which of course, has done work with the federal government, and the Prime Ministers office:

NRG

Which of course led to much speculation,and horror by some online that we may indeed see his return to the political scene back home here in Canada, instead of racking up the bills in London… as Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Is a senate appointment in the offing? Perhaps a run for MP?

If you’ve received a similar call, I’d be very curious to see what other names are being tossed out there, so drop me a line via the contact page! And a good tip is to keep a pad of paper and a pen by your phone to jot down the questions you are being asked.

Posted in BC Liberals, BC Politics, Laila Yuile | Tagged , , | 34 Comments

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Cops too eager to shoot.

Happy New Year and welcome to the first column of 2015!

This week’s topic: Does law enforcement rely too heavily on the use of deadly force?

Peter de Groot. Du Na Phuong. Naverone Woods. These three men were killed during police interactions during the last months of 2014. In each encounter, officers drew their guns and fired, and in each case criticisms and questions remain if lethal force was necessary.

The concerns relating to the use of lethal force by law enforcement are not unique to B.C., but are multi-jurisdictional across Canada and the U.S. In fairness, in Canada the vast majority of police interactions end peacefully. This is little consolation to the families and friends of people who have been killed by officers. They are people who, in some cases, exhibited signs of mental distress or erratic behaviour. Robert Dziekanski, Ian Bush and Greg Matters are just a few high-profile cases you may remember.

Knowing several current and former members of different law enforcement agencies – most who have never used their guns in all their years of service – shooting or killing someone is not something any officer envisions happening. This doesn’t and shouldn’t preclude examination when use of deadly force results in a fatality.

Preventing any death at the hands of an officer, in particular when dealing with people in mental distress, is something the Toronto Police took action on following the shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on a streetcar in 2013. One officer was charged with second-degree murder, and the police chief called for an independent review of the use of lethal force by officers. In July 2014, former Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci released what has been referred to as a landmark report, presenting page upon page of recommendations to prevent the shooting of people in crisis.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

This report makes it clear that this is not only an issue of police culture and training – it is a failure of our entire system…

 

READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote here: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/01/04/duel-cops-too-eager-to-shoot

***You can read both the Executive Summary and the entire Independent Review of the Toronto Police Service here: http://www.tpsreview.ca/ for a full look at 80 recommendations made to improve outcomes. A very compelling read.

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

BC Government releases Chief Inspectors 2013 Annual Report on New Years Eve, to Lego Movie soundtrack hit “Everything is Awesome!”

Yes it is true, the annual report was released at 12:01 pm, on December 31st, 2014. ( No they didn’t actually release it to the Lego movie soundtrack, but since everything is awesome it’s rather fitting )

http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/12/information-bulletin.html

The full report is here: http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/Mining/HealthandSafety/CI/Documents/2013_CI_Rpt.pdf

But here is a very brief synopsis of his 2013 findings:

Oh… and if you were wondering about Mt. Polley…

“…Because this report covers results from 2013, the information contained herein will not address the tailings dam failure that occurred at the Mount Polley mine on August 4, 2014. As of December 2014, three separate investigations into this incident are ongoing;once they are available, the results of these investigations will be released to the public. The incident will also be addressed in the next edition of the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Mines, which will cover 2014 activities.”

You may now resume your regularly scheduled programming… until perhaps December 31st, 2015 which is when one may assume the next report will be released. What I find really remarkable is that in spite of 14 inspections being performed in 2013, that the Mt.Polley breach still happened in early 2014. 14 inspections. More than double than some operations. And yet still the unthinkable happened. Wrap your head around that for a bit, why don’t you? ( A tip of the hat to R., a regular commenter who is keeping a close eye on these items!)

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Laila Yuile, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

A look back at 2014 through my lens.

Why venture out of this province,when we have so much to explore right on our doorstep? Here’s a look back at 2014 travels,moments and community. – most of which can be found within an hour of Vancouver. Enjoy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Laila Yuile | 7 Comments

Hurry in, 2015, so we can have another chance to get it right!

For me,I will remember 2014 most for being the year I wished more than a few times, that I could magically go back to being one of those blissfully unknowing people who go about their lives paying no attention to anything other than just that.

Seriously.

There have been a number of stories this year that have touched me on certain levels and left me emotionally tanked or overjoyed. Discovering the extent of the situation on 135A street, the absolute extreme poverty of the people who call those sidewalks home – not all victims of their own bad choices or addicts – left me going back often, thinking futilely there has to be a better way. But why can’t we find it?

2014-10-19 006Meeting Erin Schulte and her group of incredible volunteers who persevered in feeding and taking care of these very same people in the face of continual opposition was an incredible experience. And while their story was the most public,because of them I discovered there are many others who have been doing the same thing for years, no fan-fare, no recognition and none asked for. They simply chose to care, and I applaud them all.

No one can overlook the fine work of David Dalley and the Friends of the Grove, who carry2014-11-01 017 on like soldiers of peace and compassion, endlessly fighting what seems to be a never-ending battle in the heart of Newton. Metaphorically speaking, their efforts are representative of the battle between light and dark, good and evil – and they need as much support as they can get. Their work to transform this family oriented area will be an essential part of the bigger plan for the Newton core, if the city ever gets fully on board, because they are the heart of this community. Created in 2009 with intensive public input, it is the greatest hope of this community to see Festival Street and the rest of the Newton Town Centre plan become reality – those with vision can see an eclectic shopping,entertainment area,with a park and gatherings… the Commercial Drive for those south of the Fraser.

prayer stick 1Some of the defining images for me this year, are those from Mt.Polley. It was the year all of us in British Columbia saw how life can be changed forever in the blink of an eye when the walls came down at Mt.Polley mine. In an instant an entire area, ecosystems and lives were irrevocably altered and why? Even now, there are still more questions than answers as to why millions of tonnes of toxic sludge came cascading down creeks and forests into two beautiful lakes that provided sustenance, recreation and an entire tourism industry for locals.

credit to Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp , posted publicly to Facebook at this link: https://www.facebook.com/yuctnesenxiymetkwecamp/posts/362499900580420

credit to Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp , posted publicly to Facebook at this link: https://www.facebook.com/yuctnesenxiymetkwecamp/posts/362499900580420

The breach was an utter failure of process and regulation.

The actions of the government following the breach, were appalling, reminiscent of scenes from the movie Erin Brockovich.

There is zero credibility and zero trust, and more than a little uneasiness when it comes to thinking about other tailings ponds- or dams for that matter-because there has even been criticism when it comes to the inspection and reporting process they instigated to ensure this wasn’t about to happen somewhere else. 

This is just one example of why sometimes I wish I was one of those blissfully unaware and un-engaged people, just going about their business, not paying attention to what’s going on in the world.

It’s easier, and far less stressful, albeit not very conducive to creating change in the world. Which is part of why we continue to be where we are, instead of where many want us to be.

You can look at, research, examine and learn from history… but unless you apply what you have learned, you go nowhere.

We continue to wage wars, right or wrong. We continue to ignore our homeless.We bring food to homes of those suffering from illnesses like cancer or grieving, but ostracize and marginalize those suffering from addiction or mental illness.

It’s frustrating,often feels insurmountable and ineffective to continually see story after story written of government obfuscation and wrong-doing that for all intents and purposes, continue…aided and abetted by voter malaise and a fear of what change will bring. As is often said, many truly believe that the devil you know,is better than the devil you don’t.

foiAs for myself, I spent much of last night going through a backlog of emails and when I went through all the FOI’s submitted, the stack of non-responsive,redacted or otherwise useless results far outweighs the FOI’s that gleaned any good info at all.

And what is worrisome is that many writers are finding it harder to even file Freedom of Information requests, or in the case of the federal government, Access to Information requests.  Damned if you do, or damned if you don’t.

Where does that leave us? In a situation where governments are able to conduct their business with little examination and criticism – and that’s not good for anyone.

My wish for 2015 is very much the same as it is every year.

That the public at large become more engaged and aware of the power of their vote. That we come out of our technologically aided shells and become involved in our communities. That we realize that while there is a portion of the population that may very well be beyond saving because of their own demons, that we must continue to try to help those who are invisible to many: children in foster care, children living in poverty, our seniors, our disabled and our homeless.

They are our past, and our future. Sometimes there is only one chance to get it right. Many have learned the hard way while watching others, that it can too happen in your own backyard – and who will fight for you then? Don’t be a bystander.Be involved.

Despite the ups and downs, the sad stories that break your heart and the ones where everything right and good prevails, the journey continues to tell as many as we can – I’m very honoured that you are all a part of this small blog. As much as being unaware might be blissful to some, being engaged to make change is the only way to go.

Because in the words of author J.R.R Tolkien:

“There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Happy New Years and may you strive not for perfection in 2015, but to simply be better, and do better, than the year before!

Posted in Laila Yuile | 22 Comments

Hiraeth, the word with no easy translation

2014-11-30 006There I was, sitting late in the evening taking care of some (admittedly) very late Christmas cards, when it hit me – the expected feeling of homesickness that nevertheless slams me every year in the most unexpected manner. Arriving with the force of an easterly wind, the feeling of longing was so strong it nearly took my breath. I put down my pen, closed my eyes and for several minutes simply lived in the moment of that achy feeling.

It’s hard to explain to someone who’s lived in the same place their entire lives, but those of you who’ve moved from where you’ve grownup will likely understand. It’s as though a part of me still exists in the northern interior where I grew up, and sometimes that part calls me home so strongly it’s nearly impossible to resist and kind of painful. For me it feels like more than just homesickness,and remarkably after sharing this with friends on facebook, one of them posted this:

“Maybe the word you need is Hiraeth: It’s Welsh for the yearning, the nostalgia, or the grief for the lost places of your past.”

Yes. Hiraeth. This is exactly it. It is a yearning for the Christmas’s and winters of my childhood, for everything that was good and magical about those memories. The many nights spent outside watching northern lights in snowbanks created when my father shoveled off the roof – a spectrum of moving,living prismatic colours dancing across the sky as though accompanied by a symphony.

I long for the many wonders of snow in all its incarnations. Soft and yet crisp in the extreme cold, that Styrofoam sensation of really dense snow is so fun beneath the feet, or tossed up in a cold handful into the light of the sun to watch a thousand sparkling crystals fall to the ground. Did you know snow even has a smell?

Christmas trees didn’t come from Ikea but from the forest after a snowmobile ride into the back forty with a sled pulled behind. My dad would knock the snow off of what seemed like hundreds of tree’s at the urging of my mother – cursing the snow that fell down his collar- until at long last he would simply declare: “THIS is the tree!” and we would laugh and go home.

The smell of wood smoke from a fire burning at the hearth…or perhaps the resinous scent of evergreen boughs decorating the stair rails, it’s always the nearly undefinable moments that bring forth this feeling. It’s a blur of scent and sounds, feelings of happiness and emotions full of love from the past and present combined. And it passes,always, but while it lasts the feeling of separation is strong, inconsolable and not without a bit of melancholic nostalgia.

While my home is now here on the coast, I embrace and respect this longing as a sign of how much of me is still very much a part of where and how I grew up, a connection to something bigger and more important. I love the past, but enjoy greatly the present and look forward to the future.

The yearning for Christmas past mingle with the joy and discovery of Christmas new. Old values, new traditions. Change is inevitable but good. Sometimes home isn’t a place,but the people you are with and happiness is found with those you love, be it friends or family. 

To my friends and readers, I hope you find gratitude for the blessings in your life this Christmas, are free from hunger, have a warm roof over your heads and kindness in your heart. There is so much more that brings us together, than keeps us apart.

In the wise words of Roy L. Smith:

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.”

Merry Christmas!

** In the New Year, I’ll have that new update on a story done earlier this year on Liberal cronyism gone wrong – very wrong. (In fact,it’s a bit sickening) In addition to our first Duel of 2015. I’ll also be doing some work on the blog,so don’t be surprised if you see it down for a day or two, and updating the 100+ Reasons the Liberals Need to Go – please feel free to add new concrete examples to the comments section with a link if you can!

Posted in Laila Yuile | 24 Comments