Oak Bay: behind the tweed curtain

House 2

The District of Oak Bay, population 18,000, is the third most heavily taxed municipality in British Columbia, of 161 listed in provincial tax tables. Property taxes on a representative house are 29 per cent higher than in the City of Victoria next door, and close to 90 per cent higher than the B.C. average.

The numbers suggest an affluent population prepared to pay for services such as an  independent police force — as in the highest taxed local jurisdiction in B.C., the District of West Vancouver. Continue reading

Slowing down in Trail, B.C.

Downtown Trail with the smelter on the hill

Downtown Trail with the smelter on the hill

The city of Trail, British Columbia, about 600 kilometres east of Metro Vancouver, lies in a valley near the American border. We visited Trail, my wife’s birthplace, as part of our summer vacation. We took some time to walk around and see what hasn’t changed.

Bay Avenue, downtown Trail

Bay Avenue, downtown Trail

Central Trail presents a museum of mid-20th-century architecture, which is great for a visitor like me. Some residents, however, worry that the city has been forgotten by the outside world.

To be fair, there have been improvements since the 1970s; the city is much greener than it was, due to emissions  improvements at the smelter that dominates the town. Trail’s 1961 hockey world champions were called the “Smoke Eaters”; the smoke used to kill the trees for miles around, as well as driving away tourists; but that is in the past. Continue reading

British Columbia’s election: and so we continue

Walmart under construction, Abbotsford, April 2012

Walmart under construction, Abbotsford, April 2012

In December 2012, Fraseropolis presented a seat-by-seat projection from threehundredeight.com showing a massive New Democratic Party lead in British Columbia opinion polls. Surveys continued to give the NDP up to a 10-point lead on the weekend before the May 14, 2013 provincial election.

To the astonishment of many people, including myself, and subject to the counting of some mail-in ballots, it appears our new legislature has 50 Liberals, 33 New Democrats, and 2 others. The Liberals enjoyed a five-point edge in the popular vote. Surrey, the North Fraser and B.C.’s southern Interior all showed surprising strength for the Liberals. Continue reading

B.C. party preferences, seat by seat

The Esplanade, North Vancouver

The polls indicate that British Columbia will see a change of government in the election scheduled for May 14, 2013.  The BC Liberals have taken the last three elections, but  credible polling firms have given the New Democratic Party a lead of at least 15 points over the Liberals throughout the past year.

Based on a compilation of polls through to early December 2012, Eric Grenier of ThreeHundredEight.com has determined that an election at that time would likely have given the NDP about 60 seats in the B.C. Legislature, with 24 Liberals in opposition and one Independent (Vicki Huntingdon in Delta South).  Mr. Grenier’s work appears regularly in the Globe and Mail.  He tracks opinion at the federal and provincial levels by combining polling results, recognizing that different polling methods have different strengths and flaws. Continue reading

Comox Village, municipal amalgamation and fresh vegetables

The Within its region, the Town of Comox on Vancouver Island is equivalent to New Westminster in Metro Vancouver or Oak Bay in Greater Victoria.  Comox is hemmed in by a bigger urban neighbour (Courtenay) and prevented from sprawling; it is forced to focus on how to densify its neighbourhoods, especially its downtown, building on its history and waterfront location, and boosted by regular non-stop commercial flights between Comox Airport and Calgary, Canada’s oil and gas capital. Continue reading

Live-work spaces: why so few?

Millions of people in North American cities have home-based businesses, but we’re restricted from using our homes as production, distribution or employment centres, and in most cases, we’re even forbidden to put up a sign.

The “Tin Town” district in the city of Courtenay, B.C., on Vancouver Island, is an exception to this rule. I recently attended a social gathering in a solid, well-appointed upstairs apartment on Rosewall Crescent, in an area zoned “Industrial” on Courtenay’s land use map.  Nearby, one can find the Freakin’ Coffee Shop, the All in One Party Shop, the Sirius Beauty Dog Spa, the Soap Exchange Refill Centre, Klitsa Signs, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Gemini Dance Studios, a marriage counsellor, and a handul of art and design studios that may dabble in sculpture and metal work.  In several cases, people live in the same aluminum-clad unit where they do business, or in an adjacent unit. Continue reading

Local elections, regional roulette

When British Columbians go to the polls this Saturday to vote for mayors and councillors, they’ll also be voting indirectly for the next chair of their regional district.  This is a little strange, because we don’t know who the candidates will be for those regional leadership positions.

Metro Vancouver, the largest region, is budgeted to spend $620 million in 2012, or $524 for every household in the region.  The chair has influence over the Metro agenda; works closely with the well-paid ($323,767 in 2010) chief administrator, Johnny Carline, whose almost supernatural invisibility in the online world testifies to a high degree of skill; and perhaps most significant, the chair appoints the membership of the Metro committees that oversee Metro’s utilities, parks, housing and planning activities.  Continue reading