Wednesday, December 02, 2015

What to do with Watkiss Way?

Watkiss way before the logging started
Over the last weeks we have seen the property on Watkiss way logged in perpetration for use for agriculture and this has upset a lot of people.   I can understand being upset because the property has been left to its own devices by the owners for a long time and it has become a defacto public natural area for everyone to enjoy but at the end of day it is privately owned agricultural land.

Some people are blaming the council for the cutting of the trees because they rejected  it as a site to consider for a sewage treatment plant.  People seem to think that because the owner did not get his site forwarded he is now retaliating to make council look bad by cutting all the trees but I do not think this is the case because the owner likely understood that there was very little chance of the lot being used.

In the early summer the owner site proposed the site to be used for a sewage treatment facility.   The proposal was brought to Saanich council for consideration to add to the mix of sites forwarded to the CRD but not accepted by them for a number of reasons:
Another view of the property before timber harvesting

  • Technically the site was less than ideal according to some engineering staff I spoke with, many other sites are better suited technically 
  • The site is on ALR lands and this does not allow for a sewage waste treatment facility.  Since the advent of the ALR only a very small amount of it has been removed in rural Saanich.  An application to remove seems unlikely to succeed.  
  • The property is not zoned for a sewage treatment.  The OCP and Local Area Plan clearly do not consider this property as one that is suited for an industrial use and rezoning it as such would be to completely ignore both plans.
  • It is outside of the Urban Containment Boundary.  Since the time of Hugh Curtis as mayor 50 years ago Saanich has worked hard to try and maintain the Urban Containment Boundary.  I can not think of a similar industrial like change outside of the UCB in Saanich.
If it had been forwarded to the CRD it strikes me as very unlikely this property would make the first cut let alone be the site chosen.   It is also not right to forward the site for consideration while it is still in the ALR.   If council were to have offered this as a location it could be argued they are de facto supporting the removal of the property from the ALR.   I do not believe there was any realistic chance that this property would ever been considered for the sewage treatment plant.

This the boundaries of the property in question
Map courtesy of Watkiss Way Park website
The other use proposed has been to make the Watkiss Way property a natural park.  This is appealing to many people but there are a couple of major impediments
  • The owner has to be willing to sell the property and I do not believe there is any interest on his part in doing.   Saanich has a long time policy of not using expropriation unless absolutely required such as widening a road right of way.
  • If the owner were willing to buy the property Saanich would have to come up with something on the order of $2,000,000 to $2,800,000 to purchase it.  The last major park purchase was Panama Flats in 2011 for $2,400,000.   Saanich could afford this but it is a significant expenditure for the municipality and Saanich needs to spend more on existing natural parks to help restore the ecosystems before buying more land
  • The property would no longer be available for agriculture.  Given the general concerns about food security, I have trouble seeing how a proposing a new park would generally fly with the public.   There are a number of natural parks right in the area already.
When it comes to the natural values of the area, I am not convinced that this property is most important one for Saanich to purchase.   The forest is a young second growth forest with trees that are barely worth harvesting.  There are numerous other ones in rural Saanich that are more important to protect.  Properties around Prospect Lake or Maltby Lake come to mind.  The Prospect Lake Golf Course is one such property and it would not be radically more expensive than Watkiss Way.

Before buying a property like this Saanich should have a clear idea on how much money it will use for park acquisition and where this should happen.   Pressure from one group while a property is in crisis is not a good reason to spend a lot of money.  The reality is that there is no way Saanich can consider every deserving property.   The way forward is a clear long term plan and policy of which properties to buy and how it will be funded.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Heritage in the Gorge Tillicum neighbourhood and the Saanich Heritage Foundation

I need your help documenting and protecting the heritage of the Gorge-Tillicum neighbourhood.

I am a board member of the Saanich Heritage Foundation because I have a long time interest in the history of the Greater Victoria area.  The Saanich Heritage Foundation primarily looks after the heritage register and provides grants to owners of designated to fix and renovate their houses.   It also has a general mandate to promote heritage conservation, which is why as a board member I want to be proactive in getting more houses designated in Saanich.

There are two levels of heritage recognition.  The first is registration and this puts the house on the heritage register but offers very little protection for the house.  The second is designation.  A designated house gets protection from the municipality and qualifies for funding from the foundation to pay for some of the costs of renovation and restoration.

Too often when people consider heritage only the houses that were built for the rich are considered appropriate for protection but I think this is an error.   In Saanich there are many houses that I believe have heritage value because they are where the average people lived in the past and they have retained most of their look and feel from that past era.  

This is the only photo I can find of the eastern part of the Tillicum neighbourhood when being construted
The eastern part of Gorge-Tillicum is the oldest suburban neighbourhood in Saanich but because most of the houses built as part of the post world war one boom by and for the middle class or working class very few of them have been considered heritage.   The area between Tillicum Road, the Gorge, Harriet Road and Hwy #1 only has six houses registered and a single designated one.    As a member of the Foundation board I want to see this change, I want to see people value the average houses from the past.

I know this neighbourhood still has many houses built between 1919 and 1930 that are still in reasonably good condition.   I know of at least a couple houses that were built in the 1890s.  I know of one house that is an Eaton catalogue house around here as well.   I would like to see many more houses at least become registered, but I need your help.

I am looking for people that can spend some time and look around at what houses there in the neighbourhood that might be worth getting added to the heritage register.

I have had some consverstions with local home owners and two of them are considering designating their homes.  One couple owns a worker's cottage built in 1919 that they have done a lot of work on to restore to the look it would have had in the 1920s.   It is that sort of house I think needs protection because there are almost none of them left.  Our heritage is so much more than Samuel McClure inspired houses from the same era

If you have a house that was build before World War Two I would love to talk with you about why you might want to designate your house.

I can be reached at 778-265-1647  or email me

You can also find me in my home, a 1909 workers cottage at 3079 Orillia Street which is not protected because it is on its last legs.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

May 7th 2015 - Swimming in the Gorge

I was in the water today with the boys at Curtis Point and it was 21 degrees

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Craigflower Village, the lost 14th CRD Municipality Rediscovered!

UPDATE - make sure you read the final note on the page

As many of you know I am a serious BC History buff.   I love to read the old newspapers, the journals of the legislatures or just hang out in the BC Archives.   I have made a fascinating discovery about seven months ago.  In 1866 the Legislature of Vancouver Island incorporated the second local government in what is now BC - Craigflower Village.   Shortly there after Vancouver Island was merged with the colony of British Columbia to become one unified Crown Colony.

I had never heard of this municipality and so I did a lot more digging through source materials, an advantage of living here in Victoria with the Legislature Library and BC Archives.  I have gone through the journals of the Vancouver Island Legislature and the reports of the Daily Colonist and it all in black and white, Craigflower Village was incorporated on August 31st 1866.

All the laws of Vancouver Island, unless later rescinded, replaced or altered, remain in effect to this day.   One law never repealed or altered was "The Village of Craigflower Incorporation Act, 1866".   I have looked through all the relevant places and at no point can I find an act of the United Crown Colony of British Columbia or the Province of British Columbia rescinding the incorporation.

Craigflower Village legally still exists.   What this means is that the area of the original village is not legally part of any other local government.

Finally on Monday I found the most compelling evidence of the existence of Craigflower Village, a map in the BC Archives from 1870 showing the legal boundaries of the City of Victoria and the Village of Craigflower.  The map seems to have been created as part of the union with Canada.  The map it is not available online.  It is a very frail map that they only allow to be viewed if someone has a very good reason - when I told the archivist that I found a missing incorporated village that was enough for them to allow me into the back conservation area and see the map.  Below is an 1863 map of the Craigflower farm which is the same area that shortly afterwards was incorporated.
Craigflower Farm, the area that was incorporated as Craigflower Village on August 31st 1866
The incorporation seems to have happened because the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the HBC, was divesting properties and wanted to subdivide the Craigflower Farm.   It seems that incorporation was needed to allow for the subdivision of the farm into small lots.

Not surprisingly the first reeve of Craigflower Village was none other than arch HBC loyalist Dr J.S. Helmcken, elected to office in October of 1866.   The meeting of the council were held at the Craigflower Schoolhouse.

Other references I have found to Craigflower Village
  • About four or five times a year a mention in the Daily Colonist in the years from 1866 to 1875 and then it drops off to a trickle
  • 1871 and 1881 census returns for Craigflower Village
  • The BC Legislative Journals in 1873 mention roadworks in the Village of Craigflower
  • The addendum to the terms of union with Canada outline a series of BC debts that Canada was taking on, one of them were for rural road works in Craigflower village
  • Peter O'Reilly mentions Craigflower Village in his notes for the creation of the Songhees #1 reserve in 1877
So far the last record I can find of a Craigflower council meeting is from June 14th 1883 when the council passed a bylaw banning "orientals" from owning property in Craigflower.

So what does this mean in 2015?   The area that was incorporated as Craigflower Village is now admistered as a part of Saanich, View Royal or Esquimalt but it has never legally been incorporated into them.  It means the bylaws of those communities do not hold sway and they are not legally entitled to any property taxes.

The fix this situation the province would have to pass an act of the legislature dissolving Craigflower.  Until that happens, the residents of Craigflower could elect a new council and reeve.  Given the reluctance of the province to force amalgamations I suspect that they would not actually dissolve but leave it up to the residents to decide what they want to do.

Since it is after 12 noon on April 1st, I have to confess that this is not real at all.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Privacy Commissioner's report on Saanich

I have not blogged about the situation with respect to Saanich mayor Richard Atwell because up until now I have not had much substance to make up my mind about what is going on.  All I would be doing is adding more unsubstantiated speculation to the mix.   This changed yesterday because the BC Commissioner of Privacy released her report of the Use of Employee Monitoring Software by the District of Saanich.  I still can not comment in any useful way about the other issues because I do not have the facts.

The report gives more details of what happened and when.   Here is my quick take on it all
  • The core person in the whole thing seems to be Director of Corporate Services Laura Ciarniello.  She seems to have been a part of all the decisions and seems to have been informed about Spector 360 and then approved its use.   She is a Certified Human Resources Professional and I would think this means she is very aware of Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
  • Senior Saanich staff in general does not seem to understand the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
  • It is not normally appropriate to act on any policy changes between the start of an election and a new council being sworn in and especially not in the short period between the end of an election and the swearing in of a new council.   The decisions around Spector 360 were taken during this period and should not have happened for that reason alone.  
  • The decision to use Spector 360 seems very rushed and ad hoc.   The decision was made in only four days after what seemed like months of no action on a May 2014 IT security audit.
  • Spector 360 in itself is not a breach of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act but only some of the functionality of the software, specifically keystroke logging, screenshot recording, program activity logging, email recording, and user logon functions.   Admittedly those functions seem to be very much the core of Spector 360
  • It seems like the decision to buy Spector 360 was very much connected to the election of Richard Atwell as mayor. 
  • I think the situation arose because of incompetence and fear on the part of staff
Here are the questions I still have:
  • Has council ever been allowed to see the IT security audit?
  • Did former CAO Paul Murray sign off on the new software?
  • Why did staff not explicitly tell Mayor Richard Atwell that Spector 360 was being installed on the new computer purchased for his office?  I would have expected staff to have worked very closely with the new mayor on what computer was to be purchased and how it was going to set up.
  • Why did staff not halt the use of Spector 360 when Mayor Richard Atwell expressed his concerns about the software?   The mayor is the leader of council and when concern is expressed by the mayor staff should be paying close attention.
  • Why did staff not come to council immediately after the mayor expressed issues with the software?
  • Why did Mayor Richard Atwell not bring his concerns about the software to council in December 2014?   Why did he raise his issues on January 12th 2015 in a press conference?   Why the delay?  Why that date?   Why was council not informed beforehand?
  • Who wrote the January 13th media release from council?   Was it intended to be misleading and was council aware of that?  Did council know that Spector 360 was installed in the default mode and therefore in contravention of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act?
  • Why did council not make a clear decision in January that the use of Spector 360 was not OK?
  • How could Director of Corporate Services Laura Ciarniello not be aware that Spector 360 was likely to be in violation of  the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act?  She is a Certified Human Resources Professional and I would assume should be aware of FIPPA.
  • Why did the IT Manager not check if any other municipality used this software?   
  • Did the IT Manager inform the Director of Corporate Services about what the default setting of Spector 360 was and how it was not appropriate to use?
  • Has council lost confidence in some members of senior staff?
Recommendation #5 is one that all municipalities should be looking at:

The District of Saanich should implement a comprehensive privacy management program to ensure it is able to meet all of its obligations under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This program should include the appointment of a Privacy Officer.
The Privacy Officer should conduct a comprehensive audit of the District’s compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and compile a registry of all personal information in the custody or under the control of the District.
The District should provide training to all employees in relation to all requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
In my experience there is not a lot of understanding of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act by municipal staff.    All municipalities should be adopting this recommendation but can small municipalities afford to implement it?

Timeline of the Spector 360 software story

  • May 2014 - An IT security audit is conducted for Saanich by Wordsworth and Associates - it does not recommend Spector 360
  • Saturday November 15 2014 - Richard Atwell wins the election
  • Monday November 17- Wednesday November 19 2014 -  Director of Corporate Services Laura Ciarniello and IT Manager Forrest Kvemshagen discuss the need to remedy outstanding IT security issues.   It sounds like the decision to move forward all of sudden was in part motivated by the election of the new mayor.  The decision to finally move forward quickly seems to have meant an interim solution had to be purchased off of the shelf
  • Wednesday November 19 2014 - Director of Corporate Services Laura Ciarniello met with the Chief Administrative Officer, the Chief of the Fire Department, and the Directors of Legislative Services, Planning, Parks and Recreation, and Finance.   At this meeting the staff decided on which computers security software would be installed
  • Wednesday November 19 2014 - Director of Corporate Services Laura Ciarniello directed IT Manager Forrest Kvemshagen to research and procure protection and monitoring software.  
  • November 20, 2014 -  After researching available options through an online search, the Assistant Manager reported back to the Manager of IT, recommending that the District acquire Spector 360.
  • Friday November 21, 2014 -  Spector 360 was purchased.
  • Wednesday November 25 2014 - CAO Paul Murray and mayor elect Richard Atwell meet in the Mayor's office
  • Thursday November 26 to Friday December 3, 2014: District IT staff installed Spector 360 on 13 employee workstations.  Spector 360 was installed with the default configuration, which seems be a major part of the problem because the default setting is an invasion of privacy
  • Wednesday December 1 2014 - the new council is sworn in
  • Thursday December 2  2014 -  The Manager of IT emailed the Director of Corporate Services requesting express authorization for the installation and activation of Spector 360, including the keystroke logging function.  The Director of Corporate Services approved   Though the software had been being installed since the previous Thursday and was completed by the next day.
  • Monday December 8 2014 - In an in camera meeting Saanich council to discuss labour issue
  • Thursday December 11 2014  Mayor Richard Atwell was informed by a third party about the installation of Spector 360 on his District workstation.
  • Friday December 12  2014 -  Mayor Richard Atwell met with the Manager of IT, the Assistant Manager of IT, and Director of Corporate Services to enquire about the software.
  • Monday December 15 2014 - Mayor Atwell complained to Saanich police about the use of Spector 360 by the District, and asked the police to determine whether the use of the software was in contravention of the Criminal Code of Canada. Saanich police sought an opinion from outside legal counsel on the legality of Spector 360. As a result of that opinion it was determined by Saanich Police that the use of Spector 360 was not a contravention of the Criminal Code. This opinion did not appear to consider whether the use of Spector 360 was in contravention of other federal or provincial law.
  • Tuesday December 16 2014 Council met in camera to discuss a labour issue
  • Wednesday December 17 2014 Saanich Council announces they have come to a parting of the ways with CAO Paul Murray.   What is not clear to me is the last day he worked in the office, I have been told conflicting dates
  • January 12 2015 - Mayor Richard Atwell informed the public via a press conference that the District had installed spyware on his computer.
  • January 12 2015 - Police Chief Bob Downie informs Saanich Council at an in camera council meeting that it is his department’s determination that no criminal offence has taken place and the review has been concluded.  Note, the police only looked at the criminal aspects of what happened and did not seem to consider any other breach of the law.
  • January 13 2015 - Media release from Saanich Council stating some of the story on the computer security issue
  • January 14 2015 - Media release from Director of Corporate Services Laura Ciarniello explaining why and when Spector 360 was purchased
  • January 19 2015 - The Director of Corporate Services directed the Manager of IT to disable Spector 360 pending a resolution of the concerns about its use by the District.
  • January 20 2015 -  Privacy Commissioner initiates investigation into the use of Spector 360 by Saanich
  • January 21 2015 - Spector 360 is disabled by Saanich
  • January 21 2015 - Saanich hires Andy Laidlaw as interim CAO. Saanich   This is relevant because Director of Corporate Services Laura Ciarniello used to work for him in Campbell River
  • January 28 2015 - Interim CAO Andy Laidlaw starts work
  • February 5, 2015 - Saanich announces Spector 360 has been disabled
  • March 17 2015 - Saanich interim CAO Andy Laidlaw announces Spector 360 will not be used again
  • March 30 2015 - Information and Privacy Commissioner releases her report