2014: The Saanich Peninsula year in review – part 2

The second part of our look back at some of our favourite stories from the past year.

  • Jan. 1, 2015 8:00 p.m.


In July we had the opportunity to highlight an innovative group of First Nations members who were embarking on a vision quest journey with the aim of bringing better understanding of the First Nations culture to the Saanich Peninsula. It reminded us that the First Nations communities form a vital link to our past and an important component of our future.

Pulling Together for better understanding

Members of the Tseycum First Nation in North Saanich are keeping alive the ideals of what was once known as the Vision Quest Journeys — created by aboriginal artist Roy Henry Vickers and a former RCMP officer named Ed Hill.

The local community hosts the 2014 Pulling Together, which begins a multi-day canoe journey from Nanoose Bay back home to Tseycum. Organizer Jennifer Jones says a collection of canoes and paddlers representing local first nations, police agencies and other public service groups will be taking the journey, starting on July 4.

Jones and a few of her canoe team mates gathered at the Pat Bay Trading Post with the PNR to talk about the effort.

Pulling Together, Jones said, helps link first nations with other people and organizations to help dispel myths and overcome stereotypes.

“This is about strengthening relationships between first nations, service agencies and youth,” added team member Vivian Williams (she also paddles with a canoe racing team on the Saanich Peninsula).

“Our team here started back in 2007,” she said.

“Pulling Together had contacted us and wanted to use our community as one of the stops on the journey. They also invited us to come along, as one of the hosts.

“Chief and council here gave us the go-ahead.”

Jones said a team was formed over two to three months — and very few of the paddlers had ever been in a canoe before.

That first trip for the Tseycum team was in a 1,300-pound dugout canoe.

The experience was so rewarding for Jones that she stayed involved. These days, they have a more modern, lighter canoe and have the 15 people needed to paddle it over the nine days of the journey. Jones said youth participation is vital — not only teaching them about traditions on the water and about neighbouring nations, but to give them the skills to work with others and then pass them on to the next generation.

“We want to teach youth,” Jones continued, “that they can have a positive impact from within different agencies.”

The Tseycum paddlers and more than 300 people from other communities and organizations, will set off from the Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose Bay) Nation. They will paddle all day south to the Snuneymuxw (Nanaimo) and Stz’uminus (Chemainus) nations.

From there, the canoe teams visit communities in Crofton, Cowichan Bay, Malahat and back to the Saanich Peninsula.



In July, the Peninsula News Review paid tribute to the firefighters of Sidney with a special pullout in recognition of the department’s 100th anniversary in 2014.


Sidney fire department marks 100 years of service

They go towards places most people try to get away from. The heat, smoke and danger are not deterrents — such places are their workplace and have been for a century in the Town of Sidney and on the Saanich Peninsula.

They are firefighters and their job starts with a sense of civic duty. And since most of these men and women are volunteers, their commitment to that duty is commendable.

The Sidney Volunteer Fire Department was first commissioned in 1913. Funds were raised in the community for the most basic of equipment and protective gear and by 1914, the fire department was on the ground running.

In August, the department celebrates its 100th anniversary, recognizing the many changes in fire fighting over a century — from technology and training to personnel and support. One hundred years brings a lot of change but one thing remains the same — the volunteers’ commitment to their community. They work to help keep it safe and are always there when the call comes in, night and day, for an emergency.

The Sidney Volunteer Fire Department essentially started with almost nothing, says Brad Morrison of the Sidney Archives. Morrison, Gail Petersen and Harry Nunn have created a book about the history of the local department (more on that later), gleaned from the pages of the Peninsula News Review, the department itself and the municipality’s archives.

“The Sidney Board of Trade at the time (1913),” said Morrison, “one of their first actions was to provide water for the town. Once that was done, they immediately worked to put together a fire brigade.”

It officially started in 1913 but Morrison said it took another year to raise around $500 to buy hose, a hose reel and other equipment.





By September we were once again reminded that we are, at least in part, an agricultural community. Articles about the Saanich Fair were featured, outlining the proud tradition of agricultural production on the peninsula. But some of our favourite photos involved the involvement of young people in agriculture.

But the harvest on the peninsula is also about sharing the bounty with others. The story of how the residents of North Saanich came together to furnish the less fortunate among us with fresh food from their farms and gardens touched our hearts.

Sidney Lions Food Bank keeps it fresh

A slew of fresh Red Jonagold apples and Swiss Chard were dropped off at the Sidney Lions Food Bank this week by the District of North Saanich.

The municipality has their own edible garden at the municipal hall where they grow several varieties of vegetables and an orchard where they grow different types of apples.

“We’ve been doing this for about four years,” said North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall.

“In June we had lots of beautiful butter lettuce and now we have this beautiful chard and the apples,” Finall continued. “It’s wonderful to be able to provide this kind of nutritious, fresh food to people who need it.”

Food Bank Administrator Bev Elder said that donations of good, fresh food (no fallen apples or overripe fresh fruit like plums) make a big difference in what the food bank is able to give out.

“Fresh produce is so expensive to buy and getting donations like this of fresh vegetables and fruit extends someone’s food budget,” she said.

Elder said that, contrary to popular belief, the food bank accepts donations of fresh food and not just non-perishable items.

“We have the cooler storage to accept fresh food now, so it’s always nice to have people donating fresh items,” she said.

Other items the food bank needs most are things like personal hygiene items (toothpaste, toilet paper, soap, etc.)

“Those are things that can break a budget so those are always great donations as well,” she said.

Donations can be made at the Sidney Lions Food Bank (9586 5th St.) between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday to Friday.

For more information call 250-655-0679.





Slew of local politicians decide not to run in November election

In October, Kenny Podmore announced he would not seek re-election after serving two terms as councillor for the Town of Sidney.

“I am very proud of all my work and achievements over the last six years,” said Podmore in an interview with the PNR.

“It has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience and even though there have been challenging times, council always persevered and continuously strived to make Sidney a better community.”

Podmore, who is also the Town’s Town Crier, said he plans to stay on in that role should he be re-appointed and looks forward to still being a part of the community.

Podmore said his reasoning for not running again stems from negativity encountered through the job.

“Without question, I understand that as a politician, one can, and should, expect a degree of criticism,” he said.

Having a thick skin, Podmore continued, is a job requirement for being a councillor, but he is ready to get away from that aspect and enjoy more quality time with his wife, family and friends, he said.

“I will continue to serve the community in many other ways,” said Podmore.

He added he will continue to volunteer his time with various organizations.

“My supporters, my fellow council members, the staff, the fire department and the RCMP. Without all of them, I couldn’t have accomplished what I did.”

One issue Podmore said he will continue to follow as well as work on as a member of the community is education around the McTavish Road interchange.

“I’ve spent three years working on making sure there’s better education around the use of traffic circles,” Podmore said.

“Whether it’s making sure all the rental cars from the airport come with a pamphlet explaining the use of traffic circles, or more public education on the use of traffic circles, it’s one piece of unfinished business I would like to see through.”

Local politicians pack it in

In Sidney, in addition to Podmore, Mayor Larry Cross announced in August he would not seek re-election, citing health and family reasons. Coun. Marilyn Loveless also decided not to run again.

In North Saanich, Coun. Ted Daly and Elsie McMurphy stepped away, although McMurphy ran successful as a trustee for School District 63 (Saanich).

In Central Saanich, Mayor Alastair Bryson decided not to seek re-election, as did Coun. John Garrison, who ran unsuccessfully in the City of Duncan.





It’s an aspect of living on the peninsula that is always present but sometimes slips to the periphery of our consciousness … the airport. Over the past year we did a number of stories, that often highlighted the positive contributions of the airport authority. The placement of the airport, after all, gave the peninsula many privileged business opportunities and the airport authority’s contribution of lands for community use was much appreciated. But there’s always a dark cloud behind the silver lining and in October we ran a story on the helicopter noise that resulted from military helicopter training. The concerns were serious enough, but in all honesty, we just really liked the cool shot of the helicopter. Take a look.

Helicopter noise at the airport unavoidable

Flight crews with the 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron at the Victoria airport put in around 2,000 hours of training time every year and while most of their work is done far away from residential neighbourhoods, there are noise complaints.

It comes with the territory, says Major Dale Arndt, operations officer for the squadron.

He said 90 per cent of their training flights are done away from people’s homes, often over the water and away from the airport proper. Yet, he said there have been close to a dozen formal complaints made this year about the noise from their Sea King helicopters.

That’s down a bit from last year, when Arndt said there were closer to 15 complaints made.

Those are formal complaints, not phone calls after which the caller does not go any further.

In recent weeks, the Peninsula News Review has received phone calls and emails from residents angry about the noise from what they call low-flying helicopters.

Christine Bender, who lives on Amherst Avenue,  is aware she bought her home near the airport and does expect a certain amount of noise. She says, however, that over the last 20 years aircraft traffic has increased — and so has the noise.





November 11 is always a challenge. There never seems to be a way to properly express the gratitude that we have for the host of men and women who have served our country and who have arguably allowed us to have the life that we continue to enjoy today.

It wasn’t a story that captured our hearts this November, however; it was a photo. It was Sophie Constandinou, looking at the wreaths laid in remembrance of those who had given their lives. It gave us hope we would always treasure that sacrifice.

North Saanich leads in voter turnout

More voters turned out in Sidney, North Saanich and Central Saanich on Saturday, Nov. 15 to elect new municipal councils and school board trustees than in the 2011 civic election.

In the Town of Sidney, where Steve Price made the transition to mayor, 43 per cent of registered voters cast ballots, compared with only 31 per cent three years ago. That 12 per cent jump in turnout was mirrored in North Saanich, where 53 per cent of registered voters came out, compared with only 41 per cent in 2011.

In Central Saanich, a lower voter turnout than their neighbours remained the trend, with only a 36 per cent response. That’s still up a couple of percentage points from 2011’s 32 per cent turnout.

With voter interest higher than in 2011, change was on offer at the polls in North Saanich and Sidney, while Central Saanich voters elected to maintain a status quo council for the next four years.

In Sidney, new Mayor Steve Price takes over, leading a mixed council of political veterans and newcomers.

In Central Saanich, Ryan Windsor was elected mayor. His council is also a mix of incumbents and newcomers — including the youngest member of a Greater Victoria municipal council, 22-year-old Niall Paltiel.

North Saanich saw a changing of the guard. Incumbent Mayor Alice Finall was narrowly re-elected and only one member of Team North Saanich, Jack McClintock, was elected to council. North Saanich’s new council is now made up of people generally seen as traditionalists.





Perhaps it was only fitting that we ended the year in much the same way as it started … with a series of stories of generosity and kindness. We featured the work of the Sidney Lion’s Food Bank and how everyone was helping out with the effort to make sure that no one would be left hungry as Christmas approached. We also ran a story about a remarkable group of young people at Stelly’s Secondary School who had raised money for the construction of a school in Fiji and were planing to go there to help with the actual building of the structure.

But a favorite story of giving was one in which we played a small part.  It was the Peninsula News Review’s annual Coins for Kids campaign.

The story was special to us because for over a month we’d had a series of our neighbors on the peninsula drop into our office clutching jars of change, wanting to make a difference. We met these people, spoke to them, and were overwhelmed with thanks that we have the privilege of serving this special community. Thank you.

We also thank our supporters during this year’s Coins campaign — Panorama Recreation Centre staff helped us and they collected a lot both at thier main centre and at Greenglade. Thanks go out as well to Muffet & Louisa and the Sidney Bakery on Beacon Avenue in Sidney — without them we would not have hit the $3,000 mark.

Coins for Kids hits $3,000 mark

Those collections of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and more are starting to pile up at home or at the office.

So why not help a child and their family this holiday season by donating those coins to the Peninsula News Review’s annual Coins For Kids campaign?

As of Dec. 29, the official tally sat at close to $3,000 — well above last year’s tally.

That amount was reached thanks to the generosity of many, like one gentleman who brought in $200 in rolled coins this week.

The News Review collects coins of any denomination (paper money and cheques are also accepted) in our annual effort to raise money to help children in need.

This year’s campaign again helped the Saanich Peninsula Toys For Tots effort. Founded by Rob McMillan and this year run by the staff at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre, Toys For Tots buys gifts for girls and boys, young and old, to help make their Christmas a little better.

McMillan says he’s happy the Winspear Centre stepped up to take on the heavy lifting, including collecting the toys, wrapping them (with the help of a lot of volunteers) and taking them to the Sidney Lions Food Bank for distribution. Familes wishing to take part in the Toys for Tots program can register at the food bank. Last year, the program helped around 500 families.

“We do a lot for the youth in this area,” he said.

Last year, readers donated more than $2,400 to the Coins For Kids campaign.

Look for Coins for Kids donation cans in Peninsula businesses. Drop off coins at the Peninsula News Review office at 103-9830 Second St. in Sidney.




A final word on 2014 …

One last word on the year that’s past and the year to come. The communities of the Saanich Peninsula are often characterized by their quaint and quiet demeanor … peaceful, pastoral towns set  amongst generational farms and quaint shops.

This only tells a part of the story. The peninsula is also a place of youthful exuberance, as evidenced by the young people climbing the walls at Stelly’s Secondary School Boulders Climbing Academy, or the excitement and energy displayed in local basketball and hockey games.

Our favorite illustration of how the peninsula is a blend of ages came with the story of the Sidney Town Crier … or criers. Rowan Petrie, 6, seemed intent on replacing the official Town Crier Kenny Podmore.

While it hasn’t happened yet, it’s good to remember that our communities, while peaceful, are also dynamic.

We look forward to seeing what the new year will bring.

— Year in Review stories and commentary compiled by Tim Collins