Update on Art Theft & Coombs Crash

Earlier today, Oceanside RCMP released further details on the dramatic police incident in Coombs that occurred on Wednesday, February 1st.

40 year-old Nelson Robert Meggitt of  Qualicum Beach has been charged with theft under $5000, dangerous driving causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon (the vehicle!), assault causing bodily harm, and assault of a police officer. He is being held in custody to undergo a 29-day psychiatric assessment. The last two charges (assault causing bodily harm and assault of a police officer) are the result of an alleged assault that took place while Meggitt was in custody at the Oceanside RCMP detachment.

The 47 year-old Qualicum Beach woman arrested in the incident has been released from custody, but police have recommended a charge of theft under $5000, and she is due to appear in court on February 21st.

Source: Oceanside RCMP
 
Disclosure: Individuals are innocent until proven guilty. To the best of my knowledge, I have no known interest (financial or otherwise) with the individuals, businesses and organizations involved in this incident.

Fire in Coombs Trailer Park

According to the PQB News, an elderly Coombs resident is suffering from severe burns and smoke inhilation after a fire this morning in Coombs that destroyed his home.

Apparently all three Area F fire departments (Errington, Coombs and Dashwood) responded to the call, and other residents in the trailer park helped the victim in a manner befitting neighbours.

Thank-you to PQB News and Oceanside Star (who reported the fire and posted photos of it on Twitter) for their coverage.

Police Incident Shuts Down Alberni Highway in Coombs, BC

Coombs was the scene of a dramatic police incident on Wednesday morning. Oceanside RCMP Sergeant Darrell Robertson reported the following details to me over the phone this afternoon:

At approximately 11:10 AM, an RCMP officer travelling west-bound on the Alberni Highway in Coombs passed a vehicle travelling east-bound that matched the description of a vehicle suspected to be involved in an art theft that had occurred in Qualicum Beach approximately  fifteen minutes earlier. The RCMP officer made a U-turn to follow the suspect vehicle in an attempt to confirm the license plate number from behind. The suspect vehicle then turned 180 degrees and moved into the east-bound (on-coming traffic) lane, accelerating towards the police vehicle that had been following it. The police vehicle moved to the side of the road to avoid a collision, while the suspect vehicle veered away as it approached. The suspect vehicle then made a second U-turn and then rammed the police vehicle from behind forcing the police car into a non-offending vehicle. The police car stopped in the roadway, and the suspect vehicle ended up in the ditch on the north-side of the highway. A second non-offending vehicle was also struck in the accident.

The RCMP officer observed two individuals exiting the suspect vehicle, and she initiated a high-risk take-down, meaning that she drew a weapon. Suspects were directed to the ground. Back-up had been called and reportedly arrived on scene very quickly, within two minutes according to witness Alf Bergkvist of “A” Company Military Surplus. Bergkvist heard screeching and loud “bangs” at the time of the cash, but initial reports of a “gun fight”, reported by the Oceanside Star on Twitter, were premature. Within five minutes, the Oceanside Star tweeted that the RCMP had confirmed that no shots were fired.

A 47 year-old woman has been arrested for possession of stolen property, and a 40 year-old male has been arrested for dangerous driving. Both are reportedly residents of the Qualicum Beach area. Sgt. Robertson reminds us that the offenses the suspects have been charged with are not necessarily the charges that will be recommended to Crown council, and that the investigation is on-going.

The Alberni Highway was closed from Station Road (or Ford Road, as reported by at least one source) to Errington Road until about 4PM so that a collision analyst could investigate the scene. The suspects were treated by BC ambulance before being taken to the Oceanside RCMP detachment. One RCMP member and the driver of one of the non-involved vehicles were taken to hospital for non-life threatening injuries, and the driver of the second non-involved vehicle was treated at the scene.

Sources: Sergent Darrell Robertson of Oceanside, Alf Bergkvist, Twitter (@OceansideStar, @ScanBC), and the PQB News.
 
Disclosure: Individuals are innocent until proven guilty. To the best of my knowledge, I have no known interest (financial or otherwise) with the individuals, businesses and organizations involved in this incident.
 
Updated to add disclosure on February 3, 2012.

Warning: properly secure your goats at all times.

 

Photo by Debra Giuliani.

This news story from Global BC just came across my Twitter feed. Although the event in question happened in Abbotsford, this story is very relevant for our own community. If we’re not careful, we may also need police help to subdue marauding goats in Coombs, Errington, Hilliers or even Whiskey Creek (I suspect the goats in Meadowood are better behaved). Didn’t a woman recently get a $250.00 fine for leaving her dog unattended outside a Vancouver shop? It’s obvious that we need stronger animal control by-laws in Area F to deal with unattended livestock.

My favourite part of the story:

The woman opened the door a crack and tried lobbing a couple empty Corona beer bottles at the animal to shoo it away, but without much success.

Tip: if you want to subdue a goat, try domestic beer instead.

Oh, here’s another link to the story with a few more details from the Abbotsford News with an even better photo by Debra Giuliani:

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. And in case you didn’t notice, sometimes my opinions include sarcasam. I keep sheep and alpacas, so they may have affected my bias against goats.

Global TV Wants Your Photos

I just received this email from Global BC’s Weather Anchor, Wesla Wong:

Hi there,

We are going to highlight Errington in our Small Town BC feature this coming Sunday, Feb 5th on Global BC’s Sunday Morning News.  Would you mind passing the word on to family and friends??

Anyone is welcome to send in one photo each of the Errington community and area to this email address: weekendnews@globaltv.com. Please also send a brief description of your photo. We will show these photos on TV during our show!

Thank you!  Looking forward to seeing your pictures!

Wesla

Wesla Wong
Weather Anchor
Global BC
www.twitter.com/weslawong

I now have the difficult task of choosing between which ONE shamelessly self-promoting alpaca photo I should submit. I’ll post it once I decide. You should submit one, too!

Update (February 3, 2012): Here’s the photo I selected, showing two of our alpacas in April, 2012.

BC Conservative Party Meets in Parksville

On Saturday afternoon, the BC Conservative Party met in Parksville on Vancouver Island to elect a Regional Director for the region of Vancouver Island – North, one of 14 regions that the BC Conservative Party has divided the province into for management purposes. Party president Reed Elley and leader John Cummins were on hand to rally the troops and solicit donations.

Photo by Skye Donald.
BC Conservative Party President Reed Elley speaks in Parksville on Saturday, January 28, 2012.

The meeting opened with “O, Canada”, and then after a quorum was confirmed, party president Reed Elley reviewed some decisions the provincial board has made in the last few months including a new logo, website and membership database. He moved on to finances and included a comment that at the time seemed quite reasonable: funds donated to local constituencies would remain local and donations made to the provincial party would stay at that level. Later in the day, though, it was reported that the party had given $10K to each constituency where the up-coming by-elections are to be held, so clearly the party will move provincial funds around to wherever they’re deemed to be needed the most.

Next, the floor was opened for nominations for the aforementioned position of Regional Director for Vancouver Island – North. John Sherry was nominated for the position. Two other nominations were made, but the nominees declined.  Regional Directors are members of the Provincial Board of Directors for the party. Reading through the party constitution, this position basically manages communication between the individual constituencies and the provincial party. Seven ridings from Cowichan to North Island make up the region. Voting took place to affirm his selection, and after the ballots were collected, party leader John Cummins stepped up to give a speech.

I recorded Cummins’ speech and the question period that followed with my iPod. The audio quality of the questions really isn’t very good, but you can hear Cummins’ responses quite clearly (when they are clear, that is!).

“We’re in the next election to win government… and I’m not being delusional when I say that,” said Cummins. “If we weren’t in the game, the NDP would win a majority government the next time around. With us in the game, they don’t have that chance.”

“If we weren’t in the game, the NDP would win a majority government the next time around. With us in the game, they don’t have that chance.” - BC Conservative Party Leader John Cummins

Cummins brought up the recent case of a Nanaimo child sexual predator that was sentenced to house-arrest in the community after pleading guilty to sexual assault of children. Cummins claims that because of the backlog in our provincial court system, this criminal was going to get off “scot-free” if they hadn’t offered a plea-bargained down with house-arrest.

His call for elected MLAs to put their constituents first ahead of the party drew applause from the crowd. He mentioned a Fraser Institute study that sets BC as having the lowest average family income of all provinces west of Quebec. He went on to add that we pay higher taxes than any province west of Quebec and pointed out that his party would scrap the Carbon Tax as a means restoring balance. He also mentioned the transfer of funds from ICBC to provincial coffers while raising ICBC rates.

After the speech, which lasted about 30 minutes and was delivered in a very casual, straight-forward manner, the floor was opened to questions. The most popular items of discussion during the question period were the Enbridge pipeline and the HST issue.

Over 80 people attended the meeting, and at least 71 people cast ballots for the Regional Director position. Just an hour or so earlier, only 35 members of the BCNDP cast ballots in the election of their candidate to run as MLA in Chilliwack-Hope.

My thoughts:

This whole event was a first for me in so many ways: first time live-tweeting something, first time going somewhere specifically to write about it, and first time attending a meeting for a political party.

O Canada, OMG. Completely aside from the meeting itself – OMG – they started off “O, Canada” in a terribly key for public singing!

Approachability. I found the whole affair to be fairly comfortable and casual: the party and the speakers, including Cummins came off as being approachable rather than slick. I happen to know that Cummins stayed at an economical local hotel rather than a four-star resort. The choice of Travelodge as a venue for the meeting was also an economical choice without appearing to be “cheap”. (The Parksville Travelodge is a nice facility with a modern meeting space, but it isn’t the same as resorts like Tigh-na-Mara or The Beach Club or like the Parksville Conference Centre.) To be fair, the fact that I’m so familiar with the facility (I work at the hotel), probably added to this “comfortable” feeling, but over-all, the procedural parts of the meeting did not feel formal. I think this was appealing to the local audience. Government needs to make themselves approachable, and I did like what I saw here, although since running for civic office last fall, I have discovered that politicians in general are more approachable once you make a personal connection with them.

Photo by Skye Donald.
Newly elected BC Conservative Party Regional Director for Vancouver Island - North, John Sherry

John Sherry. I expect to see John Sherry nominated to run for MLA in the future. He’s very extroverted and has a natural public-speaking ability. He already has a personal website/blog (he uses WordPress!) that shows his BC Conservative Party stripes. He hasn’t blogged a great deal, and certainly not lately (but then, who am I to criticize?), but what he has said is very opinionated. He also has a Facebook Page that even indicates which riding he’ll likely seek a nomination in, though again, it hasn’t been updated since the civic election. (Come to think of it, neither has my political page. It’s going to need a conversion just like this blog).

The “Apathetic Youth”. At some point, John Sherry mentioned that there were a lot of “apathetic youth” out there. This comment really made me bristle because the fact is that there are a lot of apathetic PEOPLE out there. Apathy is not restricted to young people, and there are young people getting informed and getting involved. Occupy, anyone? Just because young people don’t vote doesn’t mean they’re apathetic. Cynicism plays a huge role in this: people don’t vote because they think that the system is broken, and they want to see reform. STV was rejected by the province in 2005 and 2009. The province has clearly rejected that KIND of electoral reform, but there are lots of other ideas out there. I favour something simpler, like an instant run-off within the existing electoral area structure. Perhaps giving MLAs more freedom is the first step.

About that website. While collecting hyperlinks for this blog, I noticed that John Cummins’ personal website is in DIRE need of updating. The events listed are from summer 2011. That said, Cummins came off appearing younger than I had anticipated. I will admit that I have a fear of aging politicians because of a problem locally. Cummins does look good-to-go for the time being, though.

Fact-Check: Under-Funded Legal System. There were a few items that came up during Cummins’ speech that felt like they required fact-checking. When he mentioned the recent sentence of house arrest for a child sexual predator in Nanaimo, he indicated there were five children were victims in this case, but the article I found mentions only four. This is a minor detail. However, his conclusion that the weak sentence was a result of insufficient funding for the legal system, that the Crown accepted a plea-bargain because they might not be able to get a conviction otherwise due to procedural delays, seemed like a fairly big assumption to make. The man was only arrested in January, 2011. I haven’t been able to find any reports that the plea bargain was linked to an underfunded legal system, but perhaps someone could point me in the right direction.

Fact-Check: Lowest Average Income? I also couldn’t find the Fraser Institute study that shows BC’s average family income is the lowest west of Quebec. What I did find was this Stats Canada report that shows that BC was ahead of Manitoba in 2009. Cummins had specifically claimed that NDP-lead Manitoba was ahead of BC. My Google-Fu is failing me.

Constituents first. Talk of putting the constituency before the party is all good, and after reading about Cummins’ background as an MP, I think that he may actually mean it. This is in stark contrast the Premier Christy Clark, who has said in the past that cabinet members “serve at the premier’s pleasure” (on air on CKNW, prior to her leadership bid). Having to stick to party lines is why I don’t think that I could ever serve as an MP or MLA, and I think that it is a huge reason for a lot of cynicism about politics. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder how it would work. What does it look like? More free votes on non-confidence issues? What happens when an MLA breaks rank over something that is a confidence issue?

Donations from unions or business. One of the party’s pledges is that they would like to eliminate corporate and union donations to political parties. This is all well and fine to say, but I didn’t hear them pledging to refuse donations from these sources. They may not in a position to refuse them given that other parties will be receiving funds from these sources, but that is the kind of integrity and initiative that I would expect them to show if they’re serious about the issue. If they do intend to refuse these kinds of donations, you’d think that they would say so, right?

Fact Check: ICBC. When Cummins mentioned the transfer of surplus funds from ICBC to the provincial government while they were at the same time raising insurance rates, I remembered hearing that because the surplus funds come from optional insurance premiums, and ICBC cannot legally use those surplus funds to reduce basic insurance. Again, if someone could point me to more information on this subject, I would be so very grateful.

Fact Check: Pipeline. From his comments on the Enbridge/Northern Gateway pipeline, it seemed pretty obvious that Cummins’ is in favour of it, though he isn’t trying to say that we should skip the environmental review process. Quite the opposite, actually: he thinks more people should be involved so that it can be done more quickly. I completely agree with his sentiment that it is government’s job to make decisions that are in the best interests of the people they represent, and that it is their job to weigh the risks versus the benefits when it comes to development projects like this. We elect government officials to make these tough decisions, not appointed panels or outside parties. There was also absolutely no mention of what kind of role First Nations should have in the decision making process, which I found distressing. Cummins was fairly articulate on the role he thought that the provincial government should play, so why didn’t he offer information on what kind of influence our First Nations should have?

I got the feeling that top-level party officials aren’t fully informed on this issue. One of the audience members today, I have asked, “Why can’t we just refine the oil here in BC?” I asked myself the same question, and someone finally told me that gasoline has a shelf-life, so it isn’t practical to refine oil here and then ship it to China (although, I don’t know why we can’t refine it here and then sell it in North America; is the demand simply not great enough?). No one from the BCCP came up with that answer, though another member of the public did suggest that it was because our environmental protection laws are too stringent to allow refineries to be built in BC. So we should be shipping it to China where there laws are even more lax?! Pollution does not observe political boundaries, folks.

Related to the pipeline issue, I would have been more interested in hearing him comment on the coal mine proposed for Comox Valley. I think it is easier to support an environmentally risky project that is geographically removed from us than it is to support one that can have a direct impact on us locally.

Sales Tax Reform. People wanted to talk about the HST.  How worse off is our province because of the abysmal, deceptive introduction of the HST? If only it had been properly introduced and debated. So many people voted in the referendum out of anger about the process rather than the tax itself. Cummins didn’t have a clear answer on how to deal with the mess, except to take the questions as an opportunity to poke a stick at the BC Liberal Party, criticizing them for they delays and uncertainty created in the reversion process. Frankly, I think that any claim that the BC Liberal Party is intentionally dragging the process out is absurd: no one wants this problem to go away faster than they do.

On Blogging & Live Tweeting. Will I do this again? Oh yes! I think that as I write more, I will gain confidence, and I will eventually figure out what the right amount of information to live-tweet is (I think I tweeted way too much today). Once I have more posts up on the site, too, I can feel more confident in introducing myself as a “blogger” rather than a “wanna-be blogger”. This is the new media, and I like it.

Disclaimer: I am not a member or adherent to any provincial or federal political party. I have never financially supported a political party. I am employed at the venue where the meeting was held, though I certainly wasn’t working the day of the meeting. All photos are my own work, and all opinions expressed in this article are my own.

Blog Re-Imaging

Last fall was a very busy time for me. Immediately following the election, I had three concert programs to participate in. The Christmas season kept me busy, and as January rolled around, I was finally ready to start doing some envisioning. Where did I want to go in 2012 and what did I want to do with myself. One part of the election that I enjoyed the most was writing on a regular basis, and I had lots of ideas for a community blog. I’m still working on the details, but look for a lot of updates in the next few weeks as I sort-out what it is I want to do with this space and how I’m going to do it.

 

My first big feature, even before the site redesign is complete, is going to be coverage of BC Conservative Party leader John Cummins’ visit to Parksville. I’m not a Conservative party member or supporter, but because he’s speaking in a familiar environment (Travelodge Parksville, where I happen to work), I thought it might be fun to try and live-tweet the event. I’d better get ready, though, because the event starts in just an hour.

Live-Tweeting at Theatre & Music Events

Twitter Bird

There is probably some kind of blogging etiquette that says I shouldn’t steal someone else’s blog topic, but after I posted a 300+ word comment to Raul Pacheco’s blog post “Should theatres allow live-tweeting of their shows?”, it occurred to me that I had written enough for a blog post of my own, and I still have more to say.

 

What is live-tweeting? Twitter is a micro-blogging site: folks share what they’re doing in short posts of 140 characters. Live-tweeting during an event is basically a newsfeed of the event as it happens. You wouldn’t stream the entire dialogue, but you would capture and share the highlights, plus add in your own comments. At an arts event, you might comment on a particularly well executed number or an odd costume. For example, if I had live-tweeted during the production of Paulus that I attended in Paris, I would have asked, more than once, why the baritone soloist Matthias Goerne was the only man on stage without a tie).
Now, whipping out your smart phone at some concerts would be perfectly acceptable. After all, the glow of mobile phones held aloft has replaced the lighter during the singing of ballads at some rock concerts. For classical concerts and theatre events, though, taking out your phone to tweet or text is a fairly well established no-no. Probably at the movies, too, though I don’t go often enough to really know.
When I attended Gateway Theatre’s production of The Sound of Music in December (thanks to winning tickets courtesy of Mr. Pacheco’s blog), the first thing I did after I sat down was check to see if the theatre had Wi-Fi so that I could check in on foursquare and Twitter. My iPod detected a Wi-Fi in the lobby, so I asked the volunteer usher if the Wi-Fi was public, and if so, what the password was. She didn’t know (as it turns out, the Wi-Fi is not public), and she thought that I wanted to record or take a video of the show. If live-tweeting was permitted, it could make it more difficult to police those kinds of rules because people would have a legitimate reason to have their phones out.
The main argument against using your phone at a “serious” art event is that it could be distracting to the performers or to other people in the audience. If you can disable the audio on your device (think of camera shutter clicks and such), the main source of distraction is the light that comes from the screen. Depending on how “with-it” the user is, the screen can be dimmed quite a bit. People do lots of distracting things at concerts. I take notes (pencil and paper type notes), and I even knit sometimes (whether or not knitting in public is rude is an entirely different blog post). Mr. Pacheco mentions that someone once complained because he was shifting in his seat to make use of aisle lighting to take notes. I absolutely don’t think that you should need special seating to take notes with a pen and paper… that’s just silly. As I said to Raul in his blog, some people are just grumpy and will be unhappy with the person next to them having the audacity to breathe.
I think that what is necessary for live-tweeting to work at the theatre or in the concert hall is some education and the development of some etiquette. I don’t see anything wrong with tweeting before the show or during intermission. During the show itself, I think that keeping live-tweeting to designated seating is probably the safest course of action for the time-being: it will help keep those staunchly opposed to the practice time to get used to it. I think it is cool to see some theatres offering that feature (along with free Wi-Fi).
The church that I work at (St. Stephen’s United Church in Qualicum Beach) recently expanded their Wi-Fi to include the sanctuary area: now you can live-tweet during worship. Because I’m front-and-centre and helping to lead worship, though, I have to be very discrete about using my iPod because most of the congregation wouldn’t have a clue about what I’m doing with my iPod. It would be easy to assume that I’m being disrespectful and sending text messages or playing games instead of doing things that enhance my worship & learning experience (reading scripture, checking Wikipedia for more information about something the preacher just mentioned) or sharing that experience with others (by tweeting). Like the concert-hall, I hope that we’ll be able to do some education and develop a natural etiquette around appropriate personal technology use during worship.

Canada Lawn Signs – Customer Review

I haven’t blogged for sometime now. I took a very much needed break over Christmas, but now I need to get back at it. I’ll write more about my break and the envisioning I’ve been doing over the past few weeks, but for now, I just need to write!

 

While cleaning out my email in-box, I spotted a request for customer testimonials from the company that printed my campaign signs. As the testimonial started to creep up on 400 words, I thought to myself, “Why the heck don’t I just blog about this?” After all, what I have to say may be useful to more folks than just me.

 

This past fall, I ran in BC’s local government elections. This was the first time I’ve ever been involved with a political campaign. Since my campaign was 100% self-funded, and my budget was just $500.00, I had to make very cautious spending decisions. I decided to invest the bulk of my merger funds in professional signs.

 

I had left things a bit late, so I needed to get the signs printed quickly. I researched signage options available locally first because it’s always great to buy local and because I thought that they could produce the signs the fastest. When I found out just how long the process was going to take, I decided to look a bit farther, and I did some searching for Canadian political sign producers. At this point, I was still looking for plastic bag-type signs because I thought that they would be the least expensive option. When I discovered that I could get 100 corrugated plastic signs online for the same price (shipping included) as 50 plastic bag signs locally, the choice was obvious. I received quotes from two online printers (very promptly, I might add), one in Ontario and one in Manitoba. They were within $20 of one another, and I decided to go with the Manitoba producer, Canada Lawn Signs, because I thought that they could get it to me a little bit quicker and because their website was just so much more visually appealing. There’s something to be said about a clean, crisp website from a business offering marketing materials!

 

Staff member Rachel provided me with all the information I needed by email and telephone. I prepared the graphic myself and emailed it to Canada Lawn Signs at the end of the day on October 14th. My simple graphic was reproduced clearly, and the design helped to make them stand out at all times of day (even in the dark). A very few signs (maybe 5) must have been wet when they were stacked, so they stuck together, which created a bit of a problem with the image when I pulled them apart. This wasn’t an issue for me at all because all the signs were double-sided, but many locations where I was putting them up only needed a sign-sided sign, so I just turned the “bad” side to the back.

 

Tip: If you’re staking your signs in gravely or rocky areas (like the sides of the roads in Errington & Coombs), I highly recommend the single straight spikes for double-sided signs. They can be individually hammered into the ground (literally with a hammer). They’re versatile for uneven ground because you pound them in separately, and you can push your sign onto them all the way to down to the ground to create stability in windy areas. I found one of my opponent’s signs down, but I couldn’t put it back up for her because we couldn’t hammer the “H” style signpost back into the ground well enough because you need to hammer both stakes in at once. That said, for single-sided signs, I recommend wooden stakes, as they are VERY durable. A lot of my signs were vandalized/driven over, and some were dislodged from wind. If I ever run again, next time I would order more than 2 stakes / sign… perhaps 2.5 / sign. No one locally carried the stakes, and for some reason, we didn’t have enough of them for all the signs. I’m not sure if that’s because I was short-shipped stakes or if I was over-shipped signs, though. Also, hammering bent stakes into the ground is very difficult, so it is very useful to have extras on hand. I’d say that only a few of my stakes are still usable, but I still think that they’re more usable and versatile than the “H” style stakes and WAY better than plastic stakes, which are pretty useless in any terrain other than lawns.

 

If you’d like to take a look at some photos I took when we planted the first signs in the ground, you can check out my blog post here. Right now, my signs are just piled up outside of my house. I still haven’t decided if I’ll save them for some future run or if they’ll be used as roofing tiles for a loafing shed. 😉

Skye Donald & Markus

Disclosure: I purchased goods from this company and donated those goods to my campaign. I was contacted by the company after our transaction and asked to provide comments or a testimonial. In exchange, the company offered an entry into a draw for future custom printing. Possible compensation had absolutely no influence whatsoever over the content of my review. I was not asked to post my review publically, nor was that a requirement of the draw.