Tuesday, September 1, 2020

One of my favourite events of the summer is Greek Fest. Smiling, happy people having fun, amazing music, talented colourful dancers, a connection to a rich culture, community and incredible food – it’s got it all! And I’m not alone in loving this. More than 20,000 people attended last year! So, when I heard that Greek Fest 2020 was on – I was thrilled! It is different this year – but much of the core components are there.

A group of determined organizers along with a very supportive community and almost 30 sponsors have managed to adapt and innovate to offer at least some of the popular festival – the food and the smiling happy people – in a safe and delicious way! 

You just can’t keep Victoria’s Greek community down!

Working with Island Health, Greek Fest organizers have created a system that’s safe and respectful for everyone – staff and fest-goers alike. Their amazing menu is online with instructions for ordering and pick-up, and their safety plan – masked staff, frequent hand-washing, and well-organized festival visitors that remain in their cars when they pick-up their orders. The annual two-weekend event has just finished its inaugural weekend and it’s back for more next weekend!

In a year where finding connection and celebration is a little trickier than we’re used to, Greek Fest organizers have outdone themselves. They have created an opportunity to enjoy great Greek food and be together in spirit – and help fundraise for good causes. Funds raised in this 19th year of the festival will go to hot lunch programs for students in Greater Victoria and a sandwich program for those experiencing homelessness, as well as language, dance and cooking classes at the community centre.

Weekend two of the festival runs this weekend – Friday to Monday, 12 to 8 pm daily (September 4-7). Go online to order at www.GreekFest.ca and then head over to 4648 Elk Lake Drive (by Saanich Commonwealth Place) at your designated pick-up time and enjoy your feast! 

PS - For all those that love Greek heritage – the Greek Heritage Project Museum is open for half-hour visits – by reservation only. This wonderful cultural centre offers a chance to see hundreds of artifacts sharing the history and genealogy of Greek immigrants to Vancouver Island. The museum is open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – by pre-registration only. Email greekhpm@gmail.com  to book 1/2 hour museum visits.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Bat Pups in Saanich South!

I’m not going to lie – I love bats! I find them adorable, and the fact that they voraciously eat mosquitos (not a love of mine), makes them even better!

And this year has been the best year for bat sightings in a very long time. My back deck looks out into a wooded area and it’s such a joy to see them flutter in and out of the trees as they dine in the evening.

Are you noticing more bats around your house or property too? Apparently, you’re not alone!

Mid to late summer is the time when people typically notice more bat activity. You may have bats flying into your house, occasionally find a bat on the ground (don’t touch it!) or roosting in unusual locations.

Our friends at the BC Community Bat Program have just sent out a press-release alerting us that this is a great year for bat sightings – and NOT to worry if they seem to be flying erratically. Because they are babies!!!

Ronna Woudstra, regional coordinator with the southern Vancouver Island and southern Gulf Islands Community Bat Program says that she is currently receiving a large increase in calls about bats behaving strangely. In truth it is just that the baby bats are learning to fly and it takes a while to get the hang of it.

Ronna explains that female bats gather in maternity colonies in early summer, where they will remain until the pups are ready to fly. Pups are usually born in late June, learn to fly in July and August, and then move out in late summer. I’ve included a ‘bat calendar’ below.

Some species of bats have adapted to live in human structures, and they may make their homes in eaves or siding, in attics, sheds, or other buildings. Many people love having them around for the natural insect control. Others may not be as keen. Please know that under the BC Wildlife Act it is illegal to exterminate or harm bats.

But if they end up in your home by accident – don’t panic.

If you find a bat, alive or dead, NEVER touch it with your bare hands. Bats in BC have very low levels of rabies infection, but any risk of transmission must not be taken lightly. Contact Public Health, Health Link 811, a doctor or veterinarian if a person or pet could have come into direct contact (bitten, scratched etc.) with a bat. Visit the Got Bats? BC Community Bat Program’s website www.bcbats.ca for information on safely moving a single bat if necessary.

If you find a stray bat in a safe location outside, out of the way of people and pets, you can leave them alone they will move off on their own within days.

People that feel like their health is at risk will often do desperate things, and with their safety and the lives of the bats in mind, Ronna is hoping to spread the message of “don’t panic and don’t touch” as far as possible. So let your friends or family know that baby bats are out and about and not to worry – or harm them. If you’re not keen on the little critters – try and wait until September and October to do any bat exclusion work on your home.

You can find guidance on timing and methods through the BC Community Bat Project website at www.bcbats.ca . Download the “Managing Bats in Buildings” booklet, or contact your local Community Bat Program at bat@hat.bc.ca or call 1-855-9BC-BATS ex. 12

The BC Community Bat Program is funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, the Government of BC and private donors.

Monday, August 17, 2020

4-H BC - Growing BC Farmers & Leaders!

I know the past few months have been especially challenging for young people, but thanks to the creativity of 4-H BC, their camp program has been adapted so youth can safely learn about B.C. agriculture.  

As BC’s Minister of Agriculture, and the MLA for Saanich South, I am so proud to support 4-H BC and the young people of our community in becoming our future agriculture and community leaders. Our commitment helps ensure that agriculture learning is accessible to all youth throughout B.C. 

Last month, a small group of 4-H British Columbia teen members gathered at the Saanich Fairgrounds to learn more about B.C. agriculture through the Food for Thought agriculture awareness day-camp program, delivered by 4-H BC. 

Due to COVID-19, 4-H BC is adapting its Food for Thought conference into a series of six one-day agriculture awareness programs for 4-H members who are age 14 to 15 years. They’re offering virtual farm tours and agriculture presentations for small groups this summer in Abbotsford, Rock Creek, Kamloops, Williams Lake, Vanderhoof - and here in Saanich! 

Over the next year, the B.C. government is committing $153,000 to 4-H BC to support the club and their programming including youth farm safety and outreach program that supports underrepresented groups, and fun Buy BC 4-H BC Instagram contest that encourages 4-H members to celebrate B.C. products on social media. 

During the pandemic, my ministry’s youth development staff have been working with 4-H club leadership, members and volunteers providing them with guidance in organizational management, agriculture and community leadership education. My youth development team recently supported 4-H BC in adapting existing youth and volunteer programs to virtual formats, in developing the new 4-H @ Home project and in creating a new gardening-basics video series for at home gardeners. 

This past Spring I was thrilled to announce $50,000 for the Field to Fork Challenge. This fun contest asks the 4-H members to create and submit videos of themselves preparing a recipe highlighting a B.C. ingredient, such as produce, meat, dairy, grain or honey. The videos will include information about how the ingredient was farmed, raised or processed and how it can be used in culinary creations.  

The winners from two categories, junior and senior, will be awarded cash prizes. Winners from the senior category will also go to Vancouver to attend the Field to Fork Challenge Weekend, along with some special guest participants from the Agriculture in the Classroom Take a Bite of BC program. The trip includes four days of touring farms, meetings chefs, participating in a cooking challenge and spending a day at the next Every Chef Needs a Farmer, Every Farmer Needs a Chef event, giving them an opportunity to interact with leading chefs and farmers from around the province. 

4-H BC Junior & Senior Members entry deadline is August 31st, 2020 and the BC AITC Take a Bite of BC Students contest closes September 30th, 2020. 

I’m looking forward to sharing some of the videos on Facebook/Twitter and Instagram when they come in. It thrills me to no-end when we can support our youth in developing passions around food and agriculture.  

What a great investment in the future of BC! 

Friday, August 14, 2020

I love Cycling!

As you may know – I love to cycle! It’s a great way to clear my mind, strengthen my body, have some fun, get to where I need to be, and connect with my community without increasing my GHG footprint. I have been an avid cyclist since I was a kid tackling the hills of Quadra Island. 

With all these great benefit to cycling, it’s just no wonder that during COVID-19 we’ve seen bicycle sales skyrocket and bicycle repair shops with line-ups down the block. If ever there was a time for a clear mind, a sense of fun, a healthy body, and connection to community – it’s now. 

And lucky us – Saanich South is really one of the best places in the world to cycle. With both rural and urban destinations very accessible with our network of Lochside and Galloping Goose bike trails, there’s really no excuse to not be heading out for a short ride for ice cream, to work – or an epic weekend adventure to Leech Town! 

That’s why the programming this year of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition (GVCC) is so welcome. 

The GVCC has been organizing recreational and themed rides for almost three decades. Understanding that getting out on your bike is a great way to get and stay healthy, the GVCC made sure to create new themed rides this summer. You can even win great prizes! 

Saanich South is part of a couple fun rides that are happening now until August 20th. Choose between a 43 km Lake Loop ride that takes you by the sea in Gordon Head, along the E&N, and meanders along the lakeside roads of Prospect and Elk Lakes. Or explore the diverse neighbourhoods of Highlands on a  Scavenger Hunt ride where you'll find the site of the Plaskett’s Star discovery and a tree stump with the face of an old man on it. 

To enter the GVCC contest send in your photos, stories and videos telling the GVCC about your ride by August 20th, 2020. Check out the GVCC’s website for all the rides, contest details and entry form. As always, remember to allow space for others to pass on trails and roads when necessary to maintain social-distancing. 

And have fun – it’s summer! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

UPDATE on Strawberry Vale School

As you know our beloved Strawberry Vale School endured a fire on July 11, devastating some of the school’s roof. I’m still very grateful that no one was hurt – and that the school can be repaired!

I’ve now heard back from the Ministry of Education that the repairs are well underway and will be complete in time for August 31 registration and school opening sometime later in September. This is great news!

Currently the cranes are onsite removing debris and the repairs have commenced. The final costs of repairing it are still undetermined.

Go to the school website for more information on school opening.

A huge shout-out to the construction crew for making the school opening on time a priority!

PS – Dan Wood, deputy fire chief with the Saanich Fire Department encourages everyone to check any of your cordless appliances as lithium batteries have a history of over-heating, depending on the manufacturer. While it’s not yet clear what started this fire – this sounds like great advice!  

Monday, August 10, 2020

Supporting Small Farms

Did you know that Saanich has almost 400 properties that have farm status? Many of our local farms are small, family-run operations that are favourite suppliers of fresh eggs, fruits, vegetables and flowers for so many of us in Saanich South. Each of our local farms plays a key role in creating a strong and resilient food system – as does our government.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for some B.C. farm operations, including smaller-scale farms that depend on roadside stands, farm markets and public interaction for sales revenue. That’s why the Government of British Columbia announced this week that they are waiving minimum income requirements for existing B.C. farm operations, allowing them to maintain their current property tax farm status for 2021.

Our government is committed to helping farmers farm. It's been a difficult year for many people, and this change is just one more example of how we are recognizing the challenges and supporting farmers. Without this action, a number of properties would have been in jeopardy of losing farm status for the 2021 tax year, significantly increasing the property tax burden on those farmers and farm families.

In order to be classified as a farm in British Columbia, properties must meet certain criteria, including generating a minimum amount of gross income from a qualifying agriculture use based on the size of the parcel of land. This minimum income requirement must be met every two years and there must be some income generated every year. BC Assessment sends out self-reporting income questionnaires and conducts intermittent inspections to determine whether a property should maintain its farm status for the upcoming tax year.

This approach aligns with the Province's COVID-19 Action Plan to support businesses through the pandemic, as well as government's commitment to encourage agricultural production.
We know that robust and healthy farm operations will play an important role as we restart our economy. We know that the people in Saanich look to their local farmers to put healthy food on their tables.

Thanks for making an extra effort to support our farmers! Buying local is a delicious way to support our economy!

Learn More:

  • The Ministry of Agriculture has additional COVID-19 response and restart information for the B.C. agriculture and seafood sector available HERE.  
  • For further information on farm class assessment, visit BC Assessment HERE.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Sustainable. Affordable. Student Housing

Exciting times for our University – and for the region.
Last week Premier Horgan and Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training were at UVic to break ground on long-awaited – and needed – new student housing and dining hall.
This is part of B.C.'s first-ever student housing initiative - developed to help meet a significant and long-standing need of students – while relieving some of the pressure on rental housing throughout the region. Nearly 800 UVic students will be able to make themselves at home on-campus by 2022.
Why now? What’s changed?
For many years public post-secondary institutions were asking for the ability to borrow to construct student housing; the previous government never approved the request. Our government saw the good sense in what post-secondary institutions were asking and created a $450M student housing loan program.  This enables public post-secondary institutions to borrow funds directly from the Provincial Treasury and construct student housing. 
Allowing institutions to borrow directly from the Province keeps borrowing costs low and that translates into lower, more affordable rental rates for students. The loans are repaid over time to the Province with interest. This is a win for students, a win for our public institutions, and a win for British Columbians.
Our government has made this long sought-after solution happen!
The project includes two new buildings with 783 student homes plus a dining hall and multipurpose space that can be used for conferences. While the project replaces some existing beds, it represents a net increase of 621 homes – a 25% increase in housing on the UVic campus. The first building is scheduled to start construction in late summer 2020 with completion in spring 2022.
This groundbreaking is an important milestone in fulfilling our government's commitment to build 5,000 new student housing spaces across the province. The UVic project is state-of-the-art sustainable housing – the first on-campus housing to use the Passive House construction standard, the primary aim of which is to achieve exceptional energy efficiency. Construction meets LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold and Passive House standards - the most rigorous global building standards for sustainability and energy efficiency – supporting government's CleanBC initiative.
This project represents a 25% increase of student housing on campus. It will include a rejuvenated outdoor area that connects the new housing and dining hall to the centre of campus, student group and study spaces, communal social spaces, laundry facilities and secure indoor bicycle storage. Plus a 600-seat dining hall, commercial kitchen, small grocery and new coffee shop to replace Cadboro Commons and provide more food offerings with healthy options (it’s all about the food for me!)
This is the first major capital project at UVic since a new Campus Plan was completed in January 2016.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Saanich South Update

Dear Saanich South,

The last few days have seen an uptick in new cases of COVID-19. This is not a reason to panic, but it is a good reminder that our work to flatten the curve is not done. While we enjoy summer and return to some of our favourite activities, we need to heed the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry.
  • Keep groups and gatherings small, and avoid crowded indoor spaces
  • Maintain 2m (6ft) distance between yourself and those outside your bubble
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Wear a mask when you can’t maintain physical distance – such as in stores or on transit
  • Stay home and self-isolate whenever you feel sick – even if your symptoms are mild
Remember that the more people you socialize with, the higher your risk of being exposed to and spreading COVID-19. Be responsible and socialize safety.

As we near the end of the summer legislative session, your BC New Democrat government has made a lot of progress on planning our economic recovery. We are working to build our economy, and our province, back even better than it was before, so that everyone will have a good job and a more secure future. But that recovery can only keep moving forward if we all continue to be safe and follow Dr. Henry’s advice.

Yesterday we announced more support for local governments and transit systems, with up to one billion dollars available from the Province to match a contribution by the federal government. This funding will ensure people can access the important services they need throughout our restart and recovery.

This past week, we announced even more new child care spaces across the province, bringing the total number of spaces our government has created to 16,800. These spaces will be vital as parents return to work or school.

We also announced new funding for search and rescue groups, recognizing the important role they play in keeping British Columbians safe.

In the last week we’ve announced that construction or planning is underway for new or expanded schools in Smithers, West Sechelt, Vernon and Langford. We also implemented our vaping action plan, to protect kids and teen from the risks of vaping and nicotine addiction.

We have accomplished a lot together, and there is still so much more to do.

As always, if you have any questions or need any assistance with provincial supports, please reach out. My office is currently open via phone and email to support you. You can reach us at 250-479-4154 or LanaPopham.MLA@leg.bc.ca 

Stay well,

COVID Resources:
  • For medical info, visit bccdc.ca or call 811
  • For provincial supports and BC’s Restart Plan, visit gov.bc.ca/covid19, call 1-888-COVID-19 (1-888-268-4319) or text 604-630-0300
  • For employer guidelines on returning to work safely, visit WorkSafeBC
  • Take the self-assessment at covid19.thrive.health
  • For seniors looking for additional support, or for those looking to support seniors, call 2-1-1 or visit bc211.ca

Monday, July 27, 2020

Digital Marketing Bootcamp

Did you know that Saanich’s top occupations are health care, social assistance, and public administration? This sets Saanich South apart from the rest of the province where retail plays the leading role as a job creator. Saanich also enjoys a higher-than-average number of young workers. But sadly we’re learning now that the 18-29 year-old workforce has been the hardest hit with job losses and changes due to COVID-19.

That’s why this new initiative is particularly exciting for the residents of Saanich South.
The BC Government in partnership with Alacrity Canada has developed a new virtual Digital Marketing Bootcamp that will give people and businesses the tools they need to move online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This innovative and timely boot camp will provide participants with a foundation in digital marketing, including search engine optimization (SEO), paid advertising, analytics, content marketing and more. With this knowledge, they will have the opportunity to work in a range of digital marketing positions that are important for businesses that sell online.

Digital commerce is becoming more common for businesses of all sizes as well as for not-for-profits. The skills participants gain will benefit small and medium-sized businesses as they expand their sales strategies to include a larger online presence.

This course is based on a pilot program that took place in late 2019 and early 2020. Almost 45 people participated in the pilot program, with a job placement rate of 85%. It will provide people with the training they need to get jobs  and businesses with the skilled employees they need to adjust and grow as our world shifts to a new normal.

There are up to 500 spaces available in the Digital Marketing Bootcamp. The boot camp is open to businesses and employed and unemployed British Columbians of any age, with priority given to employers and individuals impacted by COVID-19.

The Ministry of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness is contributing $250,000 to cover the tuition costs for up to 250 participants from registered B.C.-based small- and medium-sized businesses, with a limit of one participant per business.

The Digital Marketing Bootcamp has an educational value of $6,000. The course cost has been reduced to approximately $1,200, which may be further reduced as more participants register.
For eligible individuals who are underemployed or unemployed British Columbians, additional financial support may be available to reduce the cost of participation.

Registration is open until July 31, 2020, with the course starting on Aug. 4, 2020. The course will run for six weeks. To register, visit: www.alacritycanada.com/learn

The Digital Market Bootcamp is one way that the B.C. government is making sure people and businesses have the support they need to restart and rebuild an economy that works for everyone.

To register for the Digital Marketing Bootcamp, ask questions or get more information on possible financial support, visit Alacrity Canada: www.alacritycanada.com/learn

(cover photo by Igor Miske)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Canada’s first Chinese Canadian Museum

 (photo attribution: MARELBU)
What a delight it is to have the oldest Chinatown in Canada right here in Victoria and know that our government is honouring and preserving the knowledge of the contributions of Chinese Canadians – contributions that are essential to our province – past and present. I am very pleased to be able to announce this during Chinese Cultural Heritage Week, July 20-27.

The B.C. government announced this week that they have invested $10 million to establish the Chinese Canadian Museum – the first in Canada. This investment includes $2 million to complete the planning and development and $8 million for an endowment to provide ongoing support. The museum includes a provincial hub in Vancouver Chinatown, multiple regional hubs and spokes throughout B.C. – including Victoria, and an online portal and digital experiences for historical locations throughout the province.

At at a critical point in history for conversations about race, inequality and injustice in this province. As Premier John Horgan said, “There really couldn’t be a better time to come together to share the stories about how our province got to where it is – and to have conversations about where we want it to go.”

The newly formed, independent, non-profit Chinese Canadian Museum Society of British Columbia will lead development and operation of the museum. The inaugural board has 20 members with a range of expertise, skills and experience and includes representatives from both the provincial government and the City of Vancouver. Grace Wong, former senior advisor international, University of British Columbia Office of Provost and Vice‐President Academic, is the chair of the society.

To kick-off the museum experience, the Chinese Canadian Museum Society is launching a temporary exhibit in Vancouver Chinatown at 27 E Pender St. in August. A Seat at the Table explores the history of Chinese immigration and how the communities were able to stay vibrant and resilient through the food and restaurant culture they brought to British Columbia. The exhibit is a partnership with the City of Vancouver, University of British Columbia and Museum of Vancouver.

The society has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the newly formed Victoria Chinatown Museum Society to be the first regional hub and launch a pocket gallery in Fan Tan Alley with the support of the Royal BC Museum. The pocket gallery is anticipated to open in time for the recognition of Chinese Cultural Heritage Week, July 20-27, 2020.

The funding delivers on the B.C. government’s commitment to establish a Chinese Canadian museum. It also reflects the memorandum of understanding signed between the Province and the City of Vancouver to pursue United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Site Designation for Vancouver Chinatown and recognizes its global significance as a site of ongoing cultural and historic value. Following a public engagement in 2019, the Province provided a $1-million grant to the City of Vancouver to support planning, including opening a project office and pocket gallery in Vancouver Chinatown.

Looking for something new to do this summer? Visit Victoria Chinatown and learn more about the history of the Chinese Canadian community - where it happened!

You can find out more about Chinese Canadian Museum HERE (video) and HERE.

Find out more about Victoria’s amazing Chinatown HERE.