Many stories caught the attention of our readers this year but these were the most-read stories of 2019 online at oakbaynews.com.
The District of Oak Bay mourned the loss of a community leader this year with the death of former mayor Nils Jensen in April, after a short battle with cancer.
Jensen spent more than 15 years sitting on Oak Bay council and was elected mayor in 2011, serving two terms.
Jensen also served as chair of the Capital Regional District (CRD) board, trustee for the Greater Victoria Public Library and chair of BC Mayors’ Caucus. He spent 12 years as chair of the CRD’s water board.
He was remembered fondly by friends, family, members of the community and other local politicians. Thousands of residents filled the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre at Oak Bay High to reflect on the legacy he left behind.
Also topping the list for 2019 is a story involving WorkSafeBC rethinking its plan to require golf courses across the province to outfit all of their motorized equipment with seat belts and rollover protection bars, after an industry outcry about cost and impracticality of the move.
In a letter to Tourism Minister Lisa Beare, the MLAs for Revelstoke and Parksville said the requirement would cost the B.C. golf industry as much as $20 million to upgrade its equipment. The extra costs would be disastrous for B.C. tourism as prices rise and golfers can easily shift vacations to Alberta, Montana, Idaho or Washington.
WorkSafeBC is working on revisions to section 16 of its Occupational Health and Safety regulation, the part dealing with mobile equipment such as foklifts, all-terrain vehicles and golf carts, spokesman Ralph Eastman said in an email to Black Press Media. Consultation was conducted over the past year and more will be done.
Controversy over historical elements in the community also caught the attention of readers.
The District of Oak Bay’s council conducted an emergency meeting on Oct. 17 in order to issue a Temporary Protection Order for the property at 1561 York Pl.
Starting at 7 a.m. that same morning, executive staff from Abstract Development took jackhammers, crowbars and shovels to a 122-year-old stone wall, while angry neighbours watched.
The demolition took place under a posted Stop Work Order tacked onto a nearby tree, but Abstract staff on site pointed noted the order only said the company had to cease anything which required permits, while all they were doing was “landscaping.”
The Stop Work Order was put in place after Oak Bay council agreed to apply a Heritage Conservation Permit (HCP) bylaw on the property, which would require property owners to seek a permit from the District before making any changes to heritage components, such as the wall. At the time the bylaw had received its third reading and was scheduled for approval at the end of the month.
“Abstract commenced the work today in order to protect the company’s existing rights to the property, as it is anticipated that the District of Oak Bay will be implementing a Heritage Control Period bylaw in the Prospect neighbourhood by the end of the month,” said Adam Cooper, director of development for Abstract in a statement.
Readers’ hearts went out to a Greater Victoria man battling cancer.
Jeremy Chow applied to be a stem cell donor a few years ago after watching a 30-second Canadian Blood Services commercial calling for Asian donors. The father of two young girls had no way of knowing that soon, he would be in need of new stem cells and the only donor match would be unusable because it was his own.
According to Canadian Blood Services, these life-sustaining immature blood cells are found in bone marrow, peripheral circulating blood and umbilical cord blood. They can become red or white blood cells or platelets and do incredible work for people like Chow, replacing their unhealthy cells and reducing the likelihood that the cancer will return.
Rounding out the top stories of 2019 is the hundreds of protestors who mobilized in Oak Bay outside the Windsor Pavillion.
They were there to protest the Erosion of Freedom event, hosted by anti-SOGI speaker Jenn Smith, who speaks against the SOGI 123 (sexual orientation and gender identity) resources taught in B.C. schools.
the event had been a source of controversy in the community – both towards organizers and the District of Oak Bay, which received backlash for allowing it to go ahead in one its community spaces.
Protest movements cropped up online to counter the evening’s program, including a protest created by Greater Victoria School District trustee Ryan Painter that drew hundreds to the Windsor Pavilion.