The British Columbia community that never fails to amuse me is our own capital – Victoria. If I were to think of a single adjective to ascribe to this pretty town at the bottom end of Vancouver Island, ‘silly’ is the one that comes to mind. Dysfunctional would likely be another.
Victoria is a pretty town and it has distinct virtues. It is a pretty town in the touristy, chocolate box image parts. You know, the Inner Harbour, the Empress, Government Street, the Legislative Buildings, James Bay, and not so much more. Venture into Victoria’s hinterland uptown and it’s kind of a sty, truth be known.
I have my own favorite spots, including the Inner Harbour, lower Government Street, Ogden Point and the Cook St. Village, Beacon Hill Park and so forth. As I lived part-time there a few years ago I got to know the place fairly well.
Victoria also boasts some fine eateries, a fascinating little Chinatown, and a provincial museum that has much to offer.
But, there are other realities about the place that must be considered. Not nice realities. In the first place, even though it is the capital (which is stupid in itself since other realities dictate the capital should be on the Mainland and not separated from the commercial centre of the province, Vancouver, by a body of water. And in being situated where it is, most pols have been contemptuous of the place in which they have to reside for part of the year.
But, Victoria’s attitude about the Island sucks as well. Even though it is on Vancouver Island, Victoria is definitely not ‘of’ Vancouver Island. Get a few miles north of the Malahat and Victorians get confused and are of the opinion that “there be dragons” by the time you get to Duncan. Only Victoria’s skiers have any comprehension of the Comox Valley.
And quaint little chocolate box town that it might see itself as being, Victoria’s ‘mean streets’ are remarkably unpleasant with panhandlers and druggies in fine profusion. The area around Mickey D’s on Douglas is notably unpleasant. When I was addictions counselling a client opined that the notorious Downtown Eastside in Vancouver felt safer than the streets of Victoria. ‘It’s fuckin’ scary there, man,” he attested. I couldn’t disagree and those are not streets I like to stroll on after dusk.
And Victoria is silly and dysfunctional in a lot of ways. For example:
– about 93 different unamalgamated communities make up Greater Victoria and you can forgive novice visitors for not understanding WTF a View Royal or Colwood happens to be.
– Victoria needs a sewage plant but cannot decide where to put it. I think the last tally is 3,456 prospective sites, none of which is acceptable (see 93 different communities).
– Victoria decided it needed a ‘new’ Johnson St. Bridge (for reasons best known to the city’s counsellors) and has gone a few trillion bucks over budget for a bridge (a little dinky bridge, not the Golden Gate, for God’s sake) that is still far from being completed.
– Victoria also tops the Guinness Book of Records for arguably having the worst traffic congestion of damn near anywhere with the so-called Colwood Crawl. If you have never experienced it, you are very lucky. Oh, and the area pols refuse to consider light rail traffic as a possible option to ease the congestion – you know, light rail like grownup cities have.
But, in all of this, don’t get me wrong. I actually quite like Victoria and enjoyed the time I was in part-time residence. Lots of culture, lots of beauty; but with a few flaws.